Changing the sick leave rules so payment starts on the first day would cost an additional €20 million, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF) estimates, after family doctors called for reforms to the system.
Under the current system, the employer starts to pay the employee from the fourth day of sick leave and the EHIF from day nine. The first three days are unpaid, but because of this it often leads to people not taking sick leave when they should and infecting colleagues in the workplace.
EHIF statistics show last year sick notes were requested for longer periods of illness: on average, a sick person was away from the workplace for 13 days. The EHIF reimbursed more than 291,000 sick notes, all of which lasted at least nine days. The total cost of the reimbursement was €80.7 million, which compensated for over 3.8 million sick days. This amounts to an average daily sickness benefit of €21.
Approximately 13,000 people took 4-8 days of sick leave.
On Monday, family doctors suggested the EHIF reorganize sick leave, notes, and the payment of sick days. One suggestion is during the first three days workers should not have to prove their illness to their employer with a sick note and could work from home or reorganize their work another way.
Doctors say shorter illnesses do not require medical intervention and phone calls related to sick notes increase the administrative burden on GPs. Last year, 7,000 people took sick leave for up to three days which was a total of 8,500 days.
If the EHIF started paying from day one it calculated that 920,000 additional sick days would be reimbursed, which would cost an additional €20 million, based on data from 2019.
The draft law on strengthening primary health care, which is currently under consideration, does not suggest any changes to the first three days of sick leave.
Editor: Helen Wright