Labour Dispute Resolution Act is in effect since 1 January 2018. Labour Dispute Committes will resolve disputes according to this act. All disputes that were filed in before will be resolved based on the earlier Individual Labour Dispute Act.
Filling of an Application with a Labour Dispute Committee
Labour disputes are resolved by labour dispute committees of the corresponding region of the Labour Inspectorate. A written application is submitted to the Labour Dispute Committee of the employee’s place of business.
If the workplace is in a foreign country or covers several districts, the application is submitted to the Labour Dispute Committee of the employer’s legal address
The amended Individual Labour Dispute Resolution Act brings along considerable changes to the work of the labour dispute committee. The amendments aim to contemporize the rules of settling labour disputes in order to comply with society’s expectations; however, the aim is slightly contradictory in essence. On the one hand, more specific rules are required for the more effective protection of persons’ rights and it inevitably complicates the dispute resolution rules. On the other hand, there is a desire to guarantee a continually simple, fast, and cheap resolution of labour disputes in Estonia.
Several proposals were submitted during the amendment procedure – among other, it was suggested to combine the extrajudicial labour dispute resolution system into the court of first instance. The legislator decided to keep the labour dispute committees by the Labour Inspectorate, but updated their competence and rules of procedure.
On July 14th, the amendments to the Individual Labour Dispute Resolution Act, which regulate the evaluation of the suitability of the chairman to a labour dispute committee, took effect. In the future, suitability to the position shall be evaluated once in three years.
Application submitted to the labour dispute committee of the Labour Inspectorate
For an overview of the most important amendments to the Act, taking effect from January 1st, 2018, see below.
The competence of labour dispute committees is clarified
The committees accept the solving of disputes emanating from the employment relationship, disputes arising during the employment relationship preparatory phase, and disputes related to the employment relationship between a worker posted to Estonia on certain conditions and their employer.
This means that the committee comes increasingly more into contact with foreign law. It is also explicitly stated that requirements emanating from the collective agreement can be solved at the labour dispute committee, enabling the employees to collectively turn to the committee when a labour dispute arises.
As a clearly stated exception, the amended Act foresees that the labour dispute committee shall not handle disputes that involve damage caused by a personal injury, bodily injury, or death, inflicted by an occupational accident or an occupational disease.
Employees and employers are now at greater liberty to decide which regional labour dispute committee to submit the application to
In addition to the fact that the parties of the labour dispute can agree to solve the labour dispute wherever in Estonia they find suitable, the applicant is free choose between several alternative locations should a corresponding agreement not be reached. For example, the employee can choose the labour dispute committee according to their place of residence, workplace, and the employer according to their place of activity or residence.
Currently, the committee does not solve monetary claims that exceed 10,000 euros
An apparent change is that the monetary limit of accepted applications will be lost.
The labour dispute committees shall begin to offer a new type of service – conciliation proceedings
In the case of the conciliation proceedings, the chairman of the labour dispute committee shall act as the sole conciliator, who proceeds with the purpose of concluding a conciliation agreement. Conciliation proceedings enable to reach a solution in the simplified manner and the conciliation results will remain disclosed. When deciding for the conciliation proceedings, the future possibilities to continue the same labour dispute should be taken into account.
In addition to the conciliation proceedings, the possibility to end the labour dispute with a compromise is also a warmly welcome addition
Note that a compromise is possible not only until the labour dispute committee reaches a decision, but until this decision takes effect. The chairman of the labour dispute committee confirms the decision with a decree which ends the labour dispute proceedings. Note that certain limitations apply on the compromise content, for example, the compromise must be executable. The compromise is not contestable like ordinary decisions made by the labour dispute committee.
Written proceedings of a monetary claim
One important change affecting the flow of the labour dispute proceedings is the written proceedings of monetary claims. Most labour disputes involve monetary claims. As established before, labour disputes must always be addressed and solved in the presence of both dispute parties. The chairman of the labour dispute committee will soon be entitled to handle, solely and at their own initiative, all monetary claim applications in writing – for example, review claims related to unpaid salaries or final settlements. It is allowed only if the total claim does not exceed 6,400 euros, the chairman thinks that the personal presence of the dispute parties is not necessary, and if the parties agree with the written proceedings. When submitting a claim to the labour dispute committee, the applicant should indicate whether they agree with written proceedings, or would like the issue to be discussed in a meeting.
On certain conditions, labour dispute applications may be united into one proceedings
This is allowed if the claims are legally tied, or if these applications could have been submitted within one proceedings, and if their joint handling enables to solve them faster, or simplifies it. It is also possible to differentiate between the claims in one application.
The evidence subject-matter is to be handled in-depth, similarly to the rules applying for civil proceedings
For the labour dispute committee, an evidence could be either a witness testimony, a documentary evidence, material proof, or inspection. The Act emanates from the adversary principle prescribing that both parties must evidence those circumstances that their claims and objections are based on. The shared obligation to provide evidence shall remain in force when it comes to the discrimination proceedings. Providing evidence is not necessary for such circumstances that are considered to be common knowledge, and if the opposite party accepts the factual claim.
With some exceptions, application review period extended from the former one month to 45 days
In addition to more strict qualification requirements on the chairman, requirements now also apply on the committee members. For instance, the member must reside in Estonia, understand Estonian language at least on the B2-level, and possess ethical qualities suitable for the committee member.
Participation of committee members to decrease in the future as the exclusive competence of the chairman increases
Currently, the chairman may handle the matter alone only if the person against whom a claim has been filed admits it to the full extent. In the future, members do not have to be included in the committee’s proceedings for witnessing the admitting of all claims filed against a person, for affirming a compromise, for holding conciliation proceedings, and for solving monetary claims in written proceedings.
Rules pertinent to the delivery of documents, including the decision by the labour dispute committee, to be changed
The prerequisite to the decision’s entry into force is that both parties receive the decision. At times, cases occur in which the decision can not be delivered to both parties, which creates a problem for the entry into force. The procedural documents shall be delivered similarly to the documents pertinent to civil proceedings. This enables the labour dispute committee to announce the decision via the Ametlikud Teadaanded publication, should ordinary delivery methods fail.
It has also been specified which procedural acts may be carried out solely by the chairman – for instance, declaring the proceedings closed, stopping the labour dispute proceedings, deciding who shall bear the costs for the proceedings, deciding on the hearing’s schedule, requirements on the evidence and content of the decision reached by the labour dispute committee, etc. The deadline for filing a claim related to employment relationships to the labour dispute committee or court for remains the same.