Employment Law in Poland

Employment Law in Poland

Polish labour law (Polish Employment law) in its current shape is a result of over 25 years of market economy in Poland. After deep economical changes during the early 90’, it was clear that new legislative changes were necessary. Despite significant changes in labour law for least decades and noticeable closure in that issue to countries with similar socio-economical systems, there is still visible socialist heritage. It appears especially in very weak partnership between workers and representatives of the State or private employers who very seldom treat theirs employees as partners. This situation required consistent continuing the practice and legal tradition in that area, which can bring expected development and labour awareness.

The supreme source of Polish Labour Law is Constitution of 1997. It contains general principles for whole polish legal system, which affected different branches of law. The most significant rules for the labour law set in Constitution are the freedom of creation and functioning of trade unions, and employers associations, the right to conduct collective negotiations in disputes and conclude collective arrangements including collective labour agreements, the right to strike and to other forms of employee protest, the freedom to choose and purse occupation of one’s choice, the right to work or to be employed the right to safe and hygienic conditions of work and the right to free days. All of other sources of Polish Employment Law shall by comply with principles expressed in Constitution.

Polish Labour Law may be divided into two groups: common and autonomous (specific) labour law. Common labour law consist of acts of parliament and decrees as well as international legal acts which are binding and applicable on the whole territory of a country to all subjects of employment relationships. The most specific feature of that branch of law express the primary principle of labour law – the principle of favouring the employee. The enhancement of that principle to the basis of labour law effects with the situation that the legal acts of the lower ranks may not be less favourable to the employee that a statue of higher rank. It is permissible to regulate the same scope of legal area by few different acts, but they have to be vertically consistent with each other, taking into consideration the principle expressed above.

The main source of law in this area is Polish Labour Code of 26 June 1974 consolidated text of 1998. This act regulates individual labour law. Polish Labour Code contains regulations, which are applicable in relations between employer and employee. The issues, which are not raised in Polish Labour Code, are regulated by ordinances and other acts of lower ranks. Ordinances cannot be contrary with the provisions of Polish Employment Code. One of such ordinances is the ordinance that regulates the amount of minimal wage in current year.

Autonomous Polish Labour Law consist of all acts formed by social partners, the normative character of that acts comes from recognition by the State as legal acts. The main acts of that kind are collective labour agreement and external collective labour agreement. The legal system does not impose any limitations on such agreements except one – provisions concluded in such acts cannot be less favourable for employee than provisions of common labour law and have to be consistent with Constitution. The main goal of such agreements is to specify terms and conditions of cooperation between employer and employee in workplace. A collective labour agreement is achieved as a result of negotiations between the parties.

The other lower rank acts are work rules and pay rules. They are defined by employer and singed by employee, its content is agreed upon with trade unions. It should be emphasise that Polish Labour Code impose an obligation of create such acts by employer who employs at least 20 employees who are not covered by any internal collective labour agreements. The work rules provide the rights and duties of employee, the rules of organisation the work place etc. Pay rules express the terms and conditions of remuneration.

Current Polish Employment Law is now separate branch of law. It should be noticed, that the provisions of Polish Civil Code are applicable to legal relationships between employer and employee as long as they are not in conflict with the provisions of Polish Labour Law acts.

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Expert team leader DKP Legal Alicja Myśluk-Landowska
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