TALLINN - Nearly 60 percent of Estonians polled in a recent survey say they go to work sick, as labor laws in this austerity-oriented Baltic EU state rule out being paid during the first three days of sick leave, reports AFP.
The survey of 2,021 working-age adults was compiled in January by CV Keskus, the largest privately-run employment center in Estonia, a country of 1.3 million.
“The results of the poll are very alarming,” Pille Ilves, head of the Estonian Patient Advocacy Association, said.
“Sick people staying at work infecting more and more people every flu season brings additional costs,” Ilves said, adding that ill employees stay on the job “because they don’t want to lose too much of their salary,” while others are “scared that staying at home might lead to being fired.”
She added: “The new system is ruining people’s health and, in the long term, costs much more than the pre-austerity system.”
Under rules adopted by Estonia’s center-right government in 2009 as the economy shrank by 14.3 percent during the global financial crisis, employees on sick leave receive no pay for the first three days, partial salaries are paid by employers between day 4-8, with state health insurance picking up the tab after that.
Prior to the changes, employees on sick leave received 80 percent of regular pay from day two, with the state health insurance covering the cost.
The government has won praise from international economic organizations for having the lowest debt and deficit figures in the 17-nation eurozone currency union, which it joined in 2011. This tiny nation has been held up by supporters of austerity for keeping in line its public finances and as an example for countries such as Greece.