The answer is: YES, the employee may terminate the employment contract without notice, provided that the employer, as the Labour Code says, grossly violates his or her basic duties with regard to the employee.

The key issue for the employee is then what situations are caught by gross violation in question.

First and foremost, the employer will be considered to grossly violate his or her duties with regard to the employee, when they fail to pay wages on time intentionally or negligently so that material interests of the employee become threatened or the employee suffers a loss in that respect. These two sets of circumstances – one on the part of the employer, and the other on the part of the employee – must coexist for the employer’s failure to pass the test for “gross violation of his or her duties with regard to the employee”. As a result, in many cases a one-time several day delay in payment of wages, especially when the employee’s salary is considerable, though clearly a violation of the employer’s duties, may not be found gross. It will then not adequately justify termination of the employment contract without notice.

If termination of the employment contract is justified, the employee may claim damages:

  • equal to wages due for the applicable notice period – with regard to employment contracts for indefinite time;
  • equal to two weeks’ wages – with regard to employment contracts for definite time.

However, there is a trap for the employee if the termination without notice is found unjustified, i.e. when the employer’s conduct is not qualified as gross violation of basic duties with regard to the employee. In such a case it is the employer that may claim damages, in the same amounts as above.

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Irrespective of the kind of the employment contract, if it was terminated without notice in an unfair or unlawful manner, the employee may file for:

  • reinstatement to his or her previous position or
  • damages.

The choice of the remedy to make use of belongs to the employee.

The amount of damages depends on the kind of the employment contract:

  • if an employment contract for indefinite time was terminated without notice, the damages equal, as a rule, to the employee’s wages for the applicable notice period;
  • if an employment contract for definite time was terminated without notice, the damages equal, as a rule, to the employee’s wages for the time, until which the terminated employment contract was supposed to last, though for no longer then 3 months.

The court may award damages even if the employee demanded otherwise if it is found that, despite the termination being unfair or unlawful, it would be impossible or purposeless to continue employment.

Specifically in relation to employment contracts for definite time, sometimes the employee may be entitled to damages only. This restriction applies in situations where the period for which the employment contract was supposed to remain in force has already lapsed or where the period in question is so short that reinstatement seems inexpedient judging by the facts of the case.

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In certain cases the employer is empowered to terminate the employment contract with immediate effect even without the employee’s fault. Grounds for such termination are connected to the employee’s long-lasting absence.

First, the employment contract may be terminated if the employee’s incapacity to work due to illness:

  • is longer than 3 months – with regard to employees whose length of employment with a particular employer is shorter than 6 months,
  • is longer than the period covered by sick pay and sickness benefits (i.e. 182 days) and the first 3 months covered by the rehabilitation benefit – with regard to employees whose length of employment with a particular employer is at least 6 months or whose incapacity to work was caused by an accident at work or an occupational disease (irrespective of the length of employment).

Second, the employer may terminate the employment contract without notice if the period of the employee’s justified absence at work for reasons other than illness exceeds 1 month.

Termination is prohibited after the employee has returned to work because the reason for absence ceased to exist.

Moreover, subject to the employer’s situation, the employee dismissed on grounds discussed above should be re-employed if, within 6 months of termination, they report ready to return to work immediately after the grounds for termination have ceased to exist.

As in other cases of termination, the employer’s statement to that effect must be made in writing and provide the reason for termination.

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All employment contracts without exception may be terminated without notice (i.e. with immediate effect) by the employer due to the employee’s fault, provided that statutory grounds for such termination exist.

Statutory  grounds in question include:

  • serious violation of  basic employee duties (e.g. providing false documents to the employer; drinking alcohol at work; assaulting a fellow employee at work),
  • committing such an offence during the period of the employment contract that it is impossible to continue employment, provided that the offence is obvious or has been confirmed by a valid court judgment (e.g. theft of money by an employee of a bank or an accounting department),
  • loss, due to the employee’s own fault, of statutory licence or permit, required to work in a particular position.

It is important to note that this is an exhaustive list of statutory grounds which may trigger justified termination without notice due to the employee’s fault. The employee must not be dismissed with immediate effect in other circumstances, in particular the employer has no power to determine other than statutory grounds for termination without notice and it is illegal for the employer to reserve such rights e.g. in the employment contract. Employees dismissed with immediate effect for reasons other than listed above may bring an action against the employer.

Termination without notice due to the employee’s fault is restricted in time: the employer may dismiss the employee only within a month of the date when the employer has found or learnt of the grounds justifying termination. After that period the employer loses the right to terminate the employment contract based on the particular reason he or she wanted to use.

The employer’s statement on termination without notice due to the employee’s fault must be made in writing and provide the reason for termination.

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In contrast to the employment contract for indefinite time, termination of the employment contract for definite time may only be challenged at court if it was unlawful, i.e. violated statutory provisions related to termination. From the legal standpoint, there is no such thing as an unfair termination of the employment contract for definite time because when you terminate a contract of that kind by notice you don’t need to give a justifying reason.

This affects the scope of remedies available to an employee whose employment contract was definite time was terminated. Namely, reinstatement to the previous position is, as a rule, excluded and the employee may only claim damages.

The amount of damages which may be awarded by the court will be equal to the employee’s wages for the time, until which the terminated employment contract was supposed to last, though for no longer then 3 months.

Again, a court dispute initiated by the employee may be resolved by means of a settlement, the subject-matter of which may vary, depending on the parties’ mutual arrangements, e.g. it may provide for a different amount of damages or a different manner of termination of employment.

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