Labour law

The most important changes in labour law in 2024

Anastassia Volmerson Grant Thornton Baltic

Author: Anastassia Volmerson

From 01.01.2024, the Employment Contract Act will undergo several changes in the wording of the provisions, which are due to changes in the Family Act.

From the beginning of 2024, the prerequisites for entering into a marriage will change, as a result of which, based on the Family Law, not necessarily a woman and a man, but two natural persons can enter into a marriage. The update in question entails changes in the wording of the provisions in various laws. In connection with this, the terminology in the provisions of adoptive parent leave, child leave, paternity leave, child leave for parents of a disabled child and unpaid child leave has been changed to be more gender-neutral, i.e. in some provisions, mother or father has been replaced by "parent". As the conditions for entering into a marriage change, same-sex spouses are going to have the same rights that were previously exercised only by opposite-sex spouses.

The right to receive parental leave or parental leave of a disabled child will be extended to the registered partner, if one of the child's parents is dead or fails to perform the obligation arising from the Family Law Act to raise and take care of the child. In addition, the registered partner will be entitled to adoptive parent leave.

The clause regulating the variable hours agreement in retail trade will expire on June 15, 2024. This means that already concluded variable hour agreements will expire on June 14, 2024. From December 15, 2021 to June 14, 2024, part-time employees in the retail trade sector are allowed to work additional hours in addition to normal working hours thanks to the pilot project of the variable hours agreement.

European Court of Justice made a decision that will result in changes of interpretation of the provisions governing the use of daily and weekly rest time. According to the Employment Contracts Act in force in Estonia, employees must have at least 11 consecutive hours of rest time during every 24-hour interval. The minimum requirements for weekly rest time vary depending on whether the employee works on the basis of summarised working time or not. An employee working on the basis of day-by-day accounting of working time must have at least 48 hours consecutive rest time and an employee working on the basis of summarised working time must have at least 36 hours per seven days.

Prior to the entry into force of the court decision, the granting of weekly rest time was calculated such that the daily rest time was included in weekly rest time. The European Court of Justice however took the position that the right to daily rest time and the right to weekly rest time arising from the directive of European Parliament and of the Council concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time, are two independent rights with different goals. For that reason, it should be ensured that employees can actually use these rights. The Court of Justice ruled that daily rest time must be added to weekly rest time. The purpose of this interpretation is for ensuring more effective employee health protection.

The new interpretation of the directive and calculation of rest time on that basis does not have any bearing on those who work eight hours a day from Monday to Friday. For people working on the basis of a schedule, organisation of work may however change. The minimum rest time requirement – 11 hours – is added to the weekly rest time of 36 or 48 hours, which results in 47 or 59 consecutive hours of weekly rest time.

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