Polish labour law

polish labour law

Have you ever had to do with Polish labour law? Probably not but since there are many US and UK based companies opening their branch offices or operating in Poland there is a chance you may soon have to deal with it, either as an employer representative or an employee.

Polish labour code

If that is the case, the first and foremost piece of legislation that you need to look into is the Polish labour code.

The Polish labour code will tell you:

  • how to conclude an employment contract and how to terminate it,
  • how to manage wages,
  • what are employee and employer statutory duties,
  • how you can prevent employee competitive activity via non compete agreements,
  • when the employee is liable for damage or loss caused to you,
  • what you need to know about work time, leaves and parents’ rights,
  • whether you can employ a minor,
  • what safe and healthy measures you need to take in your workplace,
  • how to go about union agreements (barganing agreements),
  • when you may be charged with an offence against an employee.

Collective dismissals and trade unions

For more detailed issues you may need to look into specific pieces of legislation. For example, if you require information on mass layoffs, you will have to get familiar with the Collective Dismissals Act. If you are concerned with trade unions and their rights, the right act for you would the Trade Unions Act. There are many more. Some professions have their own acts to govern their particular emloyment contracts and rights.

Full-time vs. part-time work

full time or part time

Full-time or part-time work?

Employees may work on a full-time or a part-time basis, whichever is agreed with the employer. There are no particular restrictions in this respect. The choice of the working time scheme is left to the parties to the employment contract.

However, full-time or part-time employment affects mutual rights and obligation of the employee and the employer.

No discrimination

First, it is forbidden to discriminate part-time employees or favour full-time employees with respect to entering into or termination the employment contract, employment terms, promotion or access to professional training. Second, employers are required to inform their employees about opportunities of full-time or part-time employment.

Impact on overtime and vacation leave

Third, part-time employment affects the rules of overtime and paid vacation leave. The amount of vacation leave of a part-time employee should be calculated in proportion to that employee’s working time, with fractions being rounded up to a full day of leave. Further, a part-time employee working longer than stated in their employment contract will not be considered as working overtime provided that the 8-hour-per-day limit has not been exceeded. In this case the employment contract can indicate the number of hours above the contractual working time, exceeding of which earns the part-time employee the right to overtime premium. If it does not, the employee will not be entitled to overtime premium, even though they worked longer than provided in the contract (as long as working time did not exceed 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week).

How much time do you work in Poland?

working time in Poland

I guess every labour law legislation has a chapter dedicated to working time. So does Polish Labour Code.

Five-day workweek

The standard working time scheme is based on five working days in a week. Every week has seven days so two of them are free. First, it’s Sunday because it counts as a holiday/day off work by statute (with some exceptions, of course). Second, in planning the working time, the employer must provide for an additional day off work. It can be any day from Monday to Saturday. Usually it’s Saturday, though.

Standard working time

The standard working time in a five-day work week is maximum 8 hours a day and, on average, 40 hours a week, within a clearing period not exceeding 4 months, as adopted by a particular employer. This means that the number of working hours may be more or less than 40 in a particular week, but altogether during the clearing period the average weekly working time may not exceed 40 hours.

The number of hours worked in a week, including overtime, may not exceed, on average,  48 hours during a clearing period adopted by a particular employer. Apart from the standard working time scheme, the Labour Code allows for several additional schemes the aim of which is to make working time schedules more flexible. For example, the employee may apply to the employer for an individual working time schedule or a shortened working week. In a shortened work week system the employee works less then 5 days a week, but longer than 8 hours (though no longer than 12 hours) a day, within a clearing period not exceeding 1 month.

Rest breaks

Employees are entitled to daily and weekly rest breaks.

Daily rest breaks last no less than 11 hours.

Weekly rest breaks last for a continuous time of 35 hours, including at least 11 hours of continuous rest in 24 hours. As a rule, weekly rest breaks should cover Sunday.

Employees whose daily working time amounts to at least 6 hours are entitled to a rest break of 15 minutes, which counts as working time.

Employers have the option to introduce an additional break of up to one hour per day, not counting as working time, for employees to have meals or deal with personal matters during work. Such breaks may be provided only via a collective labour agreement, internal working by-laws or the employment contract.

Employees working with computer displays are entitled to a 5-minute break every hour of work. The break counts as working time.

What kind of working time scheme are most common in your country? Drop me a work in the comments!

Work at night – are there any special rules?

work at night

Nightime and nightworkers

There are a number of businesses where night work is necessary: hospitals, transport, factories, shift work. Do night workers have any special rights to reward them for the shortcomings of night work? Theoretically, yes, if they fall into the legal category of a night worker.

The Labour Code defines the night worker (or, to be exact, an employee working at night) as one who works at least 3 hours during night time or 1/4 of whose working time is covered by night time.

Night time is also defined in the Labour Code. Night time is a time span between 9 PM and 7 AM the following day. Within that time-span, the employer should set out in their internal regulations the particular starting and ending hours of night time, no longer than 8 hours, e.g. from 9 PM to 5 AM. For assignments requiring psychical or intellectual effort or for particularly dangerous tasks the working time during the night may not exceed 8 hours per day.

Additional pay for nightworkers

Employees working at night are entitled to an additional pay premium for each hour of night work in the amount of 20 percent of the hourly rate calculated from the statutory minimum wages (in 2020: 2.600 PLN). Not very encouraging financially, don’t you think? The employer’s internal regulations may provide for a higher night work premium, and they often do. Financial incentive is a important motivation factor here.

As night work is considered burdensome (no doubt about that!), there are certain groups of employees who are prevented from working at night. These are pregnant women and minors. Employees taking care of children up to 4 years of age have the option to agree or refuse to work at night.

Work on Sundays and national holidays in Poland

work on Sunday

Can you work on Sundays and Polish national holidays?

Generally speaking, no. There are some exceptions, like for example search and rescue actions, restaurants, hotels, transportation, hospitals. A shop owner cannot require an employee to work on Sundays or national holidays (again with some particular exceptions). Shopping malls are kept closed, but cinemas, restaurants and cafes are open.

National holidays in Poland are determined in a statute. There are 13 days counted as national holidays in a year, which is actually much more than in many European countries.  Just as many Polish employees work overtime, they also love time off during holidays.

An employee who works under a particular working time schedule, referred to as the weekend working time schedule, may also work on Sundays and national holidays. Such an employee may work as long as 12 hours a day (i.e. 4 hours longer than the standard working time scheme).

A day off in lieu

Work on Sundays and national holidays is rewarded primarily by a day off in lieu. When this is not possible, an employee is entitled to an additional pay premium in the same amount as for overtime work.

An employee working on Sundays on a regular basis should have a Sunday off once in every 4 weeks.

Compensation for overtime work

compensation for overtime work

Polish labor legislation provides for two options of compensating overtime work.

Statutory pay premium

Overtime work may be compensated by way of a statutory pay premium. The premium adds to the employee’s regular wages. The premium is:

  • 100% of the employee’s wages (based on the individual hourly or monthly rate) for overtime work performed at night and on Sundays and holidays which are not working days for the particular employee,
  • 50% for overtime work performed at other times.

Time off in lieu

Overtime work may be compensated by providing time off in exchange. Here there are two further options. When the employee requests time off in lieu, the employer may provide it (but does not have to) in the same amount of hours as have been worked overtime. In the absence of the employee’s request, the employer may grant the employee time off of their own accord, but in this case the amount of time off in lieu must be 50% greater than the number of hours worked overtime.

Employees who have received time off in exchange for overtime work are not entitled to statutory pay premium.

Special rules for managers and head of departments and lump-sum payments

In relation to employees holding particular positions different principles of compensating overtime work may apply. For example, managers and heads of departments are expected to perform work also outside regular working hours without the right to compensation for overtime work (with a small exception related to work on Sundays and holidays, which was not rewarded by a day off).

In relation to employees who work outside the office on a regular basis wages and the statutory pay premium for overtime work may be replaced by a lump-sum payment, which needs to be calculated in such a way as to reflect the number of overtime hours worked.

Calculating compensation for overtime hours is not an easy task, especially because you need to take into consideration work performed in excess of 8 hours a day as well as in excess of weekly working time, which is cleared in periods of several months. You must be careful not to calculate compensation for the same overtime work twice, which may happen if daily overtime work translates into exceeding weekly working hours over in a clearing period.