Resolution of labour disputes under the Labour Dispute Resolution Act
Labour disputes are resolved in the labour dispute committee on the basis of the Labour Dispute Resolution Act. According to the law in force in Estonia, the working language in resolving labour disputes is Estonian. An Estonian-language petition along with Estonian-language evidence is to be submitted to the labour dispute committee. If the submitted petition or documents are in a foreign language, the labour dispute committee has the right to request their translation into Estonian.
One can have recourse to a labour dispute committee personally or through a representative. The provisions in the General Part of the Civil Code Act regarding representation are applied to representation, meaning that a right of representation may be granted by a transaction (authorisation) or it may arise from law (right of representation arising from law). The director of the labour dispute committee controls the right of representation and will not permit an individual to participate as a representative in the proceeding without it. A party may request that the right of representation of the other party’s representative be verified at any stage of the proceedings. In the case of a lawyer, the right of representation is presumed.
In the serving of procedural documents, the labour dispute committee is guided by the Code of Civil Procedure. Pursuant to section 317 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the labour dispute committee has the right to publicly serve procedural documents. The labour dispute committee has the right to publish an excerpt of the document subject to public service in Ametlikud Teadaanded.
The possibility for public service is used by the labour dispute committee only if a party to the labour dispute does not acknowledge the receipt of the procedural documents sent by the labour dispute committee by e-mail or post.
Submitting an application to a labour dispute committee
In order to start a labour dispute, an APPLICATION (DOCX) in Estonian must be filled in and evidence in Estonian must be attached. An application may be submitted to the labour dispute committee on paper or electronically.
The application must include:
- jurisdiction of the labour dispute matter, i.e. the region where settlement of the labour dispute shall take place;
- the name, personal identification code or registry code, and details of the residence or location and means of communication (telephone number, e-mail) of the party who submitted the petition;
- the name, personal identification code or registry code, and details of the residence or location and means of communication (telephone number, e-mail) of the person against whom the claim is being submitted;
- the explicit claim of the petitioner; in the case of a financial claim, it is shown as a gross amount;
- the circumstances serving as the basis for the claim, with which the claim is being justified;
- evidence which supports the facts on which the claim is based, with a specific reference to which fact is sought to be proved by which piece of evidence;
- whether the party agrees to written proceedings for the matter or wishes to have the matter reviewed at a hearing;
- confirmation regarding the agreement between the parties, if they want to resolve the labour dispute before the agreed-upon labour dispute committee.
The brochure “Settlement of Labour Disputes in the Labour Disputes Committee” prepared by the Labour Inspectorate is helpful in filling in the labour dispute application. The brochure describes the differences between the ordinary proceeding, the written proceeding and the conciliation proceeding, the requirements for the application and the evidence, the limitation periods for the requirements, the model requirements for both the employer and the employee and many other necessary information related to the labour dispute.
The completed and signed application must be sent to the labour dispute committee. An unsigned application will not be accepted. You can find the work areas and contact details of labour dispute committees HERE.
An employee may submit a petition to the labour dispute committee of their place of residence or place of employment or the location or place of residence of the employer. The employee will make the decision. The employer may submit a petition to the labour dispute committee in the place of residence of the employee or the place of employment. The petition for the settlement of a collective labour dispute shall be submitted to the labour dispute committee of the location or residence of the employer or to the labour dispute committee of the location of the employers’ association or the central union of employers.
In addition, it is possible for the parties to agree in advance, in a form that can be reproduced in writing (for example, in an employment contract or by e-mail), in which area the labour dispute will be settled. At the same time, the parties cannot choose a specific director of a labour dispute committee to resolve the dispute. The distribution of labour dispute matters is based on the service areas and internal work organisation of labour dispute committees.
One can have recourse to a labour dispute committee personally or through a representative. A petition and the annexes thereto can be submitted signed with a handwritten signature on paper or electronically. If the application is sent to the e-mail address of the labour dispute committee electronically, it will be digitally signed and the necessary documents will be attached. The application may be signed by a representative only if a document certifying the right of representation or a power of attorney is attached thereto.
Term to submit the application to the labour dispute committee
The application must be submitted within the specific term. The limitation periods for the submission of claims are provided the Employment Contracts Act:
- The term for filing a claim for the recognition of rights arising from employment relationships and for the protection of violated rights for the purpose of recourse to a labour dispute committee or court is four months as of the time the person became or should have become aware of the violation of his or her rights.
- As an exception, the term for submitting a claim for contesting the termination of an employment contract is 30 calendar days from the receipt of the declaration of cancellation, and not from the termination of the employment contract. The term applies to both the employee and the employer.
- The term for filing a claim for wages is three years as of the time the wages fell due. Wages fall due on payday.
- An employer’s claim for compensation for damage against an employee for damage caused upon performance of duties expires within 12 months as of the time when the employer learnt or should have learnt of the damage caused and the person obligated to compensate for it, but not later than three years after the damage was caused.
A term begins to run on the day following the calendar day or the occurrence of the event by which the beginning of the term is specified unless otherwise provided by law or a contract, for example, from the following the payday. A term ends on the due date.
Procedure of the labour dispute committee session
The labour dispute shall be heard in the presence of the parties or their representatives. If a party summoned to a session becomes aware of a circumstance which prevents him or her from attending the session, he or she shall inform the labour dispute committee thereof as soon as possible before the beginning of the session. If it is not possible to be notified of the circumstance preventing participation in the session before the beginning of the session, the labour dispute committee shall be notified as soon as possible after the impediment has ceased to exist.
If the petitioner does not appear at the session and has not submitted a reasoned request to postpone the session of the matter, the labour dispute committee shall terminate the proceedings. However, if a party does not appear at the session for a good reason, the hearing of the matter shall be postponed. The Labour Dispute Resolution Act provides an exception when it is possible to review a labour dispute without the presence of a party. The exception concerns the situation if the alien worked in Estonia without a legal basis and has been expelled from Estonia during the review of the labour dispute or will be expelled from Estonia during the review of the labour dispute. In such a case, the labour dispute shall be heard without his or her presence.
The session of the labour dispute committee shall be chaired by the chairman of the labour dispute committee, who shall announce at the opening of the session which labour dispute matter is being discussed, explain the nature of the labour dispute matter pending and the legal norms applicable to the dispute. The composition of the labour dispute committee is also introduced.
At the beginning of the session, the chairman of the labour dispute committee shall determine:
- who of the invited persons have appeared at the session and their identity;
- whether persons absent from the session have been summoned to the sitting in accordance with law;
- whether the representatives of the parties have the right of representation;
- whether there are no grounds for removal of a member of the labour dispute committee.
Before discussing the substance of a labour dispute, the labour dispute committee shall resolve the requests of the parties. In this context, it is possible to request the submission of additional evidence if it was not possible to submit the evidence earlier. Such a request may also be, for example, a request to close the proceedings, a request by the parties for a compromise. The petitioner may orally supplement the claims specified in the written application or waive them in part or in full until the substantive hearing of the labour dispute matter. However, the waiver cannot be withdrawn.
At the session the disputing parties and the testimony of witnesses shall be heard, documents and other evidence shall be examined and evaluated. The parties of a labour dispute will have the opportunity to ask each other questions. The final positions of the parties will be heard at the end of the session.
Upon reasoned request, the session may be postponed. If adjourned, the chairman of the labour dispute committee shall fix the time of the new session and the parties shall be served with the summonses.
The session shall be recorded in the minutes. The parties have the right to examine the minutes, but a corresponding request must be submitted to the labour dispute committee.
Execution of the decision of the labour dispute committee
The labour dispute committee shall make a decision if, in the opinion of the committee, the labour dispute matter has been discussed exhaustively and the matter is ready for a final decision. In a labour dispute discussed at the session, the labour dispute committee shall make a resolution on the day of the hearing of the labour dispute, by a majority vote. A minority member of the commission shall be entitled to a dissenting opinion, which shall be annexed to the decision. The decision is made by the chairman of the labour dispute committee. In the written procedure, the decision is made by the chairman of the labour dispute committee alone.
The decision itself is based on law and must be reasoned. The labour dispute committee has the right to specify the legal qualification of the claim if it is necessary to protect the legal rights and interests of the parties. The decision is based only on the evidence gathered in the case.
The decision consists of an introduction, operative part, descriptive part and statement of reasons. With the operative part of the decision, the labour dispute committee clearly and unequivocally resolves the claims and pending applications. The descriptive part of the decision shall set out, in a logical order, the claims made and the allegations, objections and evidence submitted in relation to them. The statement of reasons of the decision shall state the facts established and the conclusions drawn, as well as the evidence on which the conclusions of the labour dispute committee are based. The reasoning of the decision must be based on the provisions of the law applied by the labour dispute committee. The labour dispute committee shall analyse all relevant evidence in the decision.
No unauthorized persons are present at the decision of the labour dispute committee. The decision shall be notified to the parties within ten working days after the session.
Once a decision has been taken and notified, the Commission cannot, as a general rule, revoke or amend it. Revocation is possible before the decision enters into force in a situation where a compromise is reached between the parties in the same matter and the chairman of the labour dispute committee confirms it by a regulation. With the consent of the other party, the application may be withdrawn until the decision of the labour dispute committee enters into force.
Only clerical and calculation errors and obvious inaccuracies that do not affect the content of the decision can be corrected in the decision of the Labour Disputes Committee.
The decision of the labour dispute committee enters into force if the employee or the employer has not submitted an action to the county court to contest the decision within one month after receipt of the decision.
In order for a bailiff to be able to enforce a decision, the decision must have an entry into force. In order to add entry marks to the decision, an application must be submitted to the labour dispute committee that made the decision. The application can be sent in writing by post or electronically, the contacts of labour dispute can be found on the website here.
After receiving the application, the secretary of labour dispute committee makes an enquiry to the county court to determine whether the parties have turned to the court in this dispute. It may take some time to get an answer from the court. If it is established that the decision has been challenged in court, the entry into force shall not be annexed to the decision and the applicant shall be notified thereof in writing. An entry into force mark shall be added to the decision only if it is established that the decision has not been challenged in court.