Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Labour dispute committee session

A labour dispute committee session is held in order to hear the explanations of the parties and examine the documents.

Types of labour dispute proceedings

A labour dispute committee solves employment disputes through ordinary proceedings, written proceedings, or conciliation proceedings. The type of proceedings can be selected by a petitioner when submitting a petition. The only exception applies to written proceedings because written proceedings can only be used for settling monetary claims. The chairman of the labour dispute committee decides if a matter should be resolved through written proceedings.

Ordinary proceedings are any labour dispute proceedings conducted by a labour dispute committee which are not written or conciliation proceedings. In ordinary proceedings, a petition is reviewed at a session. The chairman of the labour dispute committee will set the time of the session by a ruling which is sent to the parties to the dispute when a petition is accepted for adjudication. In ordinary proceedings, a labour dispute is resolved by a labour dispute committee consisting of three members – the chairman of the labour dispute committee and the representatives appointed by social partners; i.e. two lay assessors (a representative of the employees and a representative of the employers). It should be noted that the lay assessors do not represent the interests of the parties; instead, they participate in the session, in hearing the matter, and in reaching a decision.

Written proceedings are only used for settling monetary claims of a maximum amount of EUR 6 400. If a petitioner submits a petition containing only a monetary claim to a labour dispute committee, the chairman of the labour dispute committee can hear the labour dispute in written proceedings on his own initiative. In written proceedings, the chairman of the labour dispute committee will adjudicate the matter alone without lay assessors. If the circumstances of a labour dispute are not sufficiently clear and the chairman of the labour dispute committee decides that a hearing must be held in order to hear the parties, the chairman of the labour dispute committee is not obliged to settle monetary claims not exceeding EUR 6 400 in written proceedings.

In written proceedings, the chairman of the labour dispute committee will set a deadline for the parties to submit their objections, counterclaims, additional evidence, and applications. The parties must adhere to the deadline set by the chairman of the labour dispute committee, which means that the parties have to submit their objections, evidence, requests, etc. to the labour dispute committee by that deadline at the latest.

In addition, a labour dispute is dealt with in written proceedings if a person against whom a claim is filed (the opposing party) admits the claim in full. This means that if a petitioner is requesting an employment relationship to be established and the opposing party agrees that there is an employment relationship, the chairman of the labour dispute committee can satisfy the petition alone in written proceedings because there is no need to assess the merits of the case.

If a party does not want a matter to be dealt with through written proceedings, they have the right to request the labour dispute to be heard at a session. A labour dispute is also heard at a session if the chairman of the labour dispute committee decides that the appearance in person of the parties is indispensable for clarifying the circumstances constituting the basis of the petition. In this case, the chairman of the labour dispute committee will decide the time and the place for hearing the labour dispute, of which the parties will be informed.

Conciliation proceedings are simplified adjudication proceedings for labour disputes involving a conciliator. The chairman of the labour dispute committee acts as the conciliator. In conciliation proceedings, all the significant aspects of the dispute for the parties (including emotional satisfaction) are heard, in addition to issues of a legal nature. A conciliator who is independent and impartial participates in the proceedings as an active listener and is able to guide the parties to an agreement by making proposals, where appropriate, to end the dispute under specific conditions. The parties must submit an agreement to the labour dispute committee in order to settle the matter using conciliation proceedings. Initiating conciliation proceedings is not possible without an agreement between the parties.

Recommendation. Using conciliation proceedings is certainly beneficial if the dispute has arisen during an employment relationship, and the employment relationship has not yet come to an end. It is also useful in instances where the conflict has a strong emotional aspect (i.e. where it is not so much a matter of legal claims but of a high degree of mutual offence between the parties). However, it is also a great option after the end of an employment relationship for achieving an outcome which satisfies both parties.

Agreeing on a compromise

The parties can end a labour dispute with an amicable settlement at any time during the proceedings until the decision made in the labour dispute takes effect. Such a compromise expresses the joint will of both parties. Coming to an amicable settlement means that both parties have reached an agreement regarding the claims submitted to the labour dispute committee and will make mutual concessions regarding the substance of the claims. When coming to a settlement, the mutual concessions of the parties often consist of one party partially renouncing its claim and the other party admitting the rest of the claim.

The parties should remain open to a compromise throughout the proceedings because coming to a settlement ensures a legal solution under the specific conditions agreed by the parties. Both parties may propose a compromise to the other party throughout the labour dispute proceedings. The chairman of the labour dispute committee guides the parties towards a compromise during the proceedings and helps the parties to reach a settlement.

A settlement can be reached until the labour dispute proceedings decision takes effect. The decision of the labour dispute committee takes effect after the deadline for appealing to the court has passed, if the labour dispute does not continue before the court (i.e. 30 calendar days after receiving the labour dispute committee’s decision). It is therefore possible to come to a settlement even after the parties to the labour dispute have received and reviewed the labour dispute committee’s decision after hearing the substance of the case.

Any compromise reached must not be contrary to good morals and the law.

If the parties reach a compromise in a labour dispute, they submit a signed settlement agreement to the labour dispute committee. If the compromise is reached during a session of the labour dispute committee, the terms and conditions of the compromise can be included in the minutes.

The chairman of the labour dispute committee approves the settlement by issuing a ruling terminating the labour dispute proceedings. Once the proceedings are terminated, the party has no further recourse to a labour dispute committee with the same claim against the same party. The chairman of the labour dispute committee will not approve a settlement if it is contrary to good morals or the law or if the conditions of the settlement cannot be enforced.

The ruling approving the settlement has the same force as a decision of a labour dispute committee and it can be taken to an enforcement agent for initiating execution proceedings.

A settlement can be annulled on the grounds set out in the General Part of the Civil Code Act (if it was reached due to a significant error, fraud, threat, or violence).

The labour dispute committee session

If the chairman of the labour dispute committee admits a labour dispute for ordinary proceedings by a ruling, the ruling will specify the time and place of the session. The ruling is sent to both parties in the dispute. The ruling is sent to the opposing party together with the petition and its annexes, in order for that party submit any objections and evidence. The chairman of the labour dispute committee sets a time limit for the opposing party to submit objections.

Labour disputes are heard by a labour dispute committee consisting of three members during a labour dispute committee session,. A labour dispute committee consists of the chairman of the labour dispute committee and the representatives appointed by social partners, i.e. two lay assessors (an employee representative and an employer representative). The parties are notified of the composition of the labour dispute committee prior to the session of the labour dispute committee. It should be noted that the lay assessors do not represent the interests of the parties; instead, they participate in the session, in hearing the matter, and in reaching a decision.

Attendance of the parties at a session

A labour dispute is heard in the presence of the parties or their representatives. When resolving a case, the parties to the dispute may authorise someone to represent them, such as a lawyer. A document attesting to the right of representation must be submitted to the labour dispute committee.

If a circumstance arises which prevents a party invited to a session from attending that session, the labour dispute committee must be informed at the earliest opportunity before the start of the session and proof of this circumstance must be provided. If it is not possible to inform the labour dispute committee of a circumstance preventing a party from participating in a session before the start of the session, the committee must be informed at the earliest opportunity after the circumstance preventing attendance ceases to exist. If a party has a good reason for not participating in a session, the chairman of the labour dispute committee will set a new time and invite the parties to the session at the new time.

If a petitioner fails to appear at the labour dispute committee session without good reason, the chairman of the labour dispute committee will terminate the labour dispute proceedings. Once the proceedings are terminated, a petitioner can no longer file the same claim against the same party before a labour dispute committee. If a petitioner files a reasoned request for the reopening of the labour dispute proceedings within 14 calendar days after the circumstance preventing the attendance in a session ceases to exist, the chairman of the labour dispute committee will issue a ruling reopening the proceedings in the labour dispute. If the proceedings are reopened, the labour dispute committee will resume the proceedings at the stage of the proceedings when they were terminated prematurely.

If an opposing party fails to appear at a labour dispute committee session without good reason or the representative of the opposing party has submitted a written consent for the hearing of the petition in their absence, the labour dispute committee may hear the labour dispute in the absence of the opposing party.

An exception is provided for instances when a party to the proceedings is a foreign national who has worked in Estonia illegally and has been expelled or is going to be expelled from Estonia by the time the labour dispute is heard. If an individual fails to appear at a labour dispute committee session under these circumstances, the labour dispute is heard in his or her absence even if the foreign national is the petitioner.

The parties can participate in the labour dispute committee sessions through virtual channels. This means that a party to a labour dispute does not have to appear at a labour dispute committee session in person, but can participate remotely. The party needs a laptop or a desktop computer, camera, microphone, and a stable internet connection in order to participate in the session virtually. The party must submit a request to the labour dispute committee prior to the session in order to take part remotely .

The following can be included in the session:

  • a representative who has been authorised orally at a session or in writing (i.e. by a paper document that is signed or a digitally signed document). The representative may submit explanations and objections in addition to the ones submitted by the party or on behalf of the party;
  • a witness who will testify about the specific circumstances concerning the claims or objections of the parties directly. The testimony of a witness is evidence. If a party wants to include a witness in a session, then a request must be submitted to the labour dispute committee;
  • a member of the public who is in the room but cannot speak on the circumstances of the labour dispute. Members of the public are not allowed to a session if a labour dispute committee has declared the proceedings closed.

Postponement of a session

If parties are not able to participate in a session at the time set by the chairman of the labour dispute committee, a reasoned request for the postponement of the session must be submitted to the labour dispute committee. The request for postponement is approved only if there is a valid reason.

In order to postpone a session, the reasons for being unable to participate in the session in person, through a representative or via video call must be provided. When deciding on a request for the postponement of a session, the labour dispute committee must verify that it is justified and has been submitted in good faith.

If the session is postponed, the labour dispute committee will inform the parties of the new date, time and place of the session.

Before submitting a request for a postponement of a session, it is worth considering whether the party could participate in the session through virtual channels or send an authorised representative to the session.

Conducting a session

A labour dispute committee is headed by the chairman of the labour dispute committee, who opens the session by announcing the labour dispute to be discussed and the claims to be heard, and explains the nature of the dispute and the applicable legislation. He also introduces the members of the labour dispute committee. At the beginning of a session, the chairman of the labour dispute committee determines who, from the persons invited to the session, is present. Their identities are verified based on identity documents, it is established whether the persons absent from the session have been invited in accordance with the law, whether the representatives of the parties have the right of representation (i.e. they have a valid authorisation document), and that there are no grounds for removing a member of the labour dispute committee.

Before considering the substance of a labour dispute, the labour dispute committee will adjudicate on the requests of the parties. During this stage, a request can be made to submit additional documentary evidence if it was not possible to submit the evidence earlier. Where a substantial amount of evidence is submitted, the other party can submit a request for the postponement of the session, should they not have enough time to review it, thus prolonging the proceedings. The committee must also be able to acquaint themselves with all the evidence before the session in order to adjudicate on the labour dispute. Evidence should therefore be submitted to the labour dispute committee at the earliest opportunity and not on the day of the session.

There may also be, for example, a request to declare the proceedings closed, a request for a settlement by the parties, etc. A petitioner may supplement any claims submitted in the written petition orally during the session or waive them in part or in full until the substance of labour dispute is heard. A request to waive claims cannot be withdrawn.

After this, the substance of labour dispute is heard. In the course of the discussion on the substance of the case, the explanations of the parties to the dispute and the witness statements are heard, documents and other evidence are examined and assessed. The parties to the dispute will also be given an opportunity to put questions to each other. At the end of the session, the final positions of the parties are heard. During the summing up of their final positions, the parties can no longer submit new circumstances or evidence.

The parties will be notified of the decision of the labour dispute committee within 10 working days after the session. At the end of the session, the labour dispute committee will announce the date, time and means of service of the decision.

Minutes are taken at the session. The parties are entitled to access the minutes and to file objections to the minutes by submitting a request to that effect to the labour dispute committee.

If there is a duly reasoned request, the hearing of a case may be postponed. In the case of postponement, the chairman sets a new time for the session. The parties are then invited to the session at the new time.

FAQ

It is possible to attend a labour dispute committee session through virtual channels. In order to do this, the party must submit a request to attend the session virtually to the labour dispute committee. The secretary/desk officer of the labour dispute committee sends the necessary information on participating in the session to the parties prior to the session.

It is also possible to send a representative to attend a labour dispute committee session on your behalf. If you are unable to attend a session personally, you can authorise a third person to participate at the session on your behalf.

If you have a valid reason for being unable to attend a session, you can submit a request for the postponement of the session to the labour dispute committee. In this case, you must submit evidence of the good reason (e.g. in the case of an illness, you must submit a document proving the illness, if you need to attend another session at the same time, you must submit evidence of the time of the other session, etc.).

If a petitioner does not appear at a session and has not submitted a reasoned request for the postponement of the session, the labour dispute committee will terminate the proceedings. A labour dispute committee can hear a matter in a session without the presence of an opposing party if the opposing party has given their written consent or the opposing party fails to attend the session without good reason.

Labour dispute committee proceedings take place in Estonian. Therefore, labour dispute committee sessions are also conducted in Estonian. If you do not speak Estonian, you must invite an interpreter to the session. A sworn interpreter does not need to be used, but the interpreter must speak sufficient Estonian for the party to understand what is happening at the session and for the labour dispute committee and the other party to understand the evidence of the party.

A labour dispute committee does not provide an interpreter for a party or cover the cost of interpreting.

Last updated: 23.03.2023