Family doctors, employers, unions and the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) are discussing a proposal by family doctors according to which, in agreement with their employer, an employee could stay home from work the first three days they are ill without needing a sick leave certificate (haigusleht). Both unions and employers, however, see issues with this approach.
According to Karmen Joller, a member of the board of the Estonian Society of Family Doctors, there are illnesses for which it is unnecessary to be seen by a family doctor or nurse. "I think that getting a certificate of incapacity for work in a situation in which someone doesn't need medical assistance — and won't be compensated for it anyway — is just forcing them to run around," she told ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."
Joller noted that several countries use the option of allowing an employee to take a few sick days and stay at home in agreement with their employer but without requiring a sick leave certificate. This also makes it easier for employers to discipline employees who lie in order to get a sick leave certificate.
"If someone has a big party and then calls us the next day with a very big headache, saying I have a huge headache, I can't go [to work], but doesn't tell us that they partied the day before, then the moment this person receives a sick leave certificate, we are legitimizing what they said," she explained. "The employer sees that this wasn't the case, but their hands are tied."
Estonian Employers' Confederation director Arto Aas said that employers understand that there is a considerable burden on family doctors, but employers need to know how they can be sure that an employee is actually sick.
"Family doctors have their role in our healthcare system," Aas said. "They have a greater competence to assess whether someone is ill, and call them in to be seen if necessary, if they have any doubts."
He believes that one option that should be considered is increasing the rights of family nurses, and that the first day of illness should be recorded, as not all illnesses pass within three days.
The Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL), which protects the interests of employees, is of the same opinion, noting that this will rule out any chance of confusion when it comes to sickness benefits.
"The Health Insurance Fund also wants to know what the eighth or ninth day was, from which point the fund has to start paying," EAKL chairman Peep Peterson said. "And it's actually also important that we count those days someone is at home and essentially has a sick leave certificate for the first three days."
According to the EAKL, having a record of when one fell ill is also important in cases where an employer and employee don't have a trustworthy relationship and the employee needs to be sure that their falling ill isn't later counted as skipping work.
"One possible solution is that we reach the agreement that employers reach an agreement with their employees regarding how sick days are reflected," said Health Insurance Fund board chairman Rain Laane. "All the moreso as, as a rule, no payments are made during the first three days."
Aas noted that many employers already have trusting enough relationships with their employees that they allow the latter to stay home sick without requiring a sick leave certificate.
Editor: Aili Vahtla