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Employment Contracts Act

Working on public holidays must be paid at double the rate

Kristel Tiits Kristel Tiits

The midsummer holidays of St. John’s Day and Victory Day are getting closer and it is the right time to look at working on public holidays. When do employees have the right to a shortened workday or a day off work in Estonia? What are the exceptions? To prevent misunderstandings, employers should think about such situations early on.

Pursuant to Section 53 of the Employment Contracts Act, employers are obligated to shorten the workday preceding New Year’s Day, Independence Day (24 Feb), Victory Day (23 Jun) and Christmas Eve by three hours. Obligation to shorten the workday applies regardless of the form of employment (full or part time or summarised working time). Meaning in cases set forth in legislation, employers are required to shorten the workday.

If the day cannot be shortened, overtime work must be paid

The employee’s workday must also be shortened in a situation where the work process is continuous. For example, it might not be possible to shorten the day by three hours at a retailer or on a factory’s assembly line. Thus, if the nature of the work requires that the employee work the standard number of working hours or pursuant to the schedule, an agreement on this must be concluded. In such a case, the three hours in question must be paid overtime, remunerated in the same extent as a day off or with monetary compensation (1.5 times the wage).

Employees working on a public holiday receive double wages

In general, a public holiday is a day off for employees, however in certain sectors, working on holidays is normal due to the nature of the work – for example, customer service personnel in retail, bus drivers on city and county lines, etc. Employees whose entire workday coincides with a public holiday and shift workers whose hours fall on a public holiday must be paid double wages in accordance with subsection 45 (2) of the Employment Contracts Act. The employee and employer may agree that instead of being paid double wages, the working on a public holiday will be compensated to the employee with time off work, paid for at the normal wage.

It is important to draw attention to the fact that if it is not possible to shorten the employee’s workday on a public holiday, the employee must be paid for overtime as well as for the work done on a public holiday. In the case of summarised working time, working on a public holiday may not necessarily accrue overtime hours, as only at the end of the summarised period can it be determined whether the employee worked over or under the standard hours.

Example. An employee works a full–time eight hours on 23-24 June, and is paid the agreed remuneration for it. To compensate for working on the public holiday, the parties have agreed that this should not be compensated monetarily (double wages), but rather the time worked on the public holiday shall be compensated as paid time off from work on 25-26 June.

The list of public holidays in Estonia is set out in the Section 2 of the Public Holidays and Days of National Importance Act. Besides public holidays, double pay is also paid under subsection 4 (2) of the same act for working on the national holiday (24 February, Independence Day).

Public and national holidays in Estonia that are days off and for which double pay is paid are:

  1. 1 January – New Year’s Day;
  2. 24 February – Estonian Independence Day;
  3. Good Friday (moveable holiday);
  4. Easter Sunday (moveable holiday);
  5. 1 May – May Day;
  6. Pentecost (moveable holiday);
  7. 23 June – Victory Day;
  8. 24 June – St. John’s Day;
  9. 20 August – Estonian Restoration of Independence Day;
  10. 24 December – Christmas Eve;
  11. 25 December– Christmas Day;
  12. 26 December – Boxing Day.