All employees are entitled to a written employment contract. The moment employees start work, they are deemed to have entered an agreement. The Language Act presumes that the employment contract is in Estonian unless the parties agree on using another language. If the agreement is in a foreign language, it does not require translation.
The written employment contract must include the following data:
- Details of employer and employee (name, personal identification code or registration code, address)
- Employment contract date and employee's starting date
- Official job title
- Job description, listing the employee's work tasks (usually set out in a separate annexe to determine what falls under the employee's duties)
- Region (i.e. Tallinn) where the employee will work (a separate reference is included for employees working remotely from home)
- The wage in Euro (gross pay), any additional remuneration, remuneration calculations, procedure and date for payment, charges and taxes withheld by the employer.
- Work time (full-time or part-time). If part-time, how many hours per day/week*
- Duration of holidays
- Reference to the rules of work organisation approved by the employer (if established)
- Termination and notice clauses
- Collective agreement, if applicable
- Other benefits where applicable
*The exact hours (beginning and end of the working day, breaks, core hours of business, etc.) can be specified in internal documents.
An employment contract may be amended only if the employee and employer have agreed.
In addition to the employment contract terms and conditions, both parties are bound by a mutual obligation of loyalty and good faith. For an employee, this means that they must perform duties loyally, bearing in mind the employer's benefit and refrain from actions that harm the employer's reputation.
It is not mandatory to provide a payslip to employees. However, the employee has the right to request itemised payslips (paper or electronically), containing details of the basic salary, any additional remuneration, bonuses, extra payments, and deducted taxes. Employers have to comply with the request.
Health & Safety
Employers must safeguard their employees' health and safety in the workplace, including those working from home. They have to undertake risk assessments, have a health and safety policy, and record workplace accidents. Employers do not have to obtain liability insurance for employees, as it's voluntary; however, it's common.
The employer must arrange that the employee sees an occupational health doctor during the first four months of the employment relationship. After that, the employee should see them every three years or more often if required. The occupational health doctor will assess the employee's suitability for the work and recommend work condition improvements. The occupational health doctor discloses their observations and decisions to the employer.
Employees have the right to be treated equally and fairly based on the same grounds listed under the anti-discrimination section.
Protection from discrimination
The Estonian Employment Contracts Act and the Estonian Gender Equality Act and Equal Treatment Act prohibit discrimination based on sex, race, age, nationality, colour, disability, sexual orientation, religious or other beliefs.
Personal information protection
As the chief processor of employee personal data, the employer has specific duties under the Personal Data Protection Act. They must appoint a particular person within the company who should be responsible for processing personal data.
Under the GDPR rules, employers are subject to restrictions when retrieving and disclosing employee data.
- Data processing must comply with good data processing practices
- Employees' data must be collected only for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes. Any subsequent processing must be compatible with those original purposes. The employer should not retain employee personal data for longer than necessary to fulfil its purpose
- The data must always be complete and correct and both the amount of data processed and the registration period should be proportional
- Employees' data must only be collected and processed if a specific lawful basis exists, e.g. necessary for the contact, to comply with a legal obligation, or necessary for the employer's legitimate interest.
- Employees must receive statutory information (in the form of a privacy notice) of purposes and legal basis for processing, the recipients of personal data, third country transfers, data subject rights etc.
Employees have the right to request access to their data kept by their employer.
Protection in case of business transfer
The reorganisation, or change in the ownership, does not terminate employment, nor does it serve as grounds for termination. In those circumstances, employees have the right to continue working for the new business formed as a result. Before the transfer, the parties must also comply with the information and consultation obligations regarding the transfer and the potential impact on employees (only applicable if significant changes are planned concerning employees).
Protection against dismissal
Protected employees include pregnant women and those on maternity or paternity leave. The employer may only terminate their employment in case of liquidation or bankruptcy.
People who become involuntarily unemployed (except for leaving on their initiative, by mutual agreement of the parties, or due to breach of contract by the employee) are entitled to a government unemployment insurance benefit. The rate of 40-60% of their average salary for up to 360 calendar days if they have contributed to social security and unemployment insurances for at least 12 months during the last three years
The unemployment benefit depends on the employee's salary, but there are minimum and maximum amounts capped. For the first 100 calendar days, the unemployment insurance benefit is 60% of the employee's average salary (currently max €64.12 gross per day) and 40% of the employee's average wage from the 101st day onwards (currently max €42.74 gross per day).
If the employee's overall length of employment is up to five years, they will be eligible for the unemployment insurance benefit for up to 180 calendar days. If the employee's overall employment length is 5-10 years, they will be eligible for the unemployment insurance benefit for up to 270 calendar days. If the employee's overall length of employment is more than ten years, they will be eligible for the unemployment insurance benefit for up to 360 calendar days.
Employers must provide suitable working conditions and facilities for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Based on a doctor's sick leave certificate, pregnant women may temporarily request work appropriate to their medical status.
Employers must allow pregnant women time off for ante-natal examinations at times prescribed by a doctor. Overtime and relocation cannot be required of pregnant women, employees who are entitled to pregnancy and maternity leave or raising a child under three.
Anyone has the right to establish a trade union freely and without prior permission, and to join a trade union or obtain from doing so. At least five employees may found a trade union. Members of the armed forces in active service in the Defence Forces are not permitted to establish or join trade unions.
Employees are entitled to join the trade union of their workplace or any other trade union. Employees can act as the elected representative of a trade union.
The employer has the right to terminate the employment contract for economic reasons /due to redundancy in case of any cessation of work (e.g. due to decrease in the work volume or reorganisation of work; in case of liquidation or bankruptcy of the employer). Employers must consult with their employees before any collective dismissals take effect, intending to find ways of avoiding or reducing the number of dismissals.
Collective redundancy rules would apply if, within 30 calendar days, the employer terminated the employment contract due to redundancy of at least:
- Five employees in an enterprise employing up to 19 employees in total,
- Ten employees in an enterprise employing 20–99 employees in total;
- 10% of the employees in an enterprise employing 100–299 employees in total;
- Thirty employees in an enterprise employing at least 300 employees in total.
The term "within 30 calendar days" means the end date of the employment relationships, i.e. it does not depend on when the termination letters are given to the employees – as the notice period may vary from employee to employee. Consultation includes providing relevant information on the potential dismissals to employees or employee representatives (where the affected employees are absent) and the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Pregnant employees, employees raising children under three years old and employee representatives (incl. elected employees' trustees, elected trade union trustees, work environment specialists, etc.) have preferential right to remain at work in case of redundancy. The employer will have to justify the employment termination (i.e. it is presumed that the employment termination was done for these reasons if the employer does not show other reasons).