Guard Time Difference Is Good, But Could Be Expanded in the Future
The state is planning to grant exceptions to the guard time of certain employees of the ICT sector in terms of rest period and salary. Although the Chamber supports this draft, the Chamber proposed to leave the payment for the guard time exception to the current level, i.e. to at least 1/10 of the salary. Furthermore, the Chamber recommended analysing other areas where the guard time exception could be applied, first and foremost with respect to the critical importance and continuous services.
According to the draft, specialists providing the ICT services of critical importance and service of continuous functioning of an infrastructure or ensuring information security will be allowed guard time with the maximum duration of 130 hours within the 28-day period, if it does not affect the health and safety of an employee. The Chamber supports establishing the guard time exception for specialists who provide IT support services. This area of activity requires flexible approach because IT support services are mostly services of critical importance and require ensuring continuous functioning of the infrastructure, i.e. services that are necessary for a large number of people.
Guard time exception could be considered in other areas
In the Chamber’s opinion there are other areas where the main task of an employee is to ensure continuous functioning of the services and/or infrastructure of critical importance. For example specialists of the area of automatics, energetics, mechanics and aviation whose assistance and skills may be urgently needed, especially if a specialist works in a field where continuous service is provided. For example, there might be a need to keep an air traffic controller at guard time in order for it to be possible to call the person from home to work if anything should happen to the air traffic controller at work. This job is of critical importance in order to ensure safe traffic in the skies of Estonia. The specialist of a factory working 24/7 must be ready to respond if there are problems in the automatics of the factory.
Although in case of both examples, the chance that an employee working during guard time should really work is rather small, the employer is ensured with the feeling of security that an employee will respond if there is a problem at the workplace and employee is ensured with additional remuneration. Therefore it is reasonable to consider extending the exception to other areas of activity.
Paying for Guard Time
According to the draft, at least 1/5 salary has to be paid when applying the guard time exception. In common cases, the guard time salary is at least 1/10 of the salary. In the Chamber’s opinion, the requirement for the 1/5 salary should be left out of the draft in order to prevent unequal treatment among employees and apply at least 1/10 salary requirement also for the exceptions. Furthermore, the Chamber would like to emphasise that the law would provide the minimum obligation. Depending on the nature of the guard time, the employer and employee can always agree on larger remuneration for the guard time.
Read the official opinion of the Chamber here (in Estonian).