A petitioner adds the evidence to their petition and explains in the petition what each piece of evidence is meant to prove. The opposing party submits their evidence with their objection. Both parties are given an opportunity to review the claims, objections, and evidence of the other party.
N.B. A labour dispute committee does not collect evidence. When making a decision, a labour dispute committee can only rely on the evidence the parties have submitted to the labour dispute committee.
A labour dispute committee can use any information as evidence, on the basis of which it will ascertain the facts, or absence thereof, substantiating the claims and objections of the parties, as well as other circumstances relevant to the correct adjudication of the labour dispute. A labour dispute committee must admit any evidence that is relevant to the labour dispute. A labour dispute committee must give reasons for refusal to admit evidence. A labour dispute committee will evaluate all evidence from all perspectives, thoroughly and objectively and decide, according to its conscience, whether or not an argument presented by a party is proven.
Evidence must be submitted to a labour dispute committee as early as possible (presumably, together with filing a petition or an objection). If evidence cannot be submitted earlier, the evidence can also be submitted during a labour dispute committee session before the substance of the case is heard. A party must give reasons for not submitting the evidence earlier. Although the parties can also submit evidence during a labour dispute committee session before the substance of the case is heard, this may delay the labour dispute proceedings because the other party and the labour dispute committee may not have time to review the evidence. Therefore, all evidence should be submitted to a labour dispute committee together with a petition or an objection.
The following types of evidence can be admitted by a labour dispute committee:
- documentary evidence;
- witness testimony;
- physical evidence;
Evidence submitted to the labour dispute committee must be in a PDF format and have clear titles (e.g. Annex 1 – Employment contract).
Submitting a document as evidence is the most common way of giving evidence. Documentary evidence is any document recorded in writing, by photographing it, recording it as a video or audio file or by some other electronic means or recorded in any other manner of data storage or on a similar data carrier, which includes information on circumstances relevant for the adjudication of the matter, which can be submitted in a concrete form (such as an employment contract, declaration of cancellation of an employment contract, correspondence, bank account statement, and so forth). In addition, official and personal correspondence and court decisions which have taken effect in other court cases are considered documents.
At the request of a party, a labour dispute committee may hear a witness. A witness may be a third party who has personally experienced the event or circumstance being demonstrated. Therefore, a witness is a third party (such as a colleague) who may have knowledge of facts relevant to a labour dispute.
A request must be made to a labour dispute committee to hear a witness. The request of the party will set out the name of the witness and the circumstances concerning which the witness is to give a testimony. The labour dispute committee may issue a ruling refusing to satisfy a party’s request for the involvement of a witness if the involvement of the witness would be unreasonable considering the circumstances of the dispute. The labour dispute committee thus evaluates whether involving a witness in the proceedings would be reasonable or not.
Witnesses are heard in person at labour dispute committee sessions. The party who requested a witness to be summoned to the session will guarantee the presence of that witness at the session. If the witness does not speak Estonian, the party who requested the hearing of the witness guarantees the interpretation of the witness testimony to the labour dispute committee.
If appearing at a session would be unreasonably onerous a witness, the witness may provide a written answer to the question posed by the labour dispute committee within the time limit set by the committee. This is only granted if giving written evidence is, in the committee’s opinion, sufficient taking into account the subject matter of the question and the personal characteristics of the witness. A party has the right to submit written questions to a witness through the labour dispute committee; however, the labour dispute committee determines the questions for which an answer by a witness is requested.
Physical evidence is an object, the existence or properties of which help clarify important circumstances relevant for the adjudication in a civil matter. Physical evidence can also be a document which corresponds to these characteristics.
A labour dispute committee reviews physical evidence during a session and presents it to the parties to the hearing, and if necessary, to the witnesses. After the decision of a labour dispute committee takes effect, physical evidence is returned to the person who provided it or who owns it.
Inspection is any manner of direct data collection about the existence or nature of a circumstance by a labour dispute committee, which includes, among all else, the inspection of a location or a scene of an event.
A labour dispute committee issues a ruling for organising an inspection which states the object of the inspection and the time and place. The parties to the proceedings are informed of the inspection. However, their absence will not prevent the inspection. During an inspection, the object, location or scene of an event are described in detail, and if necessary and possible, its important characteristics are also photographed or recorded in other ways. The inspection is recorded in the minutes and the minutes will also include the remarks made by the parties to the proceedings during the inspection.
Requiring evidence from the other party
If a party lacks evidence for substantiating their claim because the evidence is in the possession of the other party, the party has the right to file a request with the labour dispute committee for the chairman to order the other party to submit the evidence and information at their disposal. If a party requests that the labour dispute committee orders the submission of a document by another person, the party will describe the document and its content in the request and set out the reason why they believe the document to be in the possession of such person and the facts that this piece of evidence proves.
If the law provides for a party’s obligation to preserve evidence or information and the party fails to submit it to the labour dispute committee without a reason, the arguments of the opposing party concerning the content of the evidence or information may be deemed to be proven.
An example: an employee and an employer conclude a written employment contract before commencing an employment relationship. The employer does not hand over the second copy of the written employment contract to the employee. The employee is entitled to petition the labour dispute committee for the chairman of the committee to order the employer to submit the employee’s written employment contract, as in accordance with subsection 5(5) of the Employment Contracts Act, the employer is obliged to store written employment contracts for the duration of the term of the employment contract and for 10 years from the end of the contract.
The other party cannot be required to produce a written employment contract if the parties have not actually concluded a written employment contract, i.e. when an employee has worked under a verbal employment contract.
Pursuant to subsection 45(1) of the Labour Dispute Resolution Act, each party must prove the facts on which the claims and objections of that party are based. A labour dispute committee does not collect evidence to resolve a labour dispute; it may only rely on the evidence which the parties have submitted to the labour dispute committee when discussing the case and making a decision. A party can choose independently whether to submit any evidence and which kind to present in order to substantiate their claims or allegations.
If a party would like a witness to be heard at a session, that party must invite the witness to the session. The labour dispute committee does not summon witnesses to sessions.
Pursuant to subsection 45(1) of the Labour Dispute Resolution Act, each party must prove the facts on which the claims and objections of that party are based. An opposing party must also submit evidence to substantiate their claims and positions. The opposing party can choose whether to submit any evidence and which type to submit to the labour dispute committee in order to substantiate their allegations.
If the petitioner has requested that the opposing party submit evidence and the opposing party is obliged to store certain information (e.g. written employment contracts, payroll by the employer), the chairman of the labour dispute committee will set a time limit for the opposing party to submit evidence. The opposing party is obligated to submit evidence requested by a ruling of the labour dispute committee. If the opposing party fails without reason to submit the evidence requested by the petitioner but they are obligated by law to store the evidence, then the labour dispute committee will deem the arguments concerning the content of the evidence or information to be proven.
For more information, please visit the section on evidence (link to the evidence page of the new homepage).
Last updated: 06.07.2022