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The European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) supported the positions of the Government regarding the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union, which, among other things, would define the notions of “worker” and “employer”.

The objective of the proposed Directive is to promote more secure and predictable employment while ensuring labour market adaptability and improving living and working conditions.

Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Toomas Vitsut said that as regards the notion of worker, Estonia had no dissenting opinions, but the notion of employer created contradictions with the national legislation currently in force, which would have to be amended when the Directive entered into force. “In Estonia, the employment relationship is always a bilateral relationship between a worker and an employer, and our legislation does not recognise several employers,” Vitsut added.

The notion of worker is based on the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and corresponds to the Estonian law. As regards the defining of the notion of employer, Estonia finds that the proposed definition may cause unclarity for both employers and workers in dividing responsibilities and obligations.

According to the proposal, “worker” is a natural person who for a certain period of time performs services for and under the direction of another person in return for remuneration. “Employer” means one or more natural or legal person(s) who is or are directly or indirectly party to an employment relationship with a worker.

In the opinion of member of the Committee Marianne Mikko, Estonia is at present noticeably biased in favour of employers. “Europe wants to support the worker more,” Mikko said. “Therefore I support the planned changes that will give more security to the worker.”  

For example, with the Directive the persons working under fixed-term contracts would be given the right to request and to receive a response from the employer by a specified deadline on whether transition to open-ended labour contract would be possible for them, and a justification if there is no such possibility. Estonia does not support the proposal of the Commission, because it would hinder the regulation of employment relationships at national level. Besides that, Estonia plans to submit a legislative intent to protect the workers in non-standard employment relationships this spring.

Estonia supports the amendment according to which workers should be informed about their rights on the first day of the employment, and this may also be done electronically. Under the current law, the time limit is two months.

Pursuant to the proposed Directive, the employer has to inform the worker of the probationary period, which may last for up to six months. Estonia is of the opinion that the duration of probationary period should remain for a Member State to decide.

It is planned to amend European Union law so that an employer will not have the right to prohibit workers from taking up employment with other employers, if there is no risk of conflict of interests or disclosure of business secrets. Estonia does not support such regulation at the union level, because there is a risk that in such cases the Court of Justice would have to define the concepts of business secret and conflict of interests in each individual case.

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
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