Labor law is regulated by the Labor Code (LC) of 26 June 1974, as amended. The Code specifies the rights and obligations of employees and employers, and regulates the establishment, content and termination of the employment contract, the rights and duties of the parties to the employment contract, employment benefits, vacations and leaves, protection of employment, employment of women and minors, and settlement of labor disputes. The provisions of the Code apply to all types of employment relations unless special provisions stipulate otherwise. In particular, they apply also to the employment of a Polish citizen abroad in a Polish representative office, mission, etc. and in a foreign representative office conducting its activities on the territory of the Republic of Poland, unless international treaties or agreements provide otherwise.
Trade unions and employer organizations present their opinions on the implementing regulations to the Labor Code as well as on other labor law provisions.
Conclusion of the employment contract
An employee is employed on the basis of an employment contract. The employer is obliged under Article 29 of the LC to confirm the type of the agreement concluded as well as its terms and conditions on the day of the commencement of work by the employee at the latest. While employing a worker the employer has the obligation to define the work place and to inform an employee by a written notice when he/she is to perform his/her work (on what days and within what hours), what is the amount of working time, how many days of paid vacations he/she is entitled to, and how long the period of notice of termination of the employment contract is. Any change of the place of performing work requires the employee’s consent, and in case of a lack of such a consent termination of the employment contract is necessary to change the employment conditions.
The Code does not specify for what type of employment contract should be concluded. The overall regulations indicate, however, that an employment contract is concluded for a trial period (not longer than three months), for a specified period, or for an unspecified period of time, or for a period of time required to perform a specific task. Since 1 May 2004, a provision has been in effect, restricting the employer in case he has concluded with the employee contracts for a specified period of time twice.
Article 25 of the LC provides that in such a case the employer may conclude another (third) contract only for an unspecified period of time, if the period between termination of the previous and the conclusion of a new contract is shorter than one month.
Termination of the employment contract
The Code makes the notice period for the termination of a contract for an unspecified period of time dependent on the duration of the employee’s employment at the enterprise. While terminating a contract, the employer applies a notice period of two weeks when the employee has been employed for less than six months; of one month when the employee has been employed for at least six months, or three months when the employee has been employed for at least three years. The same notice periods are binding for the employee.
In the event that the employment contract is terminated for reasons attributable to the employer, the employer has the right
to unilaterally shorten the three-month notice period (to a minimum of one month) with the obligation to pay the employee remuneration for the remaining part of the notice period plus compensation for a loss of employment. Regulations concerning termination of an employment contract without a notice are also in place. Article 52 of the Labor Code allows the employer to judge independently whether an employee has committed an offence that is “a serious violation by the employee of basic employee duties”.
The employee has the right to terminate the contract without notice (Article 55 (1) of the LC) if the employer is guilty of “a serious violation of duties”. In the event that the contract is terminated under this procedure, the employee has the right to obtain compensation equaling the remuneration due for the notice period. If, however, the termination is for a reason that has not been properly justified, the employer may seek compensation from the employee for the damage thus sustained in a labor court.
Additional obligations for employers result also from the provision of Article 30 of the Labor Code. It specifies that notice periods determined in weeks or months are to end on Saturday or on the last day of the month. Such a general regulation can be favorable for the employee with whom a contract is terminated with a two-week notice period.
The Labor Code stipulates that the termination of a labor contract for an unspecified period of time requires written justification. If a labor dispute is submitted to court, the employer may not refer to other causes of the employee’s dismissal than those indicated in the notice of termination. Labor disputes arising from the employment contract are settled by labor courts.
In employment contracts remuneration is established on a time-period basis, in a piecework system, time-period plus premium basis and in a mixed system. Where remuneration is reduced, a notice of change of employment terms and conditions is necessary, whereas any rise of remuneration requires written confirmation. Detailed obligations of the employer and the employee may be established in the rules of work which may not, however, provide for working conditions for the employee worse than those stipulated by the Labor Code.
Apart from cases specified in special provisions, the statutory working time must not exceed eight hours per day and, on average, 40 hours per week in the adopted accounting period. The working time for minors (aged 16 to 18) is shortened. Overtime work should be remunerated additionally. An employee is entitled to a vacation ranging from 20 to 26 working days depending on the length of employment and the post occupied. After each month of employment, an employee becomes entitled to first vacation equivalent to one-twelfth of the total annual vacation period he/she is entitled to after 12 consecutive months of employment. In each subsequent calendar year the employee becomes entitled to subsequent vacation periods. Provisions of the Labor Code exclude free Saturdays from the vacation period.
Protection of working conditions
The aim of the protection of working conditions is to prevent threats to the life and health of the employee that may arise in the course of work. This concerns primarily health and safety at work, special protection of the working conditions of women and minors, and supervision of working conditions (labor inspection
). It is the duty of the employer to create safe and healthy conditions of work. Pregnant women and women bringing up children of up to four years of age as well as minors may not be employed to work at night, in particularly harmful conditions, or perform overtime work. Women are entitled to maternity leave (from 18 to 28 weeks) and extended no remunerated maternity leave for bringing up a child (up to three years). Minors are entitled to shorter working hours.
Supervision of working conditions is performed by the State Labor Inspection established by the Act of 6 March 1989. The institution is responsible for assuring observance by the enterprise of the labor law and, in particular, of regulations concerning health and safety at work.
Social security benefits are paid out in case of illness and maternity. They take the form of a sickness benefit, care benefit, compensatory benefit, childbirth benefit, maternity benefit and funeral benefit. The benefits are paid out by the Social Security Institution (ZUS). It is, however, the employer who covers sick benefits of individual employees for a period of up to 33 days annually. The Social Security Institution is also responsible for paying retirement and disability pensions.
An employer is obliged to pay the following social security contributions both on behalf of the employee and on his own behalf:
• for retirement pension (19.52% of gross remuneration) – one-half paid by the employer and one-half by the employee,
• for disability pension (6%) – 4.5% of it paid by the employer and 1.5% by the employee,
• for sick benefit, including maternity benefit (2.45%) – paid by the employee,
• for accidents – paid by the employer pursuant to the Act of 30 October 2002 on social insurance of accidents at work and of occupational diseases; since 1 January 2003, the amount of the contribution depends on the industry and the number of employees,
• for health care (9%) – paid by the employee; the contribution is calculated based on the gross remuneration minus the contributions listed above (the employee deducts 7.75% from the amount of income tax due and the remaining portion of the contribution is deducted by the employer from net remuneration).
The employer is obliged to pay contribution of 2.45% of the employee’s remuneration to the Labour Fund and further 0.10% to the Guaranteed Employee Benefit Fund. Employers employing more than 25 of staff are obliged (with some exemptions specified in the Act on employment and rehabilitation of the disabled) to make monthly payments to the State Fund for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled. Where the disabled persons account for 6% or more of the total number of employees, the employer is exempt from the above payments. Where the disabled persons represent 7% or more of the total number of employees, the employer is entitled to an income tax relief in the amount depending on the share of the disabled persons in the total staff level, or even to exemption from the income tax.
1. ACT of 26 June 1974 THE LABOUR CODE
2. Terms of employment of employees performing work in the territory of the Republic of Poland