Global menu

Our global pages


Global employment briefing: Estonia, January 2018

  • Estonia
  • Employment law


Government approves changes to Occupational Health and Safety Act

The aim of the changes is to promote the creation of a safe working environment and to relax employers’ administrative burdens. At the same time, penalties for breaching employer occupational health and safety obligations will be increased to 32 000 euros. The changes will come into effect, if passed by the parliament, on 1 January 2019. It is suggested that employers review their occupational health and safety organisation in order to comply with the changes.

Less bureaucracy

The employer’s obligation to inform the Employment Inspectorate about new activities or changes in activities will be abolished as government bodies can acquire the relevant information daily from a commercial registry. In addition, the obligation to inform the Inspectorate about establishment of a working environment council will be abolished and there will be no need to file annual reports of such a council.

The Employment Inspectorate will not investigate occupational accidents in cases where criminal proceedings are initiated and are not terminated. Currently fatalities and serious injuries are investigated concurrently by both the prosecutor’s office and the Employment Inspectorate.

The period for the initial health checks is extended

Occupational health checks have to be provided at an employer’s expense to employees who may be affected by the working environment or the nature of the work as established by risk analyses. Such risks are not exhaustive and include, among other, work behind monitors. Hence, the majority of office employees should be subject to occupational health checks. The period for sending employee to an occupational health check will be extended to within four months of commencing the work. This means that the term will be the same as the probationary period in cases of an open ended employment contract. As an exemption, night workers and employees who come across biological hazards, carcinogens, mutagens, lead and asbestos will be subject to health check before commencing such work.

New training obligation

Employers will have to organise at their own expense training to allow working environment commissioners and members of a working environment council to perform their role. This must be done within two months of appointment.

Contractual penalty agreements

Contractual penalty agreements will be allowed between employee and employer for violation of occupational health and safety requirements. Preconditions for validity include the following:

  • The agreement can be concluded after the employer has instructed and trained the employee on occupational safety matters as established by law
  • It must be in writing
  • The agreement specifies activities which are considered to be safety violations which may result in risks to employee health
  • The contractual penalty amount for employees should not exceed his/her one month’s average wages.

Employer’s liability increased

Violations of occupational health and safety requirements which do not result in death or serious injury will be punishable by the Employment Inspectorate as misdemeanours with a fine in the amount up to 32 000 euros. If found guilty by a court in cases of fatalities and serious injuries, the employer may be imposed with criminal fine of up to 16 000 000 euros.