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Work Ability Reform

Estonia is about to begin the working abilty reform, which will create a new performance of the working ability support system. The aim of the amendments is to change attitudes towards people with reduced working ability and to help them find and keep a job.

  • Each person with reduced working ability will be approached individually, assessed on its ability to be active in the society, and, consequently, helped to find opportunities in the labour market. Also, a future employer of the person is dealt with separately, in order to find labour relationship solutions necessary for both parties.
  • People with reduced working ability are paid are working ability allowance. If, at first, the allowance was supposed to partially decrease after the person earned 641 € per month, according to the change proposal, the income would begin to decline after the 90-times the daily rate, which in 2016 is 1012.50 €. Thus, in the future, the working ability allowance will also be paid to people earning an average salary. From this amount, the allowance will gradually decline, and it will no longer be paid, if the person's income reaches 1,397.25 €. In case of deficient working ability, the allowance lapses when the person earns 1687.50 € per month.
  • The employer will be compensated for workplace adjustment costs. As a result of the working ability reform, the disabilities do not incur additional costs for the employer any more, and people with disabilities are equal employees. The support provided by the state will create favourable conditions for hiring a disabled person. The Unemployment Insurance Fund will advise employers, provide support in the period of acclimatisation, and help them find solutions to emerging issues.
  • Reform started from 01.01.16

  • By 2020, the public sector will have employed at least 1,000 people with decreased working ability.



  • The goals of the reform is to help every individual with reduced working ability, having health sufficiently good, to find himself or herself a suitable employment and therefore, cope better on his or her own.
  • Change in mentality: we will assess ability, not inability to work.
  • There are 100,379 persons receiving pension for incapacity for work (01/01/2014). Only a half of this number represents people with disabilities.
  • 40,600 individuals with at least 40% loss of capacity for work, aged 15-64 years, work (in 2013 – 42.4%). 63% of persons receiving pension for incapacity for work who are not employed would like to work.
  • 68% of employers are willing to employ persons with reduced working ability. According to the estimate, in 2020, approximately 15,000 (10 – 15%) persons with reduced working ability, currently unemployed, will find employment.  

Work Ability Reform


Goals of the Reform

  • bringing persons with reduced working ability back to labour market and help them to cope in the market;

  • prevention of loss of working ability and motivate people to take active part in social life;

  • lending employers a hand to help them improve working environment to employ persons with reduced working ability and keep them employed.

Single administrating institution:
  • Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will organise:

  • assessment of working ability;

  • payment of working ability benefits;

  • provision of labour market services;

  • work-related rehabilitation and provision of technical aids.

Principles of the new scheme:
  • new methodology for the assessment of working ability;

  • working ability benefit instead of pension;

  • activity requirements for those who can work;

  • integrated approach: rehabilitation, motivation, technical aids and assistance needed to return to labour market, all from a single place.

Activity requirements
  • person with reduced ability to work must meet the following requirements to qualify for benefit/support:

    • registered as unemployed;

    • participation in activation measures;

    • studying or

    • working.

  • Persons who have fully lost their working ability are also entitled to labour market measures. There is no requirement to participate in the measures. Activity is not required of persons who raise children under the age of 3 years or take care of a disabled person.

Maintaining current pension
  • If a person has been assigned a certain percentage of loss of capacity of work for the period of two years, as minimum, yet the support granted to this person under the new scheme is lower than the original pension, s/he will be paid a support that is equivalent to the original amount of pension until the new assessment.

Time Schedule

  • January 2016 – implementation of new work ability system in stages. Introduction of new services.

  • July 2016 – the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will start the assessment of new persons receiving pension for incapacity for work.

  • January 2017 – the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will start to assessment of persons currently receiving pension for incapacity for work, as the term of their incapacity for work expires.

Methodology for the Assessment of Work Ability

According to the new system, percentage of loss of capacity of work will be no longer assigned. Assessment of work ability will be organised by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund and this will include the abilities, capacity and suitable work available.

The assessment is supposed to identify whether the person has:

  • work ability,

  • in-part work ability; or

  • missing work ability.

The person to be assessed will be required to attend a doctor during three months that precede the assessment. The same requirement is currently applicable to the assessment of incapacity for work.

Application must be filed with the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund to have one’s work ability assessed. The individual concerned must answer questions, concerning his or her abilities in a variety of spheres (e.g. mobility, manual activities, learning etc.).

Medical expert will compare the information, supplied in the application, with health records and give assessment of work ability. Where appropriate, the health records will be specified with the help from the individual’s general practitioner.

Should it be impossible to assess work ability on the bases of document (e.g. the information, supplied in the application is in conflict with health records), medical expert may summon the individual for a visit. Medical expert will not offer a diagnosis or treatment – this is the task of the treating doctor.

The individual concerned that explain the answers, given in the application, at the personal interview with the medical expert. Where appropriate, the doctor will ask for additional information and clarify any issues, related to suitability of employments. The doctor can also test acting and participation ability.

Using the outcomes of document and, where appropriate, visit based assessment, the medical expert will prepare an opinion for the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund that will be used to pass a decision concerning work ability assessment.

NB! Disability and decreased work ability are two different things and will be assessed by different means. Disability is seen as an obstacle preventing individual from participation in social – not just work life. Today we work to ensure a system that will allow disabled persons to pass two assessments with as little effort as possible. 

Transition from assessment of permanent capacity for work to assessment of work ability will take step by step.

  • From 1 July 2016, the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will start to assess the work ability of persons who have not been earlier assigned permanent loss of capacity for work (i.e. first-time cases).

  • From 1 January 2017, the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will start to assess the work ability of persons who’s period of permanent loss of incapacity for work, registered at the Social Insurance Board, is about to expire.

Last updated: 3 February 2017