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  • Full-time work is 40 hours per week, or eight hours per day over a seven-day period.
  • summarised working time, working hours may be distributed differently in a certain unit of time, i.e. in the calculation period.
  • An employer shall shorten the working day preceding New Year’s Day, the anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, Victory Day and Christmas Eve by three
Kell, arvuti, kontor

Duration of working time

The duration of the employee’s working time must be agreed in the employment contract. The parties may agree to apply full-time or part-time work.

Full-time work is 40 hours per week, or eight hours per day over a seven-day period. Example: An employee works full time, i.e. an estimated eight hours a day and 40 hours over a seven-day period.

The employer and the employee may also agree on shorter working hours, i.e. part-time work. Example: An employee works part time, i.e. an estimated four hours a day and 20 hours over a seven-day period.

In the absence of an agreement, full-time employment is assumed.

Organisation of working time

The purpose of working time organisation is to determine the time at which work is to be carried out, in particular the beginning, end and breaks in working time. The right to organise working time belongs to the employer, who regulates working time based on the needs of the company. Therefore, the employer can unilaterally change the already established order, if the changes are reasonable, related to the needs of the company and take into account the interests of the employee. For example, when changing the start of work to an earlier time, the employer must take into account that the change does not significantly hinder the employment of employees (possibility to use public transport at an early time, etc.).

Usually, working hours are regulated by an internal document, such as work organisation rules. The employer must inform the employee about the organisation of working time already upon concluding the employment contract, which gives the parties the opportunity to agree on a different working time from the company’s normal working hours, if, for example, the normal working hours are not suitable for the employee.

Summarised working time

The Employment Contracts Act requires that a full-time employee be in office for 40 hours over a seven-day period and that the length of the working day be eight hours. If this is deviated from, i.e. working time is not evenly distributed during the calculation period, the employment contract shall agree on the application of summarised working time and the length of the calculation period.

Summarised working time means that working hours may be distributed differently in a certain unit of time, i.e. in the calculation period. For example, in the course of one month an employee may work six hours a day in one week and ten hours a day in another week. In the case of summarised working time, the calculation period can be up to four months and working time is calculated at the end of the calculation period. The end of the calculation period also reveals the employee’s overtime and under-hours.

Summarised working time calculation is primarily used when working on the basis of a working time schedule. The summarised working time agreement allows the employer to apply a shorter weekly rest period to employees, i.e. at least 36 consecutive hours, compared to 48 hours for conventional working hours.

If the parties have agreed that summarised working time will be applied to the employee’s working time, the employer must also inform the employee of the conditions for notifying the working time schedule. For example, an employee needs to know when they will receive the next month’s working time schedule, how long the calculation period is and when it begins. The calculation period does not have to start at the beginning of the year in January, so it is also important to announce its beginning. In a situation where the employer needs to change the working time schedule already prepared and communicated to the employee, any changes must be agreed with the employee.

The expiry of the employment contract ends the summarised working time calculation period. If the employment contract is terminated before the end of the agreed calculation period, the beginning of the calculation period to the termination of the employment relationship shall be considered as the last period. Upon expiry of the employment contract during the calculation period, the employee may have worked fewer hours than the agreed working hours. In this case, the employer must compensate the employee for less hours worked in addition to the hours worked, and if the employee has worked more hours than the agreed working hours, the additional hours worked must be compensated as overtime.

Summarised working time and calculation of wages

If parties have agreed in the employment contract on a monthly wage and summarised working time, the employer must pay the monthly wages regardless of whether the employee has been given work in the agreed amount in that particular month. The monthly wages only have to be converted into a wage for a calendric working day or hourly wage in special cases, i.e. if the employee is on sick leave, on holiday, etc.

If parties have agreed in the employment contract on an hourly wage and summarised working time, the employer must pay wages based on the hours worked. If the employer and employee have agreed on a minimum hourly wage, the employer must ensure a wage, which is the standard monthly hours multiplied by the minimum hourly wage, but wages may not be below the minimum monthly wage established by the Government of the Republic of Estonia.

For the sake of clarity, we highlight the most important principles related to summarised working time.

  • It is presumed that a full-time employee works 40 hours over a period of seven days and eight hours per day (Employment Contracts Act (hereinafter: ECA) subsections 43 (1) and (2)).
  • It is presumed that the weekly rest time is granted on Saturday and Sunday (ECA subsection 52 (3)).
  • In order to calculate the monthly standard for working time, the number of working days in the month (Monday to Friday) is multiplied by eight hours (e.g. the standard for working time in November 2021 is 22 × 8 = 176 hours).
  • In the case of absences, working time is calculated as follows:
  1. In the case of a working time schedule: the standard for working time will be reduced by the number of scheduled working hours missed. If the period of absence falls only on the employee’s scheduled days off, the standard for working time will not be reduced.
  2. If there is no working time schedule: calendric working days (eight hours per working day) within the absence period will be subtracted from the monthly calendric standard for working time (8 × the month’s calendric working days).

Calculation of wages:

  • In the case of an hourly wage, the wages will be paid for the hours worked, but it may not be below the minimum monthly wage.
  • In the case of a monthly wage, if the employee has been absent within that month, we must calculate the wage for a calendric working day (wages are divided by the number of calendric working days), which will be multiplied by days worked (see example 1).
  • Alternatively, in the case of a monthly wage, it is possible to calculate wages on the basis of the actual hours worked (see example 2).
  • If the monthly standard for working time is zero hours, but the employee works, they must be paid for the hours worked (see example 3).
  • If the employee was on sick leave on all scheduled working days, the employer is not required to pay wages (even in the case of a monthly wage).
  • Overtime and undertime are revealed at the end of the calculation period and also paid at the end of the period.

It is therefore important that, by the end of the calculation period, employees are ensured the working time agreed upon in the employment contract and the corresponding wages for the entire calculation period.

Below are some examples and possible calculations for wages.

Calculation period is two months: April and May

Example 1:

April 2021, standard for working time 168 hours, 21 calendric working days, monthly wage 1480 euros. Schedule was made (15 × 12 h), the employee became ill and was absent for three scheduled days, which were also calendric working days (3 × 12 h).

In this example, we need to calculate the wage for a calendric working day:
1480 (wages) ÷ 21 (calendric working days per month) = 70.48 euros.

The resulting daily wage has to be multiplied by calendric working days on which the employee worked (i.e. if there were 21 working days in April 2021 and the employee was absent for three days, multiply by 18).

Therefore, the wages in April 2021 are 70.48 × 18 = 1268.64 euros.

The employee’s standard monthly hours are: 168 – (3 × 12) = 132 hours. (The employee was absent for three 12-hour shifts, therefore they have to be deducted from the standard monthly hours).

Actual working time was: 12 × 12 hours = 144 hours.

In April 2021, the employee worked more than their standard hours: 144 – 132 = 12 hours. As the month is in the middle of the calculation period, the hours worked over the standard carry over to the next month and no overtime will be paid for that month.

The standard working time in May 2021 is 168 hours, 21 calendric working days, monthly wage 1480 euros. The employee was scheduled for 156 hours. They worked without absences and also on 1 May (a public holiday).

In order to calculate double pay for a public holiday, we need to calculate the wage for a calendric working day in May: 1480 ÷ 21 (calendric working days) = 70.48 euros.

The total wages in May are therefore 1480 + 70.48 = 1550.48 euros (half of the double remuneration for 1 May is already included in the wages and additional remuneration for working on a public holiday is added to this).

Standard monthly hours in May 2021: 168
Actual working time was: 156 hours.

As the employee worked less than the monthly standard for working time, there is undertime: 168 – 156 = 12 hours. Because the employee worked 12 hours more than the standard in April and 12 hours less in May, there is no overtime at the end of the calculation period and overtime will not be paid.

Example 2:

Calculation of wages based on actual hours worked if the parties have agreed on a monthly wage.

April 2021

Let us calculate the employee’s hourly wage. 1480 ÷ 168 (standard monthly hours) = 8.81 euros. The employee worked 12 hours per day on 12 days, i.e. 12 × 12 = 144 hours in total.

Wages in April are 144 × 8.81 = 1268.64, i.e. the same result as in the first example, when we calculated on the basis of the wage for a calendric working day.

May 2021

The employee worked the month without absences and 1 May is a public holiday. In order to calculate double pay for a public holiday, we need to calculate the employee’s hourly wage: 1480 ÷ 168 (standard monthly hours) = 8.81 euros. The employee worked 12 hours on 1 May, therefore the wages for that day are: 12 × 8.81 = 105.72. The total wages in May are 1480 + 105.72 = 1585.72 euros (half of the double remuneration for 1 May is already included in the wages and additional remuneration for working on a public holiday is added to this).

Example 3:

An exception – if the monthly standard for working time is zero hours, but the employee worked.

This situation may occur, for example, when an employee works one day per month (on a Saturday/Sunday/public holiday) and is absent for the rest of the time (e.g. is on sick leave).

The monthly standard for working time in May 2021 is 168 hours, 21 calendric working days, monthly wage 1480 euros.

A schedule has been made for the employee. They managed to work for one day (12 h), on 2 May, which is also a Sunday. The employee was ill for the rest of May.

The employee’s standard for working time in May is zero hours because the standard decreases by the hours they are absent from work. May’s standard for working time is 168 (21 × 8) hours, the employee was absent on all calendric working days: 168 – (21 × 8) = 0.

Because the employee worked on the first Sunday of May for 12 hours, they must be paid for it. The wage for a calendric working day would, in this case, be zero euros, but the employee has worked, so they must be paid wages for the time worked. Therefore, we calculate the employee’s hourly wage: 1480 ÷ 168 (standard monthly hours) = 8.81 euros. The employee worked 12 hours on 2 May, therefore the wages for that day are: 12 × 8.81 = 105.72.

How should you calculate an employee’s working time in the case of absence from work?

If an employee is absent from work, their working time norm decreases. The working time norm can be reduced in two different ways, depending on whether the working time schedule has been drawn up or not.

 

1. A working time schedule has been drawn up, but the employee is absent from work, e.g. on holiday, sick leave, etc. In the case of summarised working time, the agreed working time must be reduced only by the time absent from work falling on the employee’s working time. There are no grounds to reduce the agreed working hours by the amount of leave included in the working time schedule (Judgment of the Supreme Court No. 3-2-1-143-15). Otherwise, the working time is reduced by the time during which the employee should not have performed their duties in accordance with the agreement anyway, and as a result the employee may have so-called artificial overtime or under-hours.

Example: An employee’s working days are Mon (11 hours) and Tue (11 hours), Wed–Thu free, Fri (11 hours), Sat (11 hours), Sun (11 hours). The employee was on sick leave from Monday to Sunday and their working hours will be reduced by 55 hours.

2. A working time schedule has not been drawn up, but the employee is absent from work, e.g. on holiday, sick leave, etc. In this case, the working time norm is reduced by the agreed workload.

Example: An employee works full time, i.e. an estimated eight hours a day and 40 hours over a seven-day period. Their working time rate will be reduced by eight hours for each calendar working day (Mon–Fri, excluding public holidays). Thus, if an employee is on planned annual holiday for two weeks and works full time, their working time norm will be reduced by 80 hours, provided that there are ten calendar working days within two weeks.

Specifications for child leave

The purpose of child leave is to give the employee additional time off work to spend with their child. In the case of summarised working time, the employee may work on all calendar days.

If the employee takes child leave, their working time in the calculation period must be reduced by the time the employee was not working due to child leave. If the employee’s schedule has been confirmed, the scheduled hours must be deducted from their planned working time. For example, if the employee takes child leave on Saturday when they were scheduled for a 24-hour shift, their planned working time will be reduced by 24 hours.

If the schedule has not been approved and the employee wants to take child leave, their working time is reduced by eight hours for each day of child leave, regardless of whether the day of child leave is on a business day or at the weekend. Since employees working on the basis of a schedule may work on all weekdays and child leave is granted in working days, the planned working time must be adjusted accordingly.

Example: An employee works full time, i.e. an estimated eight hours a day and 40 hours over a seven-day period. The employee is planning to take child leave from 3 March 2023 to 12 March 2023 (10 calendar days). Their standard working time will be reduced by 8 hours per working day. Therefore, their standard working time will be reduced by 80 hours.

Working time schedule

In the case of summarised working time, the employer must inform the employee in writing when the employee will receive the working time schedule for the next period. Usually, all the information about the organisation of working time and the conditions for drawing up the working time schedule are written in the company’s work organisation rules.

The employee must know about the working time schedule:

  • the period for which it is prepared (for example, the calculation period is a quarter, but the working time schedule is prepared for one month at a time); how many days before the start of the calculation period (or month) it is completed;
  • how this will be announced (for example, the approved working time schedule for the following month will be posted on the information stand of the rest area no later than on the 25th day of the previous month).
  • An employee has the right to familiarise him- or herself with the work schedule within a reasonable time before the start of the work period, to know when their working and rest days are and to be able to plan personal life activities. The working time schedule must include the start and end times of the specific work shift, meal breaks and any other breaks within the working day.

Changes to the already approved schedule in the middle of the month must be discussed and agreed with the employee in advance. If the employer changed the working time schedule unilaterally during the period, i.e. without the employee’s consent, and obliged the employee to appear for work in this way, it would make the preparation of a working time schedule redundant altogether.

Working time calculation

The employer is required to keep account of working time. This is necessary, in particular, to calculate wages and to comply with restrictions on working and rest time.

The law does not establish the form of the document for keeping working time records, but based on the need to keep account of working time, the document must contain at least:

  • hours worked for each day;
  • sick leave days;
  • holiday leave days;
  • other days absent from work.

The working time record document may also contain information on the days spent on a business trip, the replacement of a temporarily absent employee, etc.

Separate accounts must be kept for employees working individual overtime, i.e. employees with agreed longer working hours (up to 52 hours per seven-day period over a four-month calculation period).

Night work

A night worker is an employee who works at night:

  • at least three hours of their daily working time, or
  • at least one third of their annual working time.

Thus, a night worker is any employee who normally works at night for at least three hours of their daily working time or a certain part of their annual working time.

A night worker works regularly at night during their normal working hours.

Restrictions on night work

According to the night worker’s working time limit, a night worker may not work more than eight hours on average over a 24-hour period per seven-day calculation period. According to the law, when calculating the average working time of a night worker, a 24-hour period (7 days – 1 day = 6 days) must be excluded from the seven-day calculation period.

Based on the above, a night worker can work a maximum of 48 hours over a seven-day calculation period (on average eight hours a day during a six-day period). This means that the number of working hours per seven days must not exceed 48 hours, regardless of whether the shifts in a given week fall at night or during the day. A night worker must be given at least 11 consecutive hours of rest during a 24-hour period and at least 48 hours of consecutive rest during a seven-day period.

The law provides for a stricter restriction on those night workers whose health is affected by a risk factor in the working environment or by the nature of the work. Such a night worker may not work more than eight hours in any 24-hour period. This is an absolute limit, so it does not matter whether the shifts for a given week fall at night or during the day – the number of working hours per 24 hours must never exceed eight hours.

The employer is obliged to prepare a risk assessment within each workplace and to organise medical examinations for night workers both before starting night work and at regular intervals during employment.

In certain cases, exceptions to the working hours of a night worker may also be made by means of an employment contract or a collective agreement. Specification is permitted provided that the work does not endanger the health and safety of the employee and that the working time does not exceed the time limit for carrying out the work. This applies in particular to workplaces involving security and surveillance operations, activities requiring the continuous provision of a service or production, as well as treatment and maintenance services and port or airport workers.

A minor employee is prohibited from working at night.

Overtime work

Overtime is working more than the agreed working hours. Overtime is work that exceeds the agreed working hours, regardless of whether the employee works full time or part time. For example, if the employee and the employer have agreed on part-time work for four hours a day, working the fifth hour is overtime and must be compensated accordingly. In the case of summarised working time, overtime work becomes clear at the end of the calculation period.

Overtime work must be agreed by the parties. As overtime work cannot be planned in advance, the employer and the employee need to agree on overtime work separately each time. For example, when concluding an employment contract between an employee and an employer, it cannot be agreed that the employee works overtime as needed, because the necessity to work overtime is always a special situation.

Overtime is not allowed for:

  • a minor, as this may be harmful to their health and development;
  • an employee who comes into contact with risk factors in the working environment and whose working time has therefore been shortened pursuant to law;
  • a pregnant woman and a worker who is entitled to pregnancy and maternity leave, unless there is no risk to the worker’s health and the worker consents to work overtime.

Overtime work is compensated by providing paid free time, unless monetary compensation has been agreed. In the case of monetary compensation, overtime work is paid for at a rate of 1.5 times the wage.

The employee and the employer may agree to overtime work. Overtime together with conventional working time shall not exceed on average 48 hours per seven-day period over a four-month calculation period, unless a different calculation period has been provided by law.

The employee and the employer may agree on additional overtime work. Absolute working time, including overtime, may not exceed an average of 52 hours per seven-day period over a four-month calculation period.

It is not permitted to exceed the abovementioned working time limit even if the employee agrees to work more hours. In a situation where the parties have agreed on additional overtime work, it must be borne in mind that this must not be detrimental to the employee’s health. An employee may refuse additional overtime work if it is harmful to their health, the employer does not comply with occupational safety and health requirements or does not comply with working time restrictions.

An employee may terminate the agreement to work 52 hours in a seven-day period at any time without cause by notifying the employer two weeks in advance. The employer is required to keep separate records of employees working additional overtime. In the absence of such records, the labour inspector has the right to initiate misdemeanour proceedings against the employer and punish them with a fine.

The employer may require overtime work in exceptional cases where it is necessary in unforeseeable circumstances, in particular to prevent damage, such as:

  • in circumstances which do not normally exist in the employment relationship;
  • overtime work is necessary, i.e. it cannot be postponed;
  • the interests of the employer outweigh those of the employee, i.e. the principle of good faith must be followed.

Notwithstanding the above, the employer cannot require overtime work from a minor, a pregnant woman and an employee entitled to pregnancy and maternity leave.

The employer and the employee are free to agree on the length and organisation of working hours suitable for them, provided that the working time restrictions established in the Employment Contracts Act are complied with. When regulating working time, it is justified in the public interest to limit the time of work in order to ensure the objective of protecting the health of employees.

Pursuant to clause 28 (2) 4) of the Employment Contracts Act, the employer is required to ensure the agreed working and rest time and keep account of working time. An agreement on working time is one of the mandatory conditions of subsection 5 (1) of the Employment Contracts Act, which must be communicated to employees in writing. Pursuant to clause 5 (1) 7) of the Employment Contracts Act, the employer must inform the employee of the time when the employee performs the agreed work duties (working time). The employer must also inform the employee of the organisation of working time pursuant to clause 5 (1) 11) of the Employment Contracts Act. The terms and conditions of the employment contract can only be changed by agreement of the parties pursuant to section 12 of the Employment Contracts Act and the amendments must be in accordance with the applicable restrictions of the same act.

The employer may agree with the employee on summarised working time, which means that working hours may be divided differently in a certain unit of time, i.e. in the calculation period. Summarised working time is primarily used for employees who work according to a working time schedule. If the parties have agreed that summarised working time is applied to the employee, the employer must inform the employee of the length of the calculation period and the conditions for announcing the working time schedule pursuant to subsection 6 (6) of the Employment Contracts Act.

In the case of summarised working time, the calculation period may be up to four months, and working time is calculated at the end of the calculation period, where overtime or under-hours worked by the employee are also revealed.

Pursuant to subsection 44 (1) of the Employment Contracts Act, an employer and employee may agree that the employee undertakes to perform work over the agreed working time (overtime work). In the case of the summarised working time, overtime means work exceeding the agreed working time at the end of the calculation period. If the employer and the employee agree on summarised working hours, the employee’s working days may fall on Saturdays and Sundays and be longer than eight hours.

It must be ensured that the employee is guaranteed daily and weekly rest periods. The daily rest time regime is established in section 51 of the Employment Contracts Act. Daily rest is free time from the end of one working day to the beginning of the next working day. It is required that the employee must rest for at least 11 consecutive hours during a 24-hour period. Consequently, in the case of summarised working time, the total length of the shift, including overtime, may not exceed 13 hours. The daily rest limit does not apply to healthcare professionals and welfare workers.

Exceptions to this restriction may be made by collective agreement in the cases specified in Article 17 (3) of Council Directive 2003/88/EC and provided that the employment does not endanger the health and safety of the employee (subsection 51 (3) of the Employment Contracts Act). Pursuant to subsection 51 (3) of the Employment Contracts Act, an employee can work a shift of up to 24 hours if all three of the following conditions are met at the same time:

  • these are the cases referred to in Article 17 (3) and (4) of Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (e.g. healthcare and welfare work; port and airport work; agriculture and tourism; industries where work cannot be interrupted for technical reasons);
  • a corresponding agreement has been concluded between the employer and the employees’ representative in a collective agreement;
  • the risk assessment of the working environment prepared by the employer shows that such work does not endanger the health and safety of the employee.

Specifications can be made by collective agreement, for example, for activities where the employee’s place of work and residence are distant from each other or require continuous service/production, as well as for gas, water and electricity production, security and surveillance operations, port and airport workers as well as passenger transport workers, etc.

An employer shall give an employee who works more than 13 hours during a 24-hour period additional time off immediately after the end of the working day, equal to the number of hours by which the 13 working hours were exceeded (subsection 51 (5) of the Employment Contracts Act).

Accordingly, in the case of healthcare professionals and welfare workers or professions listed in Article 17 (3) of Council Directive 2003/88/EC that are also subject to a collective agreement, the duration of the shift may exceed 13 hours, provided that working does not endanger the health and safety of the worker.

However, if these exceptions do not apply to the employee, the employee’s working time per 24 hours may not exceed 13 hours. For example, in the case of shop staff, these exemptions do not apply and employees have the right to refuse to work longer hours than those provided for in the working time schedules.

An employer and employee may agree that the employee undertakes to perform work over the agreed working time (overtime work). In the case of the summarised working time, overtime means work exceeding the agreed working time at the end of the calculation period. This means that even in the case of summarised working time, the working time that exceeds the agreed working time is overtime work that must be additionally compensated to the employee.

In the case of summarised working time, as overtime becomes apparent at the end of the calculation period, the employee may not have to work overtime on a weekly or monthly basis, as it depends on the length of the calculation period. If the calculation period in the company is, for example, four months, overtime is revealed at the end of every fourth month. If the calculation period is one month, overtime is revealed at the end of each month. Thus, the fact that an employee has agreed to work additional hours on two days off according to the working time schedule does not automatically mean that the employee has worked overtime.

Overtime work cannot be agreed in the abstract, i.e. the employer and the employee must reach a separate agreement on overtime work each time. The employer can demand overtime in exceptional cases, i.e. without the employee’s consent, if it is necessary to do so in unforeseen circumstances (for example, to prevent damage, if another employee does not show up for work, etc.).

In the case of summarised working time, if an employee works more hours in one month than the standard hours prescribe, this does not mean overtime work, as the overtime hours become apparent at the end of the calculation period. If the length of the calculation period is one month, the overtime will be revealed by the end of each month. However, if an employee is subject to a calculation period of four months, the employee has the right to refuse the overtime shown in the fourth month’s working time schedule. The refusal must be notified to the employer as soon as the employer provides the employee with the working time schedule. If an employee starts working on the basis of a working time schedule that indicates overtime, the employee can be considered to have given consent to work overtime.

Example: An employee is subject to a four-month calculation period (January, February, March, April). In 2021, the standard hours for January are 160, in February 149, in March 184 and in April 168. Thus, the employee must work a total of 661 hours during the calculation period. If the employee has worked more than 661 hours at the end of the fourth month, it is overtime work that must be additionally compensated.

Pursuant to the Employment Contracts Act, an employer shall compensate for overtime work by time off equal to the overtime, unless monetary compensation has been agreed. In the case of an agreement of monetary compensation, the employer must remunerate the employee at a rate of 1.5 times the wages for the overtime work.

When compiling and amending the working time schedule, the employer must follow the mandatory regulation of working and rest time. Pursuant to the Employment Contracts Act, the summarised working time shall not exceed on average 48 hours per a seven-day period over a four-month calculation period, unless a different calculation period has been provided by law.

In addition, the employee must be guaranteed a daily rest period, which by law must be at least 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period. It also means that the employee can work a maximum of 13 hours in one day, i.e. during a 24-hour period. The employer is also obliged to monitor the weekly rest period, which, in the case of summarised working time, must be at least 36 consecutive hours during a seven-day period.

Thus, changing the working time schedule does not necessarily mean that the employee works overtime. Overtime work becomes clear at the end of the calculation period, when it is additionally compensated to the employee. If the employee has agreed to a change in the working time schedule, care must be taken to ensure that the employee is still able to rest for at least 11 consecutive hours per day and for at least 36 consecutive hours during the seven-day period.

On-call time

On-call time is a time when the employee is not obliged to perform work duties, but is required to be ready to perform work duties on the basis of the employer’s order under the agreed conditions. The part of on-call time during which the employee starts to perform work duties is considered to be working time, and the employer must pay the employee the agreed wages for this. On-call time can be applied by agreement between the employee and the employer.

As the employee must be ready to perform work duties immediately during on-call time, if necessary, the employee must be remunerated for on-call time, the amount of which must be at least 1/10 of the agreed wages. For example, if an employee’s pay is 10 euros per hour, the employer must pay 1 euro per hour of on-call time.

When implementing on-call time, the employer must provide the employee with daily and weekly rest periods. Also in the case of on-call time, the worker must be given 11 consecutive hours of rest in a 24-hour period. For example, if an employee works eight hours a day and has a rest period of 30 minutes during the working day, the employee may be placed on call for 4.5 hours on the same day.

By agreement of the parties, the daily and weekly rest time restriction may not be applied to a full-time employee whose duty is to ensure the consistent operation of information and communication technology (ICT) services and infrastructure or information security. In the case of ICT services, the need to consistently assign employees with the required knowledge and skills on-call for a longer period may arise. For example, in the case of ICT services, it may be necessary that the employee is ready to solve an information system disruption or an information security issue in the event of an unexpected need.

Such a specification of on-call time must only be possible in justified cases, and the parties may cancel the agreement at any time by notifying 30 calendar days in advance.

In order for the agreement on the specification of on-call time to be valid, the agreement must meet the following conditions:

  1. The agreement has been concluded in a format which can be reproduced in writing. For example, the agreement can be concluded by email. The agreement may also be included in, for example, a contract of employment, a collective agreement or another document that is part of the agreement between the parties.
  2. The employee must be able to perform duties that require a response during on-call time using ICT tools without coming to the place of work. This means that if there is a need to perform work duties during on-call time, the employee must be able to perform the work tasks in a place suitable for them and they do not have to go to the employer’s workrooms (e.g. the employee can perform their work duties via telephone or computer). Part of the on-call time, when the employee performs their work duties, is considered working time.
  3. The parties have agreed on a reasonable response time, during which the employee is obliged to perform their work duties on the order of the employer. A reasonable response time depends on the nature of the work (e.g. whether the employee is able to perform their work duties by answering the phone call in a short time).
  4. The duration of on-call time in a calendar month must not exceed 130 hours.
  5. The employee is guaranteed two weekends off from work and on-call time per calendar month. To guarantee the employee sufficient rest and free time, the employee must receive at least two consecutive 48-hour rest periods during the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) in each calendar month, when the employee is not assigned to work or on-call time.
  6. The agreement does not harm the health or safety of the employee.

Example: Standard monthly hours for March 2023 are 184 hours. It is 184 working hours and 130 hours of on-call time.

Exceptions to on-call time resulting from the specifics of specific work are also used in other areas where consistent service provision is important. The specification of on-call time is provided by specific laws for rescue servants (§ 20 of the Rescue Service Act), prosecutors (§ 222 of the Prosecutor’s Office Act), prison officials (§ 141 of the Imprisonment Act) and police officers (§ 78 of the Police and Border Guard Act).

Shortening of working time before national and public holidays

An employer shall shorten the working day preceding New Year’s Day, the anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, Victory Day and Christmas Eve by three hours. The employer must shorten the working day immediately preceding the national or public holiday. The working day preceding a holiday is the day before the holiday. For example, if the shift ends on a Friday and the public holiday is on a Monday, the employer is not obliged to shorten the working day by three hours on Friday.

However, if, due to the nature of the work, the employer requires the employee to work a standard number of hours, this can be done by agreement of the parties. In that case, the three hours referred to should be regarded as overtime and be remunerated either by time off or by monetary compensation.

If the employer has already communicated a working time schedule to the employee, in which the working day preceding the New Year, the anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, Victory Day and Christmas Eve has not been shortened by three hours and the employee has not objected, it can be considered as the employee’s consent to the non-shortening. Failure to shorten the working day may not result in overtime work in the case of summarised working time, because the overtime work becomes apparent at the end of the calculation period.

In-service training of employees

In-service training supports the continuous development of the employee as a specialist. Pursuant to clause 28 (2) 5) of the Employment Contracts Act and for the purposes of development of the professional knowledge and skills of an employee, the employer is obliged to provide the employee with training based on the interests of the employer’s enterprise, and bear the training expenses and pay average wages during the training. Time spent in training is counted as working time. The employee is obliged to participate in the training. An employer cannot require an employee to write an application for study leave for this purpose. For example, if an employer wants to increase the salesman’s capacity of their company, they can refer the employee to the relevant in-service training. Time spent in training is working time and must be within the limits of working and rest time.