A reader asks: Do employers have the right to require Estonian as a native language in a job advertisement? Do employers have the right to require foreign language skills?
Vladimir Logatšev, lead counselling lawyer at the Labour Inspectorate responds:
Employers must ensure the protection of employees against discrimination, follow the principle of equal treatment and promote equality. A job advertisement requiring Estonian as a native language may indicate discrimination on the basis of nationality. It would be correct to describe language requirements in terms of the language level necessary for the job (for example, C1 level Estonian).
Before entering into an employment relationship, the employee has to make sure that the position is suitable for them. The employer, however, has to make sure that the employee, their skills and abilities are suitable for the job. Before entering into an employment contract, the parties also discuss the most important working conditions. As a result of negotiations, the parties sign an employment contract binding on both parties. During the probationary period, the employer can also assess whether the employee’s knowledge, skills, abilities and personal characteristics correspond to the level required for the job.
If the job requires certain foreign language skills, the employee must be aware of it and make a decision on whether to accept the job. During the employment relationship, the employer can require the employee to have knowledge based on the specific nature of the job. However, they cannot make completely new demands during the employment relationship.
The employer can require language skills during the employment relationship if the language skill requirement is provided by law.