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If teleworking is not possible, does the average wage have to be paid for the period of self-isolation?


Question of a reader: An employee informed me that they are spending the school holiday in a country subject to the obligation to remain in self-isolation for two weeks after returning. It is not possible for the employee to perform their occupational duties remotely. Am I required to pay their average wages during the self-isolation?

Answer from Labour Inspectorate Deputy Director General Meeli Miidla-Vanatalu : As this is not an obstacle of work caused by the employer, but a conscious decision of the employee, then pursuant to the Employment Contracts Act, the employer is not legally required to pay the wages.

Following the good faith principle and considering the interests of both parties in the employment relationship, the employer can:

  1. inform all employees in advance that if they decide to spend the school holiday travelling abroad, they must familiarise themselves with the requirements for returning to Estonia. Updated information is always available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at;
  2. ask employees if they are planning to travel abroad during their holiday. The employer has the right to know whether employees have travelled abroad during their holiday to protect the health of other employees and prevent the spreading of the virus, e.g. for the purposes of the Employment Contracts Act and in the context of the current situation, this information is in the legitimate interests of the employer;
  3. explain to the employees that as the Health Board has advised to avoid travelling abroad, employees who still decided to go must consider the obligation of remaining in self-isolation and the fact that employers will generally not pay the wages during isolation;
  4. always consider additional options and negotiate with employees – for example, advise employees to use up their unused annual holiday for the self-isolation (remember that neither party has the right to make demands; this is only an option in case of a mutual agreement or an approved holiday schedule). In the case of summarised working time, there is a possibility of not scheduling shifts for employees in self-isolation, but instead, spreading the working hours from these weeks over the following period (remembering to follow the legal requirements for rest time);
  5. if an employee returns from abroad with symptoms, they must immediately contact their family physician and request a certificate of incapacity for work. Remember that people who have been informed of being in immediate contact with a person carrying COVID-19 and are unable to engage in work remotely are entitled for temporary incapacity for work. Detailed information is available on the website of the Health Board at

 See more from the Tööelu website at:

 Photo: Pixabay

If teleworking is not possible, does the average wage have to be paid for the period of self-isolation?
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