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Employee Rights and Protections

Explore workers' rights and legal protections in Estonia


Termination of employment in Estonia is regulated by the Employment Contracts Act (ECA). This legislation outlines several lawful reasons for employment termination, including ordinary termination by the employee or employer, and extraordinary termination by either party in cases of serious misconduct or breach of contract.

Lawful Grounds for Dismissal

The ECA provides several lawful reasons for employment termination:

  • Ordinary Termination by Employee: Employees can terminate their contract with advance notice.
  • Ordinary Termination by Employer: Employers can terminate a contract with advance notice for reasons such as changes in company organization or work volume, incapacity of the employee, or redundancy.
  • Extraordinary Termination: Both employers and employees can terminate a contract immediately without notice in cases of serious misconduct or breach of contract. Examples include severe intoxication at work, repeated violations of work duties, or violence or threats.

Notice Periods

The required notice period usually depends on the duration of employment:

  • Probationary Period: During the probationary period, termination requires 15 calendar days' notice.
  • Standard Contracts: After the probationary period, the notice period increases to 30 calendar days.
  • Longer Notice Periods: For employees employed 5-10 years, 60 calendar days' notice is required. For employees employed over 10 years, 90 calendar days' notice is required.

Severance Pay

Severance pay may be required in certain circumstances:

  • Redundancy: If termination is due to redundancy or a reduction in workforce, employees are entitled to severance pay. The amount varies based on length of service.
  • Breach of Contract by Employer: If the employer terminates the contract unlawfully, the employee may be entitled to compensation of up to three months' average salary.

Additional Information

  • Mutual Agreement: Employers and employees can always terminate the employment contract by mutual agreement.
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements: Some industries may have additional regulations or more generous terms for severance pay outlined in collective bargaining agreements.

For complex situations or potential disputes, consulting a legal professional specializing in Estonian employment law is always recommended.


Estonia has a comprehensive legal framework to combat discrimination. The key laws include the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, which guarantees equality for all regardless of nationality, race, origin, religion, sex, or other grounds. The Gender Equality Act specifically prohibits discrimination based on sex and gender identity. The Equal Treatment Act is broader in scope, prohibiting discrimination on various grounds including race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, and other beliefs.

Protected Characteristics

Estonian law explicitly protects individuals from discrimination based on several characteristics. These include sex, which includes protection against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and gender identity. Race is also protected, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, and nationality. Religion and beliefs are protected, offering protection against discrimination due to religious beliefs, philosophical convictions, or lack thereof. Age is protected, safeguarding workers from discrimination based on their age. Disability is also protected, safeguarding against discrimination based on disability status. Lastly, sexual orientation is protected, protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Redress Mechanisms

Victims of discrimination in Estonia have several avenues to seek justice. The Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner is an independent body with authority to investigate discrimination complaints, attempt conciliation, and impose fines or issue precepts to stop discriminatory practices. The Labour Inspectorate can address discrimination complaints in the employment context and help resolve disputes. Individuals can also pursue discrimination cases through the Estonian court system, potentially seeking compensation or an order to rectify the situation.

Employer Responsibilities

Estonian employers have a legal obligation to uphold anti-discrimination principles. They are required to implement clear policies outlining a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination. They must also provide employees with training on anti-discrimination law and foster a respectful, inclusive workplace culture. Additionally, they must establish accessible mechanisms for employees to report discrimination concerns and ensure these are addressed promptly and fairly.

Estonian anti-discrimination laws are actively evolving and expanding. Employers should stay updated on changes to ensure compliance.

Working conditions

Estonia provides a comprehensive framework for working conditions, as outlined in the Working Time Act (Tööaegaseadus).

Work Hours

The standard workweek in Estonia is 40 hours, which equates to an average of 8 hours per day from Monday to Friday. The total working time, including overtime, should not exceed an average of 48 hours per week over a four-month period. Overtime work requires the consent of the employee and is compensated at a higher rate, typically 1.5x or 2x the base salary.

Rest Periods

Employees are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours within a 24-hour period. All employees must receive a minimum uninterrupted weekly rest period of 24 hours, typically on Sundays. The Working Time Act does not mandate specific break times, but most employers provide short breaks throughout the workday. People with children under 1.5 years old are entitled to additional breaks for breastfeeding and childcare.

Ergonomic Requirements

Estonian workplaces must adhere to general health and safety regulations, although there isn't a single law solely dedicated to ergonomics. The Working Environment Act (Töökeskkonna seaduse) places a general obligation on employers to ensure the health and safety of workers. This can be interpreted to include ergonomic considerations, such as providing proper workstations, equipment, and training to minimize physical strain. Certain sectors may have specific regulations addressing ergonomic risks. For example, construction regulations might mandate the use of ergonomic tools or proper lifting techniques.

Enhancing Ergonomic Practices

Conducting regular risk assessments to identify potential ergonomic hazards is a proactive approach. Consulting with ergonomics specialists can provide valuable guidance on designing and maintaining an ergonomically sound work environment.

Health and safety

Estonia prioritizes worker well-being through a comprehensive framework of health and safety regulations.

Employer Obligations

The Occupational Health and Safety Act establishes employer responsibilities to ensure a safe work environment. Here are some crucial aspects:

  • Risk Assessment and Prevention: Employers must conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implement preventive measures to minimize risks. This proactive approach helps prevent accidents and illnesses.
  • Safety Measures: Providing a safe work environment includes ensuring proper ventilation, lighting, sanitary facilities, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where necessary.
  • Training and Information: Employees must receive adequate training on health and safety procedures specific to their job roles. This empowers them to work safely and identify potential risks.
  • Accident Reporting and Investigation: Employers are obligated to report work-related accidents and illnesses and conduct investigations to prevent future occurrences. This helps identify systemic issues and prevent similar accidents.

Employee Rights

Employees in Estonia have corresponding rights under health and safety regulations outlined in the same Act:

  • Right to a Safe Workplace: Employees have the right to work in an environment free from foreseeable risks to their health and safety. This ensures a workplace conducive to well-being.
  • Refusal of Unsafe Work: Employees can refuse to perform tasks they believe pose a serious threat to their health or safety. This right empowers them to advocate for their own safety.
  • Access to Information and Training: Employees have the right to receive information and training on health and safety hazards and procedures relevant to their work. This knowledge is crucial for protecting themselves and their colleagues.

Enforcement Agencies

The Estonian Occupational Health and Safety Board is the primary enforcement agency. Here are some key enforcement mechanisms:

  • Inspections: The Board conducts regular or surprise inspections of workplaces to assess compliance with health and safety regulations.
  • Orders and Fines: Failure to comply with regulations can result in issuance of orders to rectify issues and potential fines for employers. In severe cases, work stoppage can be enforced.

A collaborative approach involving employers, employees, and enforcement agencies is crucial for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment in Estonia.

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