Very few to go without Christmas bonuses in the public sector

Estonia's so-called Superministry building.
Estonia's so-called Superministry building. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

It has become an Estonian tradition to treat public sector employees to performance pay towards the end of the year. While almost everyone is looking at extra cash, ministries are reluctant to refer to it as Christmas bonuses.

The Ministry of Justice employs 155 people. Performance pay reached 149 of them in late November, leaving just six ministry employees without a bonus in 2022. The sums ranged from €200 to €6,000.

"It depends on results, while more or less everyone qualifies. The sum depends on how much the person has achieved during the year," said Maria-Elisa Tuulik, press representative for the ministry.

The Ministry of Justice keeps its performance pay fund inside the salary fund to reward professional achievements. It has made up 7.5 percent of the salary fund this year," Tuulik said.

Most employees of the Ministry of Culture also received end-of-the-year performance pay. "We plan performance pay and remuneration for additional services toward the end of the year," Secretary General Tarvi Sits said.

"Relevant proposals are made based on increased workload, additional tasks or for excellent results – priority projects, activities, successful legislative drafting," Sits said.

The secretary general said that performance pay sums are lower than a single monthly wage in most cases. "Very few receive a full additional salary."

The two ministries are but examples of a wider practice. Looking at public servants' salary data, most have additional sums listed under bonuses and performance pay.

However, ministries are reluctant to refer to end-of-the-year extras as Christmas bonuses. People can miss out on performance pay if they have been working for under a year or left their employer in the middle of it.

The Government Office is not monitoring or regulating ministries' bonus pay systems and does not hold it necessary to intervene. The rules are laid down by the Public Service Act.

State Secretary Taimar Peterkop said that variable pay is capped at 20 percent of annual salary, while it is up to ministry and agency heads how to allocate it. Some have nothing of the sort, while others have very complicated systems for calculating performance pay, Peterkop said, adding that he has no criticism for bonuses.

The National Audit Office told "Aktuaalne kaamera" news that it has not looked into public sector bonuses as there are more burning matters to address. The Audit Office also has a performance pay system where very few employees miss out.


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Editor: Barbara Oja, Marcus Turovski

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