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Last updated: 21.03.2024
  • Traineeship can be performed as vocational or professional traineeship and through the work practice service of the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
  • Traineeship may also be a concealed employment relationship.
  • The requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act shall be adhered to during traineeship.

Pursuant to Estonian law, a person can take up traineeship in a company or institution can in only two cases:

  1. if a school sends a pupil or student to vocational or professional traineeship;
  2. if a person has become unemployed and the Unemployment Insurance Fund offers him or her work practice as a labour market service.

Thus, a separate bilateral traineeship agreement is not regulated in Estonian legislation. When entering into an employment relationship, the probationary period in particular is primarily intended for learning to do the required tasks, adapting, and assessing suitability for the job.

Sometimes, however, the initiative to employ a trainee comes from a company that announces the possibility for traineeship and adds that if a trainee learns the tasks and is good at them, an employment contract will be concluded with him or her in the future.

The law does not provide an opportunity for the conclusion of such an agreement. But what kind of a contract can it legally be in this case?

In theory, the content of the contract may correspond to a contract for the provision of services whereby one party undertakes to teach and instruct the other party and allow the use of certain materials and equipment and the other party undertakes to perform tasks and acquire new knowledge, while avoiding harm to the instructor. However, such an agreement may actually refer to an employment relationship and probationary period, i.e. it may be a concealed employment relationship.

According to the Employment Contracts Act, an employment relationship is presumed if the person performing work is in subordination to the management and control of the employer and remuneration is paid for the work. However, not paying remuneration cannot be the only condition for claiming that there is no employment relationship. Value is created in the process of performing the work and this value benefits someone. This may serve as the basis to claim remuneration for the values created. Therefore, in the end, it may still be an employment relationship.

A job seeker is referred to an apprenticeship when they need to improve their professional skills or knowledge or gain practical work experience in order to get a job and the job seeker has previously analyzed and agreed on the need for apprenticeship with the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. The purpose of apprenticeship is to provide a client with the practical work experience necessary for recruitment and to allow them to gain additional professional skills and knowledge at the place of the employer. Apprenticeship is not intended for the employer to replace an employee, but to support the job seeker in acquiring the necessary knowledge, skills and work experience. To organise an apprenticeship, a contract under public law is concluded between the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and the employer.

Traineeship offered by both a school and the Unemployment Insurance Fund shall comply with the requirements of the  Occupational Health and Safety Actalthough no employment contract is concluded.

Therefore, there shall be a legal basis for completing and conducting traineeship, i.e. a relevant agreement with a school or the Unemployment Insurance Fund. In other cases it is not possible to complete the traineeship and the persons providing and performing the work shall find another legal basis for co-operation. It is recommended to conclude an employment contract.