Justice minister Maris Lauri (Reform) opposes a draft bill which, if it passed at the Riigikogu, would grant a week day off from work in cases where national holidays fall over a weekend. The issue has come to a head this year, when five national holidays fall either on a Saturday or Sunday, meaning many people will have no day off work as such.
Lauri argues that the purpose of free time during state holidays is primarily to enable the public to celebrate the event, for instance independence day later this month. If a national holiday falls on a weekend, this should permit most people to celebrate in any case.
"Thus, if a holiday falls on an employee's working day, they receive a day off to enjoy the holidays," Lauri said.
"When the holiday falls on an employee's day off, the provision of additional time off is not in line with the above purpose," she continued.
The bill, tabled by the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE), is mostly focused on those who work Monday to Friday, Lauri added, while it is not clear from the draft or its explanatory memorandum how a day off would be granted to an employee whose weekly rest days may not always be Saturday and Sunday.
"For example, a full-time employee may have a day off on a Wednesday, but if a holiday falls on the same day, the bill does not require them to be given time off the day after that holiday. This leads to unequal treatment of scheduled and Monday-Friday employees," the minister continued.
Problems would also arise in schools and other educational institutions, Lauri said, since additional days off in the academic year would require passing the same curriculum in a shorter time frame, and increase study burdens for students, or alternatively necessitate an extension of the academic year.
Economic implications, such as costs to employers, have also not been addressed in the bill's explanatory memorandum, Lauri said.
SDE deputy chair Kalvi Kõva said that the law, if it passed, would bring Estonia in-line with the EU average of 12 public holidays per year, rather than the current 10 a year.
He said: "Replacing a public holiday on a weekend with an additional day off removes any cause for regret over not getting a day off. It allows you to spend quality time with your family: Visiting cultural events, playing sports and taking day trips. It would contribute to people's work motivation and general life satisfaction."
This year, five public holidays fall on a weekend: January 1 was on a Saturday, May 1 is a Sunday this year, August 20 (Restoration of Independence Day) a Saturday, and December 24 and December 25 fall on a Saturday and Sunday respectively.
In 2021, three holidays fell over a weekend (May 1, December 25 and December 26), while next year the figure will be four: In addition to New Year's Day, Restoration of Independence Day and Christmas Eve, Midsummer's Day, June 24, which is a Saturday.
Kõva said that MPs from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and from the Center Party have also expressed support for granting an extra day off when a public holiday falls over a weekend.
The days preceding many national holidays are also often half-days officially. There are four of these this year (link in Estonian), the first up is next Wednesday, February 23 so, if you are in Estonia, don't go to work after lunch on that day if you can help it!
Editor: Andrew Whyte