Before concluding an employment contract, the parties should negotiate and discuss the working conditions. It is advisable to record the negotiations in writing (for example, by submitting a draft contract and proposed amendments thereto by e-mail) in order to avoid potential disputes over the content of the agreements.
During negotiations, the employer should present to the job applicant the terms which are important to them and which they wish to lay down in the employment contract. These are generally:
- the date of commencement of work;
- the place of performance of the work;
- the working time;
- the wages and the date of payment thereof;
- other benefits (such as a company car, mobile phone, reimbursement of fitness expenses, etc.); the job duties, etc.
During the pre-contractual negotiations it is also worth considering such matters as the duration of the probationary period, the duration of the contract (the conclusion of a contract for a specified term must be reasoned), non-compete agreements, proprietary liability, duration of and the possibility to take holidays (whether the organisation takes collective holidays or whether the time of holidays can be chosen by the employee), possibilities of reconciling work and family life (paid time off, flexible working hours, provision of childcare, etc.) and the possibility of teleworking.
In pre-contractual negotiations, the parties must consider each other’s interests and rights and present only truthful information. If, during pre-contractual negotiations, the job applicant or the employer learns of matters which are not to be disclosed, such as the employee’s state of health or the employer’s trade secrets, they must not be disclosed to other persons or exploited in bad faith.
Job applicants have the right to review their draft employment contracts and make proposals regarding the content thereof.
Before commencement of work, the employer must inform the employee of the rules regarding the organisation of work. If a collective agreement has been concluded with the employer, the employee must be informed thereof and given the opportunity to review the agreement.
Before signing an employment contract, one should read the text of the contract in its entirety and check that all of the essential agreed upon terms have been set down clearly and intelligibly. An employment contract is deemed concluded when both parties have agreed on all of the terms and signed them.
What may be requested in pre-contractual negotiations?
Pre-contractual negotiations usually involve an active exchange of information between the employer and the job applicant. It is in every employer’s interest to identify the best candidate and gather the information needed to make a decision.
However, when preparing to enter into an employment contract (for example, at a job interview or in a job advertisement), employers may only request information in which they have a legitimate interest from job applicants. This means that they may only enquire about matters that are directly related to the job applicant’s ability to perform the relevant duties.
Employers generally do not have the right to request information about the following:
- marital status, existence of children, and family planning;
- completion of conscript service;
- religious or political views, beliefs;
- sexual orientation;
- state of health, disabilities;
- background information not related to the job, such as leisure activities, hobbies, etc.
When enquiring about these matters, the employer must give reasons for why they need the information and how it relates to the job. For example, if an employee is sought for a religious association, the employer may have a legitimate interest in the religious views of the job applicants, or if one of the preconditions for entering the police service is undergoing a medical examination, it is appropriate for the employer to enquire about the state of health of the job applicants.
It is important for an employer to understand what the valid factors are that determine the capacity of a new employee to perform their duties. Having several children does not automatically mean that the individual will not be able to perform the job. Employees can be very resourceful in dealing with different situations.
Note also that the list above does not mean that a job applicant may not even choose to discuss any of the listed items during pre-contractual negotiations. If it is clear that an arrangement may be necessary to start the working day at a later hour due to the job applicant having young children, it is advisable to discuss this in order to avoid problems in the future.
For the employer’s part, later disputes can sometimes also be avoided by discussing the job duties in detail and asking the job applicant if they may have difficulties in performing any of the duties. Additionally, job advertisements should contain sufficient information about the nature of the job to allow individuals to accurately assess their ability to perform the job. Creating a detailed job advertisement enables the employer to establish a clear set of selection criteria and make the recruitment process as transparent as possible.
If a job applicant suspects that they have been discriminated against in the recruitment process and wants to know the reason for their rejection, the employer must present to them a written explanation giving reasons for their decision. This includes an explanation of the criteria based on which the most suitable candidate was identified, as well as why the enquiring applicant was rejected or why the other candidates were more suitable.
Further information on equal treatment in recruitment processes can be found in the relevant publication of the Office of the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner.
Assistance at a job interview
If you need support in communicating with your employer at a job interview, a case manager at the Unemployment Insurance Fund can arrange assistance for you. The job interview assistance service is a labour market service for unemployed disabled persons who need help with communicating with an employer at a job interview due to their disability. This may be necessary for persons who have, for example, a hearing or speech impairment or other communication problems. The assistant can be a specialist, an employee of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, or a volunteer.
Additional information about the service can be found on the website of the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
- Employers may not request information in which they have no legitimate interest from job applicants.
- Do not hesitate to run a background check on the employer before concluding an employment contract!
- Relevant information can be found in the commercial register, the database of Creditinfo Eesti AS, and the online service environment of the Tax and Customs Board.
- Ask the employer and negotiate with confidence!
- An employment contract must be concluded in writing in two copies before commencement of work.
- Read your employment contract carefully before signing it!
- Ask for assistance with confidence, if needed, both at job interviews and when concluding an employment contract.