Employers criticize vacation law

  • 2002-06-13
  • Kairi Kurm, TALLINN
Estonia's Clothing and Textile Association has complained to the Social Affairs Ministry about a law that allows employees with young children the right to take their vacation time whenever it best suits them.

The association said the law, which came into effect on Jan. 1, was too costly for employers and asked the ministry to amend it so that employers have to honor specific, time-sensitive vacation requests only if it is deemed not detrimental to production and to be entitled to compensation of expenses if vacation at a certain time cannot be avoided.

The law, which was changed last year, says both men and women with children up to age 7 have the right to demand vacation at any time and parents with children between 7 and 10 may do so during their kids' school vacations.

Sigrid Tappo, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Social Affairs, said the main reason for the changes was to enable parents to spend more time with their children and to supervise them during school vacations.

"The number of accidents with children tends to be higher during the school vacations," she said.

But Maie Vader, acting head of the Clothing and Textile Association, toldsaid the association complained about the law after several employees of textile firm Ilves-Extra opted to invoke their rights to take vacation together at an inopportune time for the company.

Of 453 employees, 52 are currently out on vacation and an additional 70 have young children and could all demand vacation during school breaks, she said.

"The firm has to give [vacation time] to them, it does not have a choice," she said. have to give it (the vacation) to them; they don't have a choice," said Vader.

If the latter all decide to go on a vacation before or after the collective school break, it would cost the firm up to 420,000 kroons ($24,700).

"Some employees wanted to take this opportunity, but we managed to convince them not to," said Arvo Kivikas, head of the council of Ilves-Extra.

"We would have been forced to cover their extra vacation in full amount."

Vader said that the bill had a negative effect on the competitiveness of parents of young children on the labor market, since employers might no prefer hiring parents with older kids.

Other textile firms are also worried. Enn Lehtmets, marketing director at Marat, said the firm would not be able to withstand mass vacations.

"We'd have to find a way to afford it because the law has to be followed, but we would be in serious trouble if there were too many applicants [demanding vacation time]," he said. "They should have asked for the opinions of the companies actually facing these problems when working out the bill."

Confectionery company Kalev is trying to deal with the new law by offering parents their choice of vacation time at any time other than during summer school vacation.

It also offers to rearrange job responsibilities and, sometimes, working hours, for those parents who do have young children out of school in the summer months.

Kalev spokeswoman Ruth Roht said few employees have demanded vacation time during school breaks so far, but said the law does present certain problems because some employees might try to get two full months of vacation instead of the normal one allowed, thus wreaking havoc in production.