The labor sector is a dynamic segment in the Thai economic structure. As businesses flourished in Thailand, the workforce likewise increased in figures. Inevitable, Thailand and the courts saw an escalation in the number of labor disputes.
The rights of workers in Thailand are covered by several labor legislations, most prominent of which are the Labor Protection Act and the Civil and Commercial Code. The other statutes on labor are the Labor Relations Act, the Provident Fund Act, the Social Security Act and the Workmen's Compensation Act. Foreign Workers in Thailand are likewise covered by the Alien Working Act of 2008.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, via the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare, administers the laws as well as rights with regard to labor issues.
Generally, the above labor laws enumerate the employees' minimum rights such as working hours, compensation, work restrictions, welfare funding, allowable vacation and sick leaves, holidays, workmen securities and privileges. These laws also provide the grounds for the dismissal or termination of employees, as well as the provision of severance compensation for workers. Any violation on the guidelines provided by law is a cause for the worker to file a labor case against his employer. The most common case brought before the labor authorities is illegal dismissal or unlawful termination.
Complaints on illegal dismissal or unlawful termination must be brought by the offended employee first to the Labor Relations Committee. At this early level, the Committee explores the possibility of a peaceful compromise between the employer and the employee. If settlement on the issue is an impossibility and the committee finds probable cause against the offending party, it makes the appropriate recommendation for the filing of a labor lawsuit.
There are instances when a labor dispute can be filed as a criminal suit. Generally, it is the attendance of fraud which elevates a labor case into a criminal case. Also in cases where the Committee renders an Arbitral award and the paying party fails or refuses to pay compensation, the offended party is advised by the Committee to file a criminal case against his opponent.
Reinstatement to resume status quo at the time of dismissal may be ordered by the court upon a determination that the employee was indeed illegally terminated. If the relationship of the employee and the employer has been severely damaged so that reinstatement is no longer possible, the court may simply specify the amount of damages to be paid to the employee.
Factors to be considered in determining the amount of damages include the following: age of the employee, the length of service, the hardship of the employee at the time of dismissal, the cause of the dismissal and the compensation the employee is entitled to receive.
Before, the amount of damages awarded by the courts is restricted to actual damages only. Moral damages caused by emotional and psychological pain is almost unknown in the Thai judicial system. However, recent decisions by the Thai courts have reflected a change in the practice. As long as moral damages can be substantiated by the offended party, such award is considered in favor of the dismissed employee.
While complainants may file their petition or case without the help of a lawyer, having one will have much advantage. Same as in most forums in Thailand, the proceedings are conducted in the native tongue. The expertise of Thai lawyers will likewise assure the litigant that his rights will be fully protected, and all possible claims for compensation are brought to the attention of the Committee or the court.