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Guidelines of the Labour Inspectorate for both employers and employees

17.03.2020


RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE EMPLOYEE regarding changes in the organisation of work due to COVID-19

  1. Ask your employer for information if you have not understood your rights and opportunities.
  2. Discuss with the employer, give your opinion, and make suggestions. Remember that your employer is also in a difficult situation and is trying to find the best possible solution!
  3. Think about what solutions are reasonable and necessary for you, both in terms of maintaining an optimal income, continuing to work, and fulfilling family responsibilities.
  4. Make your own suggestions to the employer for possible changes to your work organisation, but do not assume that the employer is obliged to accept any such suggestions. Agreements are the result of negotiations.
  5. Do not rush to regular termination of employment or termination by agreement of the parties. First find out if this is your only option. Please note that regular termination of your employment contract and by agreement between the parties do not give you the right to claim unemployment insurance benefit.
  6. You cannot request a redundancy yourself. The redundancy decision can only be made by the employer!
  7. If you have been exposed to a person who has been infected with coronavirus but have not yet experienced the symptoms of the disease yourself, you can file a certificate for sick leave (https://www.haigekassa.ee/en/uudised/work-sick-leave-can-be-filed-online-temporary-measure-monday).

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE EMPLOYER regarding changes in the organisation of work due to COVID-19

Give your employees as much information as possible

  • What you are planning in relation to the reduction or, on the contrary, a significant increase in workload;
  • How will you protect the health of your employees in relation to the working environment, what requirements are mandatory and what are recommended (https://www.tooelu.ee/et/uudised/2560);
  • Treat your employees as uniformly as possible, or, if this is not possible, explain as personally as possible the reasons for one decision or another, such as why someone needs to be present at the workplace and others can use teleworking;
  • If possible, offer teleworking arrangements and different solutions for changing the organisation of work (https://www.tooelu.ee/en/Employer/Working-environment/Organizing-working-environment/Teleworking). 


Involve employees in finding solutions to the situation, i.e. follow the principles of informing and consultation, including

  • Invite staff to think and submit opinions and suggestions by specific times;
  • State which options you are considering (e.g. possibility of annual holiday, possibility of temporary part-time work, reduction of working time and wages for up to three months in accordance with section 37 of the Employment Contracts Act, possible redundancies if the financial situation of the company so requires), but do not cause unnecessary panic (https://www.tooelu.ee/et/tooandjale/toosuhted/tootasu/tootasu-vahendamine);
  • If necessary, consider changing the working time arrangements by agreement between the parties: for example, parents can work in the early or late hours, as in the meantime, they have to help their children or deal with younger children who cannot be sent to childcare or kindergarten;
  • If you have a shortage of employees and need to work overtime, let your employees know and negotiate with other companies whose employees could be temporarily involved (taking into account the specifics of temporary work). 


If you can see that temporary or permanent staff reductions are inevitable due to customer decline or order cancellations, talk to the staff about it, including:

  • Ask what they prefer: either redundancy, the temporary amendment of the terms of the employment contract by mutual agreement between the parties, including part-time work, the use of annual holiday, or unpaid leave (only with the agreement of the parties, the employee must understand what this means for them and the employer must understand that partial tax liability remains)
  • Analyse whether you may end up in a situation of collective redundancy, which requires notification and involvement of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (https://www.tooelu.ee/et/Tooandjale/Toosuhted/tooleping/toolepingu-loppemine/Toolepingute-kollektiivne-ylesytlemine);
  • Understand that for the employee, it is better if you act now, instead of just waiting until it gets even more difficult, meaning the company may end up in liquidation or bankruptcy. For the employee, this can mean a very long waiting period without pay and social guarantees.

Recommendations for employers to keep their employees healthy even in the current difficult situation:

  1. Assess the risks to the health of your employees in the current situation.
  2. Based on the new information, take measures to prevent your employees from getting sick – ensure hand washing facilities (hot running water, soap, and hand drying facilities), hand disinfectants, and the possibility to use gloves if necessary, and prevent customer contact (for example, leaving the customers’ goods in front of their door).
  3. Explain to the employees what the specific risks they are facing are and what (additional) measures have been taken.
  4. Listen to your employees; they may come up with very good ideas for better work organisation and risk reduction.
  5. Make sure all of your employees follow the rules.
  6. Find employees at risk a job where they do not have to come in contact with the customers.
  7. If possible, increase the distance between the employees (if technically and organisationally possible).

Recommendations for employees to stay healthy in the current difficult situation:

  1. If your employer has not explained how to behave in the current situation, ask them yourself.
  2. If you feel that it is not safe to do your work, immediately inform the employer by explaining what is wrong, i.e. what measures the employer has not taken.
  3. If your employer fails to take appropriate action and your work endangers your life and health, inform the employer (in writing) that if the employer fails to take action, you have the right to refuse to do the job because it endangers your life and health.
  4. If you have to be in contact with customers and you belong to the risk group, report this to the employer and ask them to re-direct you to a job where you do not have to be in contact with the customers.
  5. Follow the safety instructions! If you have to wear gloves, wear them.
  6. If you get sick and suspect that you were infected while working (e.g. you are a health care professional, shop assistant, etc.), please inform your doctor so that they can refer the documentation of your sickness to the occupational health doctor.

See also:

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Guidelines of the Labour Inspectorate for both employers and employees
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