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Work ability reform: Occupational disease patients left without benefits

Hard hats.
Hard hats. Source: (Margus Ansu/Postimees/Scanpix)

Estonia's national work ability reform is leaving those who have contracted occupational diseases or been the victim of an occupational accident without compensation.

With the implementation of the work ability reform, the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (EUIF) no longer designates a percentage of loss of work capacity for individuals who have contracted an occupational disease or suffered in an occupational accident, however without this indicator, one's incapacity for work cannot be proven and thus people are often left without employer compensation, reported ERR's radio news.

According to the Estonian Association of Occupational Disease Patients, what is needed right now is occupational accident and disease insurance, which has yet to be successfully developed on the legislative level.

Seili Suder, director of work environment at the Ministry of Social Affairs' Working Life Development Department, said that with the implementation of the work ability reform, employers' duty to compensate employee losses caused by occupational damage to their health remains unchanged.

Estonian Association of Occupational Disease Patients board member Aleksander Nukka said that with the loss of the percentage of loss of work capacity, employees are stripped of their legal opportunity to prove damage to their health caused by their fulfillment of their professional duties and ability to seek compensation on this basis.

As a result, employees in this situation currently have no other option for seeking compensation than to take their employers to court, which is in itself a costly and time-consuming process.

This is why the need for occupational accident and disease insurance is greater than ever, found Nukka, as this would instill confidence in employers and employees alike that, in cases of occupational accidents or disease, the interests of both parties are protected.

According to Suder, Estonia already has a national social security system in place and whether and to what extent the state should compensate additional costs is a matter of discussion.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is currently analyzing various possible solutions as the compensation of additional costs will inevitably require additional supplementary funds.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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