Labor disputes can arise from a variety of reasons, including issues with working hours, overtime payments and relocations. Additional complexities arise when dealing with foreign employment laws and compliance issues.
Key inspection frameworks in Thailand do not adequately address all indicators of exploitation, such as deception regarding key terms of employment; retention of identity documents; recruitment linked to debt; and wage withholding.
Mediation and Conciliation
Labor disputes involving wage claims, hours of work and overtime payment, relocation of the workplace and other issues can be very complicated and expensive to resolve. Understanding the existing legal mechanisms in Thailand can help human resource and compliance staff mitigate risks and avoid lengthy litigation.
In an effort to reduce court case backlogs, the Thai judicial system encourages parties to use alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation and conciliation. These include court-supervised pre-litigation mediation, which can be conducted while a case is still pending in court.
Mediation involves the disputing parties sitting down with a neutral third party who can understand each side’s viewpoint and help them identify common interests. This can allow them to reach a compromise agreement that is mutually satisfactory rather than one imposed by the courts. Both conciliation and mediation are voluntary. If negotiations or mediation fail, the dispute will be referred to arbitration by a committee established by the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare officials.
When a dispute cannot be resolved through conciliation or mediation, parties may submit the issue to arbitration. Under the Arbitration Act of 2002, the courts will conduct a trial of evidence and question both sides, as well as make a ruling on the case. Arbitral awards are binding unless challenged and can only be set aside on very limited grounds.
Employers with migrant workers must be aware of the legal mechanisms for handling labor disputes that may arise in their operations. Understanding these will allow human resource and compliance staff to meet high moral standards and provide fair treatment to employees, thus reducing the potential for costly disputes.
The laws of Thailand provide safeguards for companies to minimize the risks associated with changing conditions of employment. Understanding these laws will support corporate compliance and human resources staff in navigating the complexities of the Thai labour law landscape. This will ensure a productive, stable and enjoyable work environment for all employees.
If the conciliation process fails or the parties are unable to reach an agreement on a compromise, a labor case can proceed with court trial. The law requires that the judge in a trial hears evidence from both sides and make a fair decision. The court will weigh many factors including the working condition, cost of living and level of wages, employee’s hardship, rights and benefits of the employees, status of the employer’s business and economic and social conditions.
In order to form a quorum for adjudication, at least two career judges and one associate judge must be present. After all the evidence is presented, the labor court will declare its judgment within three days from that date.
The court may also decide to transfer the case to other labor courts when it deems appropriate for the sake of justice and fairness. In addition, the court will issue a summons to the defendant on whom it has been served without delay and set forth the time and place of hearing.
In certain cases, labor disputes can be elevated into criminal matters. This occurs where the dispute is accompanied by fraud or where an employee accuses the employer of committing a serious offence in relation to his/her employment relationship.
The central court in Thailand is the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, which hears civil and criminal cases involving intellectual property and international trade for all of Thailand. This court is comprised of career judges and associate judges, separately recruited laymen, who are knowledgeable in intellectual property and international trade.
Moreover, there are also alternative dispute resolution mechanisms available under Thai law to help companies address grievances raised by their employees. These channels are effective for improving remediation outcomes and reducing costs associated with litigation. In addition, these processes are often faster and more predictable than a court trial. This is especially the case in a country like Thailand, which is a civil law jurisdiction.