EA: I agree. A lot of people are conscientious. What differentiates us from the welfare countries – their highly paid people have more to lose due to sick leave and therefore they do not take it even if they should. Taking sick leave is more frequent among the lowly-paid people in their terms.
But the income of the lowly-paid in Estonia is so small that they often try not to take sick leave or their situation becomes really bad. I mean elementary subsistence.
Q: The number of dick days in 2010 declined nearly two times compared with 2008, from 6.35 million to 3.6 million. The situation of economy has improved in recent years; are people now more willing to take sick leave?
EA: I have observed the data up to 2015 and the actual number remained at the same level as in 2010.
Q: It seems that our state’s present approach to sickness compensations is very right-wing.
EA: It is rigid. I can understand that there was an economic crisis in 2009 and the system needed to be changed as the state’s expenses on sickness compensations increased 15-25 percent every year – that was excessive as well and there must have been a share of abuse. But now we have reached an economically more stable period and should revise the compensation system once more.
Q: What is the outcome of the state leaving the payment of sickness compensation between the 4th and 8th day to the employers, besides the fact that this measure helped to save a lot of money? While the state paid 93 million euros worth of compensations in 2008, the sum declined three times by 2010, to 33 million.
EA: The advantage is that employers may become more motivated to study why their workers fall ill, what is the cause. Maybe it depends on the working environment? Of course, the employers already face a high tax burden and it may happen that employees fear to cause extra expenses. A majority of sick leaves last from 4 to 20 days, which means that a large share of compensations is paid by the employers.
Q: My employer Eesti Meedia decided to compensate the second and third days of sick leave to its employees. Hopefully the number of such employers is increasing.
EA: Yes. It is increasing, but their number could be even higher. Unfortunately we also have employers who believe that people should be employed as long as they can work and dismissed if they cannot.
But some employers tell their staff to stay at home at full pay for a couple of days – the smaller the firm, the more flexible it is. Large enterprises often establish three health days which the employees can use as they like. And there are also some like your employer – they ask for the doctor’s certificate, but compensate staring from the second day. This is highly welcome!
(Postimees attempted to receive a comment from Minister of Health and Labor Jevgeni Ossinovski [Social Democratic Party], but he did not answer the reporter’s e-mails or phone calls nor was accessible via the PR official).