Estonian nursing homes are prepared to hire care workers from outside the European Union, for example, Ukraine. Standing in their way is the Aliens Act that currently obligates employers to pay non-seasonal foreign workers 1.5 times the average salary in the sector.
The Pärsti Nursing Home in Viljandi Municipality employs 18 care workers. Because four employees are currently on sick leave, Director Le Hussar has looked for and found temporary labor, ETV current affairs program "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Saturday.
However, the nursing home is still chronically short on additional labor that would allow it to give its employees much needed time off. In dire straits, Hussar turned to a labor broker to hire additional workers from Ukraine.
"We took care of the paperwork on our end and suitable people were found in Ukraine. Unfortunately, we were then told by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) that our EMTAK (classification of economic activities) code does not allow us to hire seasonal labor. This means that we would have to pay Ukrainian workers a gross salary of €1,447 a month," Hussar explained.
The nursing home can afford to pay its best people €1,000 a month and paying foreign workers 1.5 times that would be unfair to local employees. A salary advance of this magnitude would hike the price of the service for customers and their next of kin.
Deputy Mayor of Viljandi Municipality Irma Väre finds that the obligation to pay temporary unskilled foreign workers who do not speak Estonian €1,500 a month seems all the more unfair in light of the fact it is the minimum salary of a teacher in Estonia.
"I perceive it as a government level problem in need of a debate. Perhaps the minimum salary level for foreign social and care workers should be lower," Väre commented.
Le Hussar sees the solution in a temporary amendment of the Aliens Act that would allow employers to pay foreign labor what they currently pay their own employees.
"Rather, I believe that the goal should be to secure more funding for the social and healthcare domains. But I also think that such so-called temporary foreign labor solutions will not be able to solve problems in the field," Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski