Decision of a labour dispute committee
A labour dispute committee will make a decision if, in the opinion of the committee, both parties have had ample opportunity to put forward all their arguments and evidence and the case is ready for a final decision. When the dispute is heard at a session, the labour dispute committee, consisting of three members, will prepare the operative part of the decision on the day the dispute is heard. A member of the committee who maintains a minority position has the right to a dissenting opinion, which will be annexed to the decision. The decision of the three-member labour dispute committee will be drawn up in writing by the chairman. In written proceedings, the chairman of the labour dispute committee will make the decision alone.
The decision must be based on the law and must be reasoned; it will rely solely on the evidence gathered in the case.
The decision will be announced to the parties within 10 working days of the session taking place. The parties are informed of the precise time and manner of the announcement of the decision at the end of the session in ordinary proceedings or by a ruling in written proceedings.
Service of the decision
The labour dispute committee will inform the parties of the manner in which the decision of the labour dispute committee will be served. The decision of the labour dispute committee can be served electronically by email, by post, or through the Ametlikud Teadaanded publication.
A party must acknowledge receipt of the decision of the labour dispute committee (for example, if a decision is emailed to a party, the latter must reply to the secretary/desk officer of the labour dispute committee who sent the decision that they have received it). If a party does not acknowledge receipt of the decision by email, the decision is sent to the party by post. If a party cannot be served the decision by ordinary post, the secretary/desk officer of the labour dispute committee will publish the operative part of the decision in the Ametlikud Teadaanded. Upon publication of the decision in the Ametlikud Teadaanded, the party is considered to have been served the decision within 15 calendar days of the publication of the operative part of the decision.
Entry into force of a decision
The decision of the labour dispute committee will enter into force after 30 days have passed since the decision was served if neither party has filed an action with a court to contest the decision. The deadline is counted from the day after the date of receiving the decision. For example, if a party was served the decision on 1 April 2022, then the 30-day deadline must be counted from 2 April 2022. If a party files an action with a court within 30 days of having been served the decision for the adjudication of the same labour dispute, the decision will not enter into force. If the decision of the labour dispute committee is contested in court only partially, the undisputed part of the decision of the labour dispute committee will enter into force.
In order to confirm the entry into force of a decision of the labour dispute committee, the chairman or secretary of the committee will add a notation on entry into force to the decision at the request of a party or an administrative authority concerned (such as the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund or the Tax and Customs Board). The labour dispute committee will add a notation on entry into force to a decision once they have verified in the information system of the courts that court proceedings have not been launched for the same case. In order to add a notation on entry into force, at least 31 calendar days must have passed from both parties being served the decision. A notation on entry into force may be issued electronically by the chairman or secretary/desk officer of a labour dispute committee, with a digital signature. In order to receive a notation on entry into force, a request to that effect must be made to the labour dispute committee that issued the decision.
Enforcement and immediate enforcement of a decision
Once a decision has taken effect, it becomes binding on the parties.
At the request of a party, a labour dispute committee may declare a decision ordering the payment of wages to be subject to immediate enforcement to the extent necessary for the employee but not exceeding 2 months’ remuneration. The request can be made at a labour dispute committee session before the substance of the case is heard. In such a case, the decision of the labour dispute committee regarding the claim for wages will take effect when the decision is served, not 30 calendar days after receipt of the decision.
Applying to an enforcement agent
If a party fails to comply with a decision of a labour dispute committee or a settlement approved by a ruling of the chairman of the labour dispute committee, it is possible to apply to an enforcement agent for enforcement proceedings. To do so, the decision of the labour dispute committee that has entered into force (including decisions with a notation on entry into force) or decision that must be enforced immediately or ruling approving a settlement must be sent to the enforcement agent.
For more information on applying to an enforcement agent, please visit the website of the Chamber of Bailiffs and Trustees in Bankruptcy: (https://kpkoda.ee/).
Contesting the decisions of labour dispute committees
If the employee or the employer (party or parties) do not agree with the decision made by the labour dispute committee, they have 30 calendar days from the date of receipt of the decision to refer the same labour dispute to the county court for consideration.
Upon having recourse to the court, the decision of the labour dispute committee will not enter into force. Upon partial contesting of a decision of the labour dispute committee, the decision will enter into force for the part that was not contested in court.
The time limit for contesting the decision of the labour dispute committee commences from the day after the decision is received. For example, if the decision of the labour dispute committee was received today, the time limit for contestation will be counted from tomorrow.
The decision of the labour dispute committee can be served electronically by e-mail, by mail, or publicly through the journal Official Announcements.
In cases where the party does not confirm receipt of the decision by e-mail, the decision will be sent to the party by mail. If it is not possible to serve the decision to the party by post, the secretary-referent of the labour dispute committee publishes the decision in the journal Official Announcements. In the case of publication in the Official Announcements, the party is deemed to have been notified of the decision after 15 calendar days of the publication of the operative part of the decision.
Example: the labour dispute committee sends the decision to the parties electronically by e-mail on 01.02.2023. Only the employee confirms receipt of the decision by e-mail by sending a relevant confirmation by e-mail to the labour dispute committee on 01.02.2023. As the employee confirmed receipt of the decision on 01.02.2023, the 30-day time limit for contestation with regard to the employee must be counted from 02.02.2023.
The employer did not confirm receipt of the decision by e-mail and it was sent the employer by mail. As the decision could not be served on the employer by post either, it was communicated to the employer through the Official Announcements. In such a case, the 30-day time limit for contestation must be counted from 15 calendar days after the publication of the decision's operative part in the Official Announcements.
For recourse to court, a statement of claim must be filed. An appeal against a decision of the labour dispute committee cannot be brought before a court.
The statement of claim must comply with the requirements set out in the Code of Civil Procedure. The statement of claim filed with the court must indicate who the claim was filed against, what is claimed, why the claim is made (i.e. on what legal grounds) and what evidence supports the claim. Thus, the statement of claim must entail the relief sought by the claimant, clearly expressed (relief sought from the court), the factual circumstances which constitute grounds for the court claim (cause of the court claim), the evidence to support the facts which constitute the cause of the court claim, and a specific reference to which fact the claimant seeks to prove with each item of evidence.
The statement of claim must be signed. If the statement of claim is filed by the plaintiff’s representative who is not a an attorney, a power of attorney must be attached.
Upon filing a statement of claim, a state fee in accordance with the State Fees Act must be paid. Certain actions are exempt from state fees (for example, actions for recovery of wages or salary and also actions for declaration of voidness of cancellation of employment contract). Employers are not exempt from paying state fees in employment matters before the courts.
If necessary, the court will set a time limit for the parties for the filing of a petition in the format prescribed for action-by-claim proceedings, for providing additional reasons for their positions and for providing additional evidence.
If a labour dispute committee denies a petition or satisfies it in part, the petitioner (i.e. the person who filed a petition with the labour dispute committee) may file an action with a court for the adjudication of the labour dispute matter to the extent not satisfied. The action may only include the same claims as put before the labour dispute committee.
If a labour dispute committee satisfies a petition in full or in part, the other party (i.e. the person against who the claim was filed with the labour dispute committee) may request the court to hear the petition filed with the labour dispute committee as an action pursuant to the action-by-claim proceedings. In such a case, the person who had recourse to the labour dispute committee (i.e. the petitioner) is the claimant in the court proceedings. The defendant is the party who filed the request with the court (i.e. the person against whom the claim was filed with the labour dispute committee).
It is important to remember that the party who serves as the claimant in the proceedings must file a petition with the court. The petition must be made in a format prescribed for the statement of claim and filed with the court within the time limit prescribed by the court. Otherwise, the court will dismiss the petition and the decision of the labour dispute committee will not enter into force to the contested extent. The court draws the claimant's attention to this when they prescribe a time limit for filing a petition in the form of a statement of claim.
Example: before a labour dispute committee an employee was the petitioner whose claim had been fully satisfied by a decision of the labour dispute committee. The employer disagreed with the decision and filed a request with the court to hear the case again in the format of action-by-claim proceedings. In such a case, the petitioner (i.e. the employee) is the claimant in the court and must file a statement of claim with the court within the time limit set by the court, in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Civil Procedure. If the employee fails to file a proper statement of claim within the time limit set by the court, the court will dismiss the petition, which in turn means that the decision of the labour dispute committee previously made in the employee's favour will not enter into force (i.e. the decision previously made will essentially become invalid).
In addition, the parties in court proceedings must also take into account the fact that while each party bears its own costs of the proceedings when the labour dispute is resolved by the labour dispute committee, then upon having recourse to the court the parties may claim reimbursement of the costs incurred for both proceedings conducted in the labour dispute committee and in court. The Supreme Court is of the opinion (decision No 3-2-1-80-15) that the procedural costs (such as legal aid costs, translation costs, etc.) incurred in the resolution of a labour dispute by a labour dispute committee may be claimed later in court as damages (as costs incurred in the pre-trial proceedings). Consequently, compensation for the costs incurred by the parties in filing the petition to the labour dispute committee is possible under clause 4 of § 144 of the Code of Civil Procedure, together with the costs of court proceedings.
The form for the statement of claim can be found here.
For more information on action-by-claim proceedings and how to file a statement of claim, see the Estonian Courts' website.
Last updated: 06.02.2023