Work from home
Estonia does not set out detailed conditions for remote work. It is up to the employer and employee to agree on how the work is arranged. However, the employment agreement needs to indicate the employee will be working remotely. If the parties have agreed on remote work possibility and nothing else is specified, they can work remotely within the agreed workplace (e.g. anywhere in Tallinn).
Neither employer nor employee can unilaterally demand remote work from home; they need to agree to it. It is also impossible to unilaterally change an agreement on working from a home office already entered into. This means that an employer cannot just demand an employee start coming to the office.
Employers and employees should discuss and agree on the following topics:
- How will the employer give work tasks, assignments and instructions to the employee? It can be part of the company handbook
- How will the working time be recorded? It can be agreed with the direct manager, but employers can be fined up to €3,200 for not keeping account of working time
- How is the working time organised (e.g. are there any core times /business hours during which the employee must be available) and when will the employee have breaks during the working day?
- What items will the company provide for the employee to work? Who and to what extent will cover the costs? Employers are responsible for providing employees with the necessary work equipment and reimbursing their expenses related to their duties.
- How will the business secrets and confidential information be protected? Any special measures to be taken from an IT security perspective? Can be part of the handbook.
- Health and safety: who will be responsible for it, and how? Can be part of the handbook.
Health & safety at home
Employers are advised to add health and safety at home regulations in the company's internal handbook. Under the Employment Contracts Act, the employee cannot be responsible for all the occupational health and safety issues from working remotely. The employer must ensure that the working conditions are safe and appropriate.
The employer can, however, expect co-operation from employees on these matters, as it is challenging for them to control all the nuances of working remotely (e.g. what type of chair is the employee sitting on at the computer, is there enough light in the room, does the employee rest their eyes regularly).
Employers should instruct the employees about health and safety matters related to remote work. Employees working with a display screen should take breaks regularly to rest their eyes.
Security of information
Employers and employees should discuss any special measures to be taken to protect confidential information for employees working remotely. The Employment Contracts Act lists the employee's confidentiality obligation. However, company handbooks should address security policies in more detail.
Employers must take all reasonable steps to ensure the employee's workstation is correctly set up, safe, comfortable and easy to use to reduce potential injuries. Employees must care for their health and safety and follow any reasonable policies or directions their employer gives them.
To ensure the employee's workstation set up is safe, employers should:
- Guide what a secure home office environment, including setting up an ergonomic workstation is
- Require workers to familiarise themselves and comply with good ergonomic practices
- Provide a health and safety checklist for working remotely for workers to use
- Organise a virtual workstation assessment
Workers must inform employers of any work-related incidents or injuries that occur while working remotely.
An appropriate workstation will include the following:
- Good level of illumination, both natural and artificial light sources should not create glare on the computer
- Sufficient lighting level for visual tasks to be completed without eye strain
- Good level of ventilation and thermal comfort
- Unobstructed exit path in case of emergencies, including electrical cords, uneven carpet, clutter
- Proper storage for documents
Employers must ensure employees access their workplace entitlements, including breaks, standard hours and any agreed flexible work arrangements.
Recommendations for employees working remotely:
- Take appropriate breaks every 30 minutes to ensure repetitive actions are not continued for long periods and stand up at least once per hour
- Stretch and change posture often, and if possible, alternate activity.
- Make sure they always have a comfortable posture
- Don't do any lifting, pushing, or carrying type tasks beyond the physical capacity
- Keep wrists upright while typing and make sure they are not supported on any surface while typing
- Sitting posture is upright or slightly reclined, maintaining slight hollow in the lower back
- Establish boundaries around work hours
- Schedule regular meetings and catch-ups with the team.
- Go outdoors and exercise daily, if possible