Work life balance

Estonia FlagEstonians are ready to work long hours, including overtime, since good jobs are hard to find  and they are keen to  provide a good standard of living for their families., Estonians are very private people and in all probability, will not discuss their family with you until they know you better.

The working day  usually starts from 9 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. Estonian employees have the same problems as some of their western counterparts including working longer hours than are allowed by law, short annual leave, lack of paternity leave (though in some jobs paternity leave is allowed and can be rather long), lack of flexible working hours (depending on the job), an absence of help with day care for working mothers and so on.

Companies who do not want to lose valued employees, are beginning to offer extra benefits  such as flexible working time for parents , study leave and many other benefits that would have been inconceivable  even five short years ago.

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National Holidays

The list of Public Holidays is as follows:

  • National holiday: 24 February (1918) is Independence Day; note – 24 February 1918 is the date of initial independence from Soviet Russia, and 20 August, 1991 is the date of regaining independence from the Soviet Union. Each 24 February, the president of Estonia holds a grand ball for prominent members of society and  foreign dignitaries.
  • Jaanipäev : The night of 23-24 June is St John’s Day or Midsummer Day. It is celebrated with bonfires and  traditional festive food and revolves around barbeques and drinking.
  • Võidupüha 23 June is a Victory day and celebrated to commemorate the crucial victory over Baltic-German forces in the War of Independence.
  • Christmas : or Jõulud is celebrated in Estonia, but this is mainly a family event.
  • New Year’s Eve: During the Soviet regime, the authorities promoted the New Year holiday instead of Christmas which was practically forbidden due to its supposed “religious” nature. After gaining independence, the significance of the New Year holiday diminished, but it is still a day-off and broadly celebrated. As in many other countries, this day is also used by the leaders of the nation to address the country.

In Estonia, most employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 calendar days paid holidaya year ; some employees are entitled to more. This includes both working and non-working days. Most Estonians tend to take their vacations in the summer months of June, July and August and also around Christmas time.

During the summer and Christmas holidays, management is not in the office and no one is able to make a decision. The best time for business meetings is therefore in the spring and autumn.

Working hours

The standard working week is 40 hours with an 8 hour day. Part time work depends on what the agreed working hours are. Business hours are Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with an hour for lunch. People working in private business often work late, even at weekends. Office hours may vary, so it is useful to check before you try to contact your partner.

Friday is, a short day in many businesses. People might leave around 4pm or even earlier so Friday afternoon is not a suitable time for meetings and visits.

Banks usually open as early as 8:00am but  close early too, and shops are open until 6:00pm on weekdays. Lunch breaks are normally kept short. Business lunches on the contrary can involve long-lasting discussions.

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Work culture

After Estonia regained its independence in 1991, its labour and social policies have been strongly focused on flexible markets, fiscal prudence and work incentives. During the mid 1990s and beyond, labour market performance improved steadily until the global economic crisis in 2008.

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Health insurance

As a member of the EU, Estonia has signed all European documents connected with health and long-term care.

In Estonia, obligatory health insurance has been established for some time now. The resources for health insurance come from 13% of the social tax (social tax is 33%), or 13% of the employee’s gross salary, paid by the employer. Health insurance is based on the principle that the health service is not reliant on the amount of social tax that is paid for a specific person. The health insurance fund pays the cost of health service for the insured person to the relevant medical institution. In Estonia, everyone is entitled to receive emergency care, regardless of having health insurance or not.

In the case of illness, the family doctor is usually the first person to contact. He or she advises on activities that prevent diseases, intoxication or injuries and provides general health care to all the patients on his/her list. The family doctor is selected according to the person’s main place of  residence, where the need for health care is most likely. The family doctor will refer the patient to a specialist or to the hospitals required.  A letter of recommendation from a family doctor may not be required if consulting an oculist, psychiatrist, gynaecologist, or specialist in skin problems, venereal disease or tuberculosis, a dentist or  in the case of trauma. The emergency number of 112 should be used to call for emergency medical care. Emergency medical staff will provide primary health care to anyone staying in the territory of Estonia, regardless of citizenship, nationality,  whether they have a health insurance card or not. If you, or any of your associates, are taken ill suddenly or have an accident during your visit to Estonia, free or reduced-cost treatment is available if you have a valid EHIC. Only state-funded hospital treatment is covered, and you will receive treatment on the same terms as ‘insured’ local residents.

Treatment in private clinics is definitely not covered by the EHIC, and sometimes you might have to pay for part of the treatment received from the state-hospital (haigla).

An apteek (pharmacy) in Estonia is the place to buy prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. Regular business hours for pharmacies are 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, but some designated pharmacies stay open 24hours a day and also on holidays.

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