Latvians consider themselves to be uncomplicated and dependable and they expect their business partners to be the same. Latvia’s gradual transition to a market economy triggered the selling of numerous state companies to local businesses or to foreign companies. So, many Latvians have had the occasion to work with foreign people brought in to help train them. This process has involved numerous cultural clashes, due to differences in attitudes and values. Latvians are well educated and dislike the idea of a stranger telling them what to do in their own country. So, when a foreign manager understands the general business environment they are going into, the reception they receive is more favourable.
Latvians are willing to work long hours, even overtime, in order to provide a good standard of living for their families. Latvians are reserved and very probably will not talk about their family matters with you.
- January 1 (New Year’s Day);
- April 14 (Good Friday);
- April 16 and 17 (Easter Sunday and Monday);
- May 1 (Labour Day);
- May 4 (Independence Proclamation Day);
- June 23 and 24 (Midsummer Holiday);
- November 18 (Independence Day);
- December 25-26 (Christmas);
- December 31 (New Year’s Eve).
In Latvia, employees are entitled to four calendar weeks, 20 business days, of paid holiday a year. Most Latvians tend to take their vacation in the summer months of June, July and August and also around Christmas time.
The working week is typically 40 hours with 8 hour days. Part time work is not yet well established. The official business hours usually start at 8 to 8:30am and last until 4:30 or5pm. However, people in business often work late, even at weekends. Because office hours may vary, it is better to enquire about your partners’ hours of business and make appointments in advance.
Friday is a short day in many businesses and many people leave work at around 4 pm or even earlier.
Banks generally open at 8am and close early, whereas shops generally open later and stay open until 6pm on weekdays. Lunch breaks are normally short, except during a working lunch which can involve lengthy discussions.
In Latvia, there are a number of laws and constitutional rights that affect employment and business operations. ‘Latvijas Vēstnesis’ is the official publisher of the Republic of Latvia and the best source of information concerning the legislative environment: https://www.lv.lv/?menu=en
When doing business in Latvia, it is possible to specify the jurisdiction of any written agreement, to determine which laws will apply to the agreement. Therefore, an employment agreement may be subject to the laws and regulations of a foreign country rather than the laws of Latvia.
Normally, any agreement should be written up and original copies prepared for each signatory, so that each party receives an original signed copy for their records.
Working hours must be specified by regulations, shift schedules, or by an employment agreement. Employees in a regular job may not work more than eight hours a day, and employees exposed to special risk and adolescents must not work more than seven hours a day. On the day preceding a holiday, the working day must be shortened by one hour.
In Latvia, the minimum wage is equivalent to a minimum monthly salary of €255. Appropriate supplements are required to be paid for overtime or work carried out in special circumstances, such as night work or during holiday periods.
Employees are also entitled to rest periods of at least 30 minutes, if their work day is longer than 6 hours, to be taken within the first 4 hours of their day.
According to Latvian legislation is illegal to employ persons under the age of 18, with certain exceptions.
Children between the ages of 15 to 18 can be employed with the written consent and supervision of their parents. In exceptional cases, children as young as 13 can be employed. However, there are additional legal protections for children who are employed and work should be outside school hours, light, safe, moral, and not harmful to the development of the child in any way.
The main areas where people under the legal age are employed are cultural, artistic, sporting and advertising activities. Provided the consents are in place, employers would also need a permit from the State Labour Inspection.
There are no maximum legal ages for employment in Latvia, and expected retirement age varies depending on the type of employment and personal preference.
The protection of parental rights is quite strong in Latvia and women are entitled various forms of prenatal, maternity and parental leave. Parental leave is granted according to the length of time a person has been employed but should not exceed 18 months in total. Leave can be requested for a child under the age of eight. During this period of time, the employee cannot be fired unless the company is shut down, bankrupted or in some other special legal situation.
In Latvia, confidentiality is expected, even when it is not expressly stated in a written contract or agreement. All employees are under an obligation of respect, which means that they should not reveal information about the company, business and their activity to any person or entity outside of the company. Special circumstances relating to confidentially may form a clause in a written agreement.
Foreign nationals may only be employed if they hold a valid work permit. Employers must request such permits through the State Employment Agency and approval is automatic if the employer had already registered the vacancy.
A work permit may not be required, if the duration does not exceed 14 days and either:
- the employee is an author, artist, performer, administrative, technician or specialist brought in to resolve a problem or to increase the quality of a process; or
- the agreement is carried out by an education institution, research and scientific body, independent researcher, or expert.
If you or any of your associates are suddenly taken ill or have an accident during a visit to Latvia, free or reduced-cost treatment is available; in most cases on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (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, except when otherwise informed and sometimes you might have to pay for part of the treatment that you receive from the state-hospital. Therefore, it is advisable to get private medical insurance to supplement any healthcare expenses, prior to travelling to Latvia.
Pharmacies in Latvia can be used for all the prescriptions and over-the¬-counter drugs. However, some medications are only obtainable on prescription from a doctor. Regular business hours for pharmacies are 8am to 8pm on weekdays. Designated duty pharmacies can be accessed during the night, at weekends and during holiday periods.
Most of all the specialized hospitals are situated in the capital and largest cities. The Ministry of Health operates the larger state hospitals and local municipalities are responsible for the other two types of public hospitals. The national emergency telephone number for ambulance service is 104.
For more information: World Health Organisation: http://www.who.int/countries/lva/en/