Seasonal Workers – What to Consider?

For many businesses, the approaching summer brings an increase in workload, particularly in sectors such as agriculture or tourism. When faced with a seasonal increase in workload, it is possible to hire seasonal workers. Although legislation uses the concept of seasonal work only rarely, there still are some important conditions and exceptions that must be considered when hiring seasonal employees. Below, we explain the relevant criteria. We also take a closer look at the signing of employment contracts with minors and foreigners, as they are often found among seasonal workers.

Signing an Employment Contract for a Specified Term

The main characteristic of seasonal work is the possibility to sign an employment contract for a specified term. Normally, an employment contract must be entered into for an unspecified term, making this an exception to the general rule. The prerequisite for signing a specified term employment contract is an agreement between the employer and the employee. Upon signing, the employee must be informed of the duration of the term and the reason for the specified term nature of the employment. This information must be provided in writing; otherwise, it is assumed that no agreement has been made and the employment contract is considered to be indefinite from the start.

A specified term employment contract's duration can be linked to a specific date or an event. In both cases, entering into the employment contract for a specified term must be substantively justified. The temporary nature of the work itself must justify the contract, such as opening an ice cream stand during the beach season, agricultural work in the summer, harvesting in the fall, or clearing snow in the winter. The nature of the work is crucial, not circumstances arising from the employer or employee. For example, the expiration of lease, rental, or cooperation agreements, the duration of operating licenses, or the risk of their non-renewal are not relevant. Obtaining permits and the continuation of contracts are the employer's responsibility, and the employer must bear the associated risks. An exception may be a specified term contract signed to replace an absent employee.

Particularities of Employment Contracts for a Specified Term

A specified term employment contract ends upon the expiration of its term, and it can only be terminated prematurely for a valid reason. Unlike a typical indefinite employment relationship where an employee can terminate the contract without cause, an employee can only terminate a specified term employment contract exceptionally. The specified term employment relationship always ends upon the expiration of the term, even if the employee is pregnant or on leave, which usually restricts contract termination. There are also exceptions in the case of layoffs. In case of termination of a specified term employment contract for economic reasons (layoffs), the employer must pay compensation equivalent to the wages the employee would have earned until the end of the contract term. It is important to note that changes within the season, such as bad beach weather, do not justify contract termination or wage reduction. Also, seasonal work does not justify agreements that exceed legally established working hours in the summer to offset lower workload periods in winter.

Entering into Employment Contracts with Minors

Minors tend to be one of the most common seasonal workers. To sign an employment contract with a minor, the consent of their legal representative is always required. The terms of the employment contract must consider the minor's exact age and whether they are subject to compulsory schooling. A minor is subject to compulsory schooling until they complete basic education or reach the age of 17. Generally, employers cannot hire minors under the age of 15 or minors who are subject to compulsory schooling.

As an exception, an employment contract can be signed with 13–14-year-old minors or 15–16-year-old minors who are subject to compulsory schooling for jobs that are simple and do not require significant physical or mental effort. Minors aged 7–12 are allowed to perform such light work only in the fields of culture, arts, sports, or advertising. A 13-year-old minor can also sign an employment contract for agricultural work and for auxiliary work in commerce, service, catering, or accommodation sectors. Minors must also be registered in the employment register. For minors aged 7-12, additional information about the minor and their working conditions must be submitted to the Labor Inspectorate, and the consent of a labor inspector must be obtained.

Absolute restrictions

Regardless of the minor's exact age or workplace, there are certain absolute restrictions. Minors must not be allowed to perform work that exceeds their physical or mental capabilities, endangers their morality or health, or contains hazards to which they may not respond correctly due to their age. The government has established a list of jobs and risk factors from which minors must be kept away. For a more detailed overview, refer to subsections 2 and 3 of § 7 of the Employment Contracts Act.


Working and rest hours

When entering into an employment contract with a minor, limitations on their working and rest hours, as well as vacation, must be considered. If a 14-year-old minor who studies in a vocational school is on an internship, their working time may be 7 hours per day and 35 hours over a seven-day period. A minor aged at least 15 may work 8 hours per day and 40 hours over a seven-day period under the same conditions. If a minor subject to compulsory schooling performs light work in the fields of culture, arts, sports, or advertising during a school term, their working time outside school hours may be 3 hours per day and 12 hours over a seven-day period. During school holidays, a minor subject to compulsory schooling may work no more than half of the holiday period.


A minor must have a break of at least 30 minutes during a working day if they work for more than 4.5 hours. Minors cannot be employees with independent decision-making capacity regarding their working hours in the meaning of the Employment Contracts Act. Minors subject to compulsory schooling and non-compulsory schooling minors aged 15-17 cannot work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. They also cannot work immediately before the start of a school day. Any agreement for overtime work with a minor is void. A minor's annual holiday leave is 35 calendar days, and a minor subject to compulsory schooling has the right to demand the holiday during school holidays.

Foreigners as Seasonal Workers

When hiring a foreigner for seasonal work, it is important to first determine the nationality of the person. Citizens of European Union and European Economic Area member states must be treated equally with Estonian citizens in matters concerning employment contracts and working conditions. Therefore, the usual regulations of the Employment Contracts Act apply to them. However, for citizens of third countries, the Aliens Act applies in addition, which stipulates the possibility of hiring a foreigner as a seasonal worker but also imposes several additional obligations.


The employment of foreigners from third countries must be registered with the Police and Border Guard Board, and a foreigner can be registered as a seasonal worker only in certain activities, the precise list of which is established by the government. This list includes, among others, plant and animal production, forestry, accommodation, and food and beverage service activities. The foreigner must have a legal basis for staying in Estonia, such as a visa, visa-free stay, or residence permit. A foreign seasonal worker can work in Estonia for up to 270 days in any 365 consecutive days. The usual requirement to pay the average gross salary to a foreign worker does not apply to seasonal workers.


The accommodation for a foreign seasonal worker during their stay in Estonia must comply with the requirements established by law in an appropriate living space or accommodation establishment. The employer may arrange accommodation for the seasonal worker; however, in such cases, the cost of accommodation must not be excessively high or disproportionate compared to the worker's wages. Additionally, it is not permitted to deduct the cost of accommodation from the worker's salary.