Tallinn green-lights paying sick pay to all staff from sick period day one

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Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Tallinn city government has made good on its proposal last week to pay sick pay from day one of a period of illness with an order aimed at doing just that, to be put before the city council chambers Thursday as things stand. If the draft passes, it will entitle all Tallinn residents who are in employment to claim sick pay from day one for any type of sickness, and also legitimate quarantine periods.

The current, nationwide system sees sick pay only kick in from day two, with this itself being a revision of the older system, and prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

As reported by ERR News, deputy mayor Betina Beškina (Center) made the proposal last week, while ERR's online news in Estonian has announced it will become a reality.

The measure is aimed at slowing up the rate of viral spread, which in Tallinn is among the worst in the country at present.

The city authorities originally petitioned the state to make the move, but since this didn't materialize, decided to go it alone, Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) says, pending city council chamber approval (where Center has an absolute majority).

"People have been going to work with symptoms, which is a socio-economic issue, due to their fear of losing income. We approached the government with a proposal to pay or support the first sick day, but we have not received a formal response so far, and time is running out," Kõlvart said.

Applications from employers will be permissible from April 15 (the sick pay regime will start immediately if it passes the vote – ed.), the mayor added, with €30 in sick pay per day due (compared with the national average of €26 per day as administered by the state Health Insurance Board).

The same rationale has been applied to the move as was on the new sick leave regime installed at national level from the beginning of this year – employees previously saw their first three days of a sick period without pay, a mechanism intended to discourage "chucking a sickie".

Aims to prevent staff coming to work with potential COVID-19 or even as close contacts

With the pandemic, this meant employees with potential or actual coronavirus symptoms were coming to work, rather than be out of pocket, it is reported.

The national system sees an employer, be it private or public sector, liable for sick pay from days two through five, after which the Health Insurance Board takes over. Previously, the board only took over from day nine, which also meant employers had to cover one extra day from the total, even though they were not liable for sick pay until day four.

The health insurance fund says Tallinn posts 25,000 new coronavirus cases per month (out of a population less than 500,000 within city limits – ed.); based on this and other estimates including factoring-in rising rates at present, Kõlvart said it should cost the city quarter-of-a-million euros per month.

Applicants must be registered resident in Tallinn; the sick leave can cover home quarantine requirements – eg. if being identified a COVID-19 close contact – for work not feasible remotely.

Betina Beškina said at the time the proposal was made, on March 17, that: "We are also talking about so-called front-line employees here, such as salespeople, cashiers, cleaning staff, public transport drivers, who come into contact with a lot of people in the course of their work."

The proposed by-law is due to be put before the city council chambers tomorrow, Thursday. If it passes it will come into immediate effect, it is reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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