Labor Disputes in Thailand

Labor disputes often arise when an employee feels he or she has been treated unfairly. These disputes can be costly for both the employer and the worker.

Many workers are reluctant to use state-based complaint mechanisms due to distrust of government agencies and fears of deportation. Regular consultation with local legal experts can help organizations reduce their risk of labor disputes.

Dispute Resolution

In order to ensure that the rights of workers are protected, companies operating in Thailand must be well-versed in the country’s labor laws. Having access to the right resources and support is essential as any missteps could lead to legal penalties or damage an organization’s reputation.

The first step in dispute resolution is to follow a company’s grievance procedure, which involves dialogue between employees and potentially their supervisors or HR departments. If the grievance process is not successful, mediation by a representative of the Ministry of Labor can be requested.

Mediation can be carried out out-of-court or as a pre-litigation dispute mediation. The parties may choose a single arbitrator or, if they do not agree, the Thai arbitration institute will designate a panel of three arbitrators. In some cases, the tribunal may hear evidence and decide on procedural matters without the disputing parties being present. The arbitrator or tribunal will then make a final ruling.


The ministry and its affiliated departments have extensive online resources to provide employees and employers with information and advice. Attorneys specializing in labor law can provide representation to workers, ensuring that their rights are protected and that they understand their obligations under Thai law.

Labor-related grievances can be resolved through mediation or conciliation. During the conciliation process, disputing parties meet with a trained conciliator to discuss their disputes and find solutions. This is an out-of-court dispute resolution procedure that can be conducted before a lawsuit is filed or even during the course of litigation.

In Thailand, unions are legal associations of employees that exercise their rights and duties to demand better employment conditions. However, the 1975 Labor Relations Act stipulates that at least ten workers in the same enterprise are needed to form a union. This has prevented most of the country’s workers from forming unions. In addition, union leaders must overcome anti-union discrimination and a paternalistic regime to achieve their goals.


In certain industries where the employer’s business model involves the movement of employees between countries, such as banking and finance, the complexities of local employment laws and compliance issues can add to the challenges of resolving labor disputes.

The procedure for arbitration in labor cases starts with the parties agreeing on a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator will then schedule a meeting with the disputing parties to establish a timeline for the proceedings, decide on evidence and procedural matters and officially designate the tribunal.

However, many workers who have a grievance against their employer are unaware of how to report their case and do not know where they can get help. In some cases, these workers accept a settlement with the company without having sufficient legal knowledge or expertise to understand whether the terms are fair. As a result, they may risk losing their employment.


For employers with a presence in the country, it is critical to understand and align with Thailand’s labor laws. Non-compliance can lead to legal penalties and a reputational impact on the business. For this reason, many retain specialized attorneys for regular consultation.

The Ministry of Labor and its affiliated departments provide extensive online resources, including FAQs, updates on labor laws, and downloadable forms. Moreover, these agencies are responsible for framing and enforcing state-based complaint mechanisms against labor exploitation.

However, it is important to note that these mechanisms may be problematic when addressing grievances by migrant workers. For example, a representative of an international organization noted that the MoL instructs companies employing large numbers of migrants to promote labor welfare committees as a means of worker representation, but that these committees are not always effective and can undermine legitimate worker representation models. Nonetheless, the legal system of arbitration is often preferable to litigation in the courtroom when it comes to resolving disputes and redressing violations.

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