Returning conscript loses job


PHOTO: Sille Annuk / Postimees

Employers are supposed to maintain positions, but ignorance may cause loss.

Jürgen Paavel, a full-time cook at a Tallinn eatery, was recruited to Defence Forces last October. «Back then, I wrote an application and was told I was expected back next spring,» said Jürgen (23). What exactly he wrote in the application dictated by the restaurant chief Lemmi Piits, the youth does not remember. «She said it was an application, that they would put my contract on hold,» said the lad and added that they departed as friends.

About a month before his release from army, Jürgen contacted the chef, letting them know he would like to take a week for rest, before returning to work. Afterwards, desiring to find out when exactly he should appear for work, he could not get contact with chef nor with restaurant boss. «The chef sent me a message saying they had no need for cooks for the summer, and I replied to him asking if he was joking,» recalls the lad.

No copy of contract

Arriving on spot and desiring to terminate the employment contract, he was told by the restaurant head this was not needed, as all is finalised. Jürgen, however, is convinced he never signed a contract of that sort – it having been a document regarding suspending the employment contract. The young man does not, however, possess a copy of the contract.

«You see, he left 1.5 months before army. I did warn him that we are not obligated to take him back,» said Lemmi Piits. According to the lady, the lad took out his vacation before army and wanted to have a couple of weeks for extra rest.

According to her, employment contracts are to be suspended reasonably in advance, whereof she also had informed Jürgen. «I think this would mean a couple of days of a week in advance, not a month and a half,» she is convinced.

She underlined that they were, at that moment, having a hard time at the restaurant and that workers were in urgent need. Also, at around Christmas time, Jürgen supposedly had announced he did not want to return. «He supposedly called the chef (later – edit), but I do not know what he said. I do hire people and in a way I don’t,» the manager admitted. Ms Piits confirmed that as the youth returned, in the spring, he was told that as all posts are filled, he was not needed.

Jürgen does not agree with what his former boss says, as he had been granted extra days off, prior to army, with her very agreement. «On location, I talked it over with both manager and chef, that should I add two weeks to the vacation, was that all right? Would it not be too hard for them in the kitchen? All said it was OK,» said the young man. He added that already then there was a new person employed, being in training.

The claim that he supposedly said he would not be returning, in the winter, came to him as total surprise. «I simply do not understand where they got this from, I never said that» claims Jürgen.

Job should remain

According to labour inspector and layer Neenu Pavel, employers may not cancel employment contracts because of conscription or alternative service. The lawyer says people hit trouble when they do not know their rights, and when employers abuse young people’s ignorance.

«Conscripts will indeed be promised that they will maintain their jobs, welcome back. At the same time, they [employers] let them know that, for that time period, the employment relationship must still be terminated upon mutual agreement, as otherwise the employer should keep paying the taxes,» is one such example.

As the misled employee signs such an agreement, the employment relationship is unconditionally terminated and the employers are under no obligation to take the young men back. According to Ms Pavel, it is sometimes demanded that the soldiers-to-be write resignation applications themselves, as otherwise the employers would not let them go and then they would be punished for avoidance of army service.

When it comes to Jürgen’s case, Ms Pavel explained that Defence Resources Agency issues every conscript a certificate to be presented to employers, for the latter to see from which date the employee has the right to refrain from working.

«By agreement of the parties, the employment relationship may also be suspended a couple of days before service starts in Defence Forces; however, this needs to be correctly formulated – to avoid future misunderstandings,» stressed Ms Pavel.