Learning Expedition / Chapter 5 – Employment specificities in Latvia and Estonia

At first blush, when you talk about Eastern countries, you think of relatively poor countries where employers rule as leaders and employees earn 10 times less than the French minimum wage. So, in your opinion, fake or reality?

Here are the general specificities of employment in Latvia and Estonia.

Employment contract

Just like in France, in those countries, there are both permanent and fixed-term contracts. However, permanent contracts are more common in Latvia as fixed-term contracts shall only be used in specific cases such as seasonal or occasional jobs. A verbal contract is possible in Estonia only if the duration is no longer than two weeks!

Duration of work

In both Latvia and Estonia, the average duration of work is 5 days of 8 hours, being 40 hours a week. In Latvia, an employer can increase the duration to 42 hours a week for 6 days but only after having consulted staff representatives. However, in this case, the working day on Saturday will have to be shorter! Talking about reduced working time, did you know that Estonians work 3 hours less the day before New Year, National Day (24th February), Victory Day (23rd June) and Christmas Day?

Unexpected fact #1: legal duration of work also applies to minors. Indeed, young adolescents are authorised to work, from 15 hours per week at 7 years old to 35 hours per week at 17! What do you think of that?


A national minimum wage has been legally instituted in both Latvia and Estonia. It is 370 € per month for a full-time job in Latvia, against 470 € per month in Estonia.

Fun fact #1: in Latvia, employers are legally bound to pay salary each month in two settlements in paper money! Of course, employers and employees can agree on one settlement via a transfer on bank accounts though. Most of big companies use bank transfer.

In 2016, the average salary in Latvia and Estonia were respectively 845 € and 1 073 €.

Social security

Estonian employees do not contribute to social security, either for health nor pension. Only employers and self-employed workers finance it! However, they contribute to the costs by paying outpatient fees of 5 € maximum. They also pay for their medicines, but at reduced prices.

As we said in the previous page, in Latvia and Estonia, all legal residents, whether they are locals or not, are covered by social security! Nationality is not a criterion. They only recognise residency. Therefore, you and I, if we both move out to one of these countries, we can be covered by social security and stay healthy!

Paid leave

In Latvia and Estonia, the law obliges employers to grant a minimum of 4 calendar weeks of paid holidays.

Unexpected fact #2: holidays are all granted at a specified time. In Estonia for example, around January, employers fix their working calendars and plan holidays of their employees in advance for the whole year. They shall listen to employees’ wishes but they are not bound to follow them! Of course, paid leave may be requested outside the planning period, but with the agreement of the employer.

Fun fact #2: in Latvia, employees must take 2 consecutive weeks of holidays. The employer cannot refuse. Also, compensation of paid holidays in cash is not allowed (except when your contract is terminated): therefore, Latvians have to take all of them!

Remember that these are only the 5 general items in HR. We look forward to visiting companies in the Baltics so we can share practices and see how they manage and motivate their employees!

Posted on: 30 May 2017, by : M2 GRH Multinationales