Non-discrimination and equal treatment
The Constitution of the Republic of Estonia specifies that everyone is equal before the law. No one shall be discriminated against on the basis of nationality, race, colour, sex, language, origin, religion, political or other opinion, property or social status, or on other grounds.
Adult learning is regulated by the Adult Education Act. An entrepreneur must be familiar with the social rights of an employee and ensure the protection of these.
It should be kept in mind that the citizens of EU Member States have the legal right to work in other EU Member States and that thereby their discrimination on the grounds of their origin is forbidden.
The employee-employer relations are mainly regulated by the Employment Contracts Act, but also many other legal acts.
Occupational health and safety
Occupational health is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The social rights of an employee are extended after becoming a parent. For example, parental leave and tax benefits are funded from the state budget. The rights of parents are provided for in the Employment Contracts Act.
Supervision of the implementation of the legal acts regulating occupational health and safety is carried out by the Labour Inspectorate. Supervision is carried out by different methods, which may be inspection, targeted inspection and post-inspection. Targeted inspection may be triggered by information received by the Labour Inspectorate on the violation of the requirements specified in the occupational health and safety legal acts, on diagnosing an illness related to work, an occurrence of a work accident, or dangerous work.
Even though the labour inspector possess an extensive list of rights, his/her purpose is, above all, to help the employer direct its activity towards the creation of a safer and healthier working environment.
The obligations and rights of employers for ensuring occupational health requirements
The employer must ensure the implementation of occupational health and safety requirements in every situation related to work. The employer is solely responsible for the implementation of the requirements specified in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The employer has the right to impose a disciplinary punishment on an employee for a violation of requirements of legislation regulating the occupational health and safety of employees and to establish more stringent occupational health and safety requirements in the company than those prescribed by legal acts.
Employment relations between the employee and the employer occur upon the conclusion of the employment contract, also in case the employer has permitted the employee to work and the employee has factually started working. The main obligation of the employer in labour relations is to ensure work agreed upon to the employee and to pay wages for it; the main obligation of the employee is to carry out work for the employer in subordination to the management and supervision of the latter.
A labour dispute, occurring between the parties of an employment relationship – employee and employer –, is a disagreement, that, in the application of a labour relations legal act, administrative act or a regulation established by the employer, could not be settled by agreement. For settling a labour dispute a person can turn to labour dispute committee or a court.
Labour disputes are solved by a three-member labour dispute committee whose decision is requiredto be fulfilled. In case of disagreement with the resolution of the labour dispute committee, a person has the right to turn to a court for reviewing the same dispute. The resolution of a labour dispute in a labour dispute committee is regulated by the Individual Labour Dispute Resolution Act.
Mandatory social rules complete the requirements related to managing staff.
Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum social legal requirements at their own initiative.
Non-discrimination, equal treatment, and gender equality
Gender equality is based upon the assumption that men and women are free to develop their abilities and make choices without the restrictions established by prejudices and stereotypical gender roles. Gender equality means that the different behaviour, aspirations and needs of men and women are taken into account and valued, and they are treated equally.
Promoting gender equality, coordinating work in this field and preparing the drafts of the relevant legal acts has been the task of the Ministry of Social Affairs since 2000. There has been an office for gender equality in the ministry since 1996, which in 2004 was renamed the department of gender equality. The department develops policies, strategies and measures for reducing gender inequality and promoting equality in all areas of life.
The department also assesses the compliance of Estonian legislation with international requirements and agreements, analyses the status and situation of women and men, and consults the specialists in this field. The Ministry of Social Affairs also prepares instructions and methods, which allow for the evaluation of the impact of various programmes, measures, or projects for women and men.
Since 2006 there is a gender equality and equal treatment commissioner in Estonia, who supervises compliance with the requirements of the Gender Equality Act and the Equal Treatment Act as an independent and impartial expert.
Social security taxes (social tax, unemployment insurance tax and compulsory funded pension contributions) are paid to the Tax and Customs Board.
From Enterprise Estonia, start-up enterprises can apply for direct support and start-up loans on favourable terms.