Estonia: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017

A collective agreement for the healthcare sector, the start of negotiations on the minimum wage, changes in employment regulations for minors and a plan to close the gender pay gap are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Estonia in the second quarter of 2017.

New agreement in healthcare

A new collective agreement in the healthcare sector (as described in the previous quarter’s country update) was finally concluded on 25 April 2017 after a year and a half of negotiations. This bargaining round was particularly difficult as it also involved political decisions. The agreement sets a modest minimum hourly wage increase of €0.53 per hour as of April 2017, with an additional €0.82 per hour from April 2018 for doctors (currently earning €10.00 per hour), €0.40 for nurses (currently €5.50 per hour), and by €0.50 per hour for caregivers (currently €3.30 per hour). Also, for the first time, the agreement includes standards for doctors’ workloads and allows a reasonable time for dealing with patients, aimed at ensuring a better quality of treatment and preventing the overloading of doctors’ workloads.

On 7 June, negotiations started between the Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) and Estonian Employers' Confederation (ETKL) on the national minimum wage agreement for 2018–2019. The previous two-year agreement was concluded in 2015 and provided for an increase in the minimum wage from €390 to €470 per month by 2017.

Changes to employment of minors

In April 2017, parliament approved changes to the Employment Contracts Act to improve future youth labour market opportunities. Minors, who must still by law attend school, may work for up to 2 hours per day and 12 hours per week during term time, and up to seven hours per day and 35 hours per week during school holidays. The previous regulations allowed 3–4 hours per day and 15–20 hours per week throughout the year. For those aged 15–17 who are not required to be in full-time education, working time has been increased to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

In addition, the list of permitted jobs for children set by government regulation has been abolished. While the range of jobs that minors can do is now wider, work must still be suited to their age and abilities. It is also no longer necessary for an employer to apply for written permission from the Labour Inspectorate to hire someone under the age of 15.

Plan to close gender pay gap

On 10 April 2017, Equal Pay Day was held in Estonia. Estonia has the highest gender pay gap of any Member State (26.9%, compared to the EU28 average of 16.3% in 2015) and plans are underway to reduce the imbalance (as also described in the previous quarter’s country update). On the same day, a document entitled ‘Wage against wage!’ (Palgalõhe vastu!plaan) was signed by the Human Rights Centre, the Estonian Women’s Studies and Resource Centre, the Estonian Association of Business and Professional Women, the Estonian Trade Union Confederation and the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner.

The signatories are convinced that the pay gap can be narrowed only through cooperation among all parties – the state, employers and employees. Targeting them all, the document has six key proposals:

  • to continue with the reform of parental leave;
  • to gather and publish gender-based data on wages;
  • to ensure flexible childcare places;
  • to encourage employers to use management practices that promote and support diversity and reconciliation of work and family life;
  • use by employers of self-auditing measures to develop these practices;
  • public discussion of wages among employees.

The Estonian Employers’ Confederation did not sign the plan.

Teleworking agreement

On 7 June 2017, EAKL and ETKL signed an agreement to promote teleworking by specifying the rights and obligations of both sides of the employment relationship. The agreement includes suggestions, rights and obligations that cover issues such as voluntary nature of teleworking, trust, equal treatment, data protection and privacy, health and safety, working arrangements, training, and collective rights. The agreement was also signed with the objective of implementing the European-level social partners’ framework agreement on teleworking of July 2002.

Commentary

Over the next few quarters, additional measures to support youth employment will take effect and the progress in national minimum wage negotiations will be monitored.

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