Illness caused by work
- An illness caused by work is not an occupational disease.
- The occupational health doctor shall notify the Labour Inspectorate of the diagnosis of an illness caused by work.
- The Labour Inspectorate does not inform the employer or investigate illnesses caused by work.
In the working environment, a person may be exposed to various risk factors, which are physical, chemical, biological, physiological and psychosocial risk factors. If their effects are long-lasting, the risk factors in the working environment can adversely affect the worker's health and cause health damage, which can be a work-related illness.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a work-related illness is an occupational disease and an illness caused by work.
An illness caused by work is an illness caused by a working environment risk factor that is not considered an occupational disease. Thus, in that case, there is no direct link between the worker's illness and the risk factor affecting the worker, but the risk factor may still have affected the worker's health in such a way that damage to health has occurred. Thus, the risk factor in the working environment has been only one factor in the list of causes of the disease.
It is possible to treat an illness caused by work identified in a timely manner, to achieve the recovery of the employee, to prevent the aggravation of the illness and the development of an occupational disease.
In Estonia, work-related illnesses (both occupational diseases and illnesses caused by work) are diagnosed by occupational health doctors, and once a doctor suspects a work-related illness, they shall refer the employee to an occupational health doctor.
The occupational health doctor notifies the Labour Inspectorate of the diagnosis of an illness caused by work, but does not inform the employee's employer.
The Labour Inspectorate also does not notify the employer that their employee has been diagnosed with an illness caused by work. In addition, the Labour Inspectorate does not conduct investigations in the case of illnesses caused by work, as it does in the case of occupational diseases. When the Labour Inspectorate receives a notice of the diagnosis of an illness caused by work, a general inspection is carried out at the employer in order to guide the employer to eliminate or reduce the impact of risk factors that have played a role in the development of the illness caused by work. Of course, the Labour Inspectorate does not inform during the inspection that one or another employee of the employer has an illness caused by work, but by reducing the effect of the risk factor in a timely manner, it is highly probable that the subsequent damage to the employee's health can be delayed and the damage to the health of other employees' can be prevented.
However, the employee should inform their employer about the illness caused by the work they have been diagnosed with, as the health disorder may impede the performance of work duties and the employee may develop an occupational disease if the risk factor continues to affect them. The employer must be able to make changes in the working environment or the organisation of working time in order to prevent further exposure to the risk factor and the aggravation of the illness.
As in the case of an occupational disease, in the case of an illness caused by work, the employee has the right to require the employer to transfer them temporarily or permanently to another job or to temporarily alleviate their working conditions on the basis of a doctor's decision.
An employee has the right to claim compensation from the employer if they have been diagnosed with an occupational disease or an illness caused by work and has suffered damage as a result. In order to receive compensation for illness caused by work, the employee must inform their employer of the illness caused by work, because otherwise the employer will not be aware of it. The employee's right to claim compensation arises in accordance with the Law of Obligations Act, and the damage subject to compensation may be proprietary or non-proprietary.