Employment & labor law

Poland implements work-life balance directives

Major changes to the Labor Code in Poland are coming, which are caused by the need to introduce into Polish law two EU directives issued in June 2019. These are directives of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union regarding transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union and work-life balance for parents and guardians. These directives will entail significant changes to the Labor Code and will bring a lot of benefits to employees, and they will add new responsibilities to employers. The directives were to be introduced into Polish law in August 2022, however, work on the changes is still ongoing. Currently, the changes are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2023.

Employee-friendly changes

Amendments to the Labor Code will affect, in particular, employees who are parents or guardians of children. The amendment is to give them more opportunities to balance work and family life. The changes, in line with the directives, are also aimed at achieving equality between women and men on the labor market. Therefore, in the Labor Code, we can expect changes for example in parental leave. At the same time, employment conditions are to be improved, providing employees with greater flexibility at work.

New leaves for employees

After the changes we can expect two new leaves for employees. The first is force majeure leave. It is a 2-day or 16-hour leave, which the employee will be able to use once a year to deal with urgent family matters caused by illness or accident, in which the presence of the employee is necessary. A request for such leave may be submitted no later than on the day of taking such leave. During the leave, the employee will be entitled to half of his usual remuneration.

There will also be a new carer’s leave. This leave can last up to 5 days a year, but the employee will not be entitled to remuneration while taking it. This leave will be available to employees who will have to provide care to a family member or a person living together with the employee. In the leave application, the employee will need to indicate the reasons why the person requires care and to indicate the degree of kinship (or residence address in the case of non-family members).

Following the amendment of the regulations, the amount of parental leave will increase. This leave will be 41 weeks in the case of one birth and 43 weeks in the case of multiple births. As part of this leave, each parent will have the exclusive right to 9 weeks of parental leave and this part cannot be transferred to the other parent.

The improvement of working conditions

Labor law specialists from our law firm emphasize that the latest changes to the Labor Code in Poland are not only about improving the situation of parents. The new law will also bring about a number of other changes in terms of employment conditions. There will be a possibility of flexible organization of working time, there will be additional breaks in the performance of work, and remote work will also be better regulated. Employees will also gain new rights towards the employer.

The adaptation of Polish law to EU directives is to provide employees with more transparent working conditions and greater flexibility in the performance of work. Therefore, after the changes, we can expect new rights for employees and more obligations for employers. The changes will include, among others, provisions on contracts for a trial period, fixed-term contracts, as well as rules on working time.

More flexibility for employees

One of the main objectives of the amendment is to provide employees with greater flexibility. The changes will enable employees to submit an application to the employer for flexible work organization. This right will apply to employees taking care of children up to 8 years old. The application may be submitted to the employer in paper or electronic form, at least 14 days before the planned start of flexible working time organization – the employer will have to respond within 7 days. This work will be possible in various forms – including remote work, shortened working time, interrupted working time, weekend working time or individual working time.

A definition of remote work will be introduced to the law, and thus – there will also be new regulations regarding the obligations of the employer when the employee works remotely, health and safety issues or the method of controlling remote work. There will also be the possibility of occasional remote work (up to 24 days a year), as well as hybrid work.

The changes are also to introduce additional breaks at work. These breaks will be included in the working time, and their length will depend on the daily working time. If you work for at least 6 hours a day, it should be one 15-minute break, for more than 9 hours – two 15-minute breaks, and for more than 16 hours – three 15-minute breaks.

Changes to trial and fixed-term contracts

Thanks to the amendment, employees hired for a trial period will gain greater certainty and transparency of employment. The length of the trial period will be from 1 to 3 months and will depend on the period for which the subsequent employment contract is to be concluded with a given employee. In this way, before concluding a contract for a trial period, the employer will have to inform the employee for what period the next contract will be concluded. The trial period is to be 1 month if the next contract is concluded for a definite period shorter than 6 months, and 2 months if the next contract is concluded for a definite period shorter than 12 months. The possibility of hiring an employee by the same employer again for a trial period will be limited only to other types of work.

There will also be changes in fixed-term contracts. After the changes, the employer, in the event of termination of a fixed-term employment contract, will have to indicate the reason for the termination – as is currently the case with employees employed for an indefinite period. This will ensure greater stability of employment for employees with fixed-term contracts.

Initiative on the side of the employee

Along with the changes, employees will also have the option of submitting an application to the employer to change the form of employment. This right will be available to employees working with a given employer for at least 6 months and may be used once a calendar year. The employee will be able to submit an application to the employer to change the type of employment contract (e.g. from a fixed-term employment contract to an indefinite-term contract) or to change the working conditions to more stable and predictable (e.g. change to work time full-time). The employer will be obliged to reply to the employee within one month of submitting the application. If possible, the employer should grant the application. Otherwise, he will be required to state the reasons for the refusal.

Lawyers from the labor law department of our law firm in Poland emphasize that the changes described above are only the most important elements of the upcoming amendment. However, there will be many more changes to the Labor Code. Undoubtedly, new challenges await employers after the amendment. Additional rights for employees equal further obligations for the employer. Soon you will learn from us about what exactly awaits employers and how they can prepare for the upcoming changes.

Author team leader DKP Legal Joanna Kowal
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