Labor Disputes in Thailand

Labor disputes are an inevitable aspect of employment relationships. In order to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of workers are protected, both employers and employees must adhere to Thailand’s laws.

Providing access to the appropriate resources and expertise is key for both parties. Failure to comply with Thai law can have serious consequences and damage a company’s reputation.

Misclassification of Employees

In Thailand, companies can face a host of penalties for misclassifying employees. These consequences include legal fees, back wages, and back taxes. Additionally, companies may have to pay liquidated damages, which are additional payments for the intangible harm that results from the misclassification.

In addition to these financial penalties, employers who misclassify employees may face reputational damage and lose business opportunities with clients or partners. Moreover, the misclassification of workers can result in violations of regional labor laws and regulations.

In Thailand, workers are entitled to a number of employee benefits including annual leave, sick days, and severance pay. Additionally, Thai law requires companies to contribute to the Social Security Fund, which provides a safety net for workers in cases of sickness, injury, disability, death, childbirth, and unemployment. In addition, Thai law stipulates that employees must be paid for overtime work. Lastly, workers are permitted up to thirty days of sick leave each year. Additionally, unused holiday leave can be carried over to the next year.

Forced Labor in the Fishing Industry

The junta’s efforts to combat forced labor have largely focused on enhancing the strength of law enforcement bodies and improving the monitoring of working conditions aboard vessels. However, key inspection frameworks remain ill-equipped to address labor abuses in the fishing industry. For example, migrant fishers are required to register for pink cards and have their names matched to crew lists as boats depart and return to port, but officials rarely interview workers or investigate how they were recruited or whether they know where their boat is going. These limitations undermine the effectiveness of government enforcement measures against exploitation and prevent victims from changing employers in search of better terms or working conditions.

Furthermore, despite evidence of widespread exploitation in the fishing industry, officials at key departments do not recognize that the exploitation they observe may constitute trafficking. This failure is a result of the fact that, as currently written, Thai law does not treat forced labor as a stand-alone offense. International producers, buyers, and retailers of Thai seafood should urge the junta to amend the law to provide for appropriate criminal penalties in cases of force labor.

Union Leadership

As in most countries, unions in Thailand lack strong leadership and their members are not able to make full use of their rights. The strength and unity of the labour movement are key factors in determining its ability to represent workers and negotiate on their behalf.

Despite their legal right to form unions, the majority of workers cannot do so because of restrictions in the law (for example, section 89 of the LRA requires at least 10 workers for an enterprise union) and in practice, companies resist allowing unions to operate. Furthermore, local employers often hire security forces to intimidate and harass workers and union leaders.

In a recent case, Sawit Kaewvarn, the president of the State Railway Union of Workers, was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in organising a safety campaign. His conviction will have a chilling effect on the labour movement and threatens to further derail trade talks with the United States, which has already suspended $1.3 billion worth of trade privileges for Thailand.


Due to the backlog of labor lawsuits, the courts have begun encouraging mediation as a way for disputing parties to resolve their dispute. The court can conduct “court-annexed” mediation or the judge can appoint an outside mediator to facilitate conciliation.

Mediation is also an excellent tool for resolving smaller claims, since it can be much less expensive than litigating a case that ultimately results in damages awarded by the court. At DFDL, we can accompany or represent you in negotiations with your employer or other party and help bring about an agreed-upon resolution.

DFDL recently published a guidebook for employers of migrant workers, highlighting the benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and discussing the process of resolving disputes through mediation or conciliation. The guidebook is available for download here. DFDL’s Thailand law firm can provide additional information about legal options for workers in disputes with their employers. Contact us here to schedule a consultation. We are always happy to help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *