Employment contract for an indefinite period of time

A contract for an indefinite period of time is one of the most basic and common types of the employment contract in Poland.

A contract of that kind is distinguished by the fact that it does not indicate an exact date by which it is going to last and there are no contractual limitations on its duration.

Important practical aspects to remember about the employment contract for an indefinite period of time:

  • the duration of the contract is not limited in advance;
  • the contract may be terminated by notice by the employee or the employer, but the employer must indicate the reason(s) for termination (the employee has no such duty) and observe several other procedural requirements;
  • for these reasons a contract for an indefinite period of time is considered to provide broader protection from termination and greater stability of employment than other kinds of employment contracts;
  • due to the “default” character of the contract an employment contract without a clause on its duration is likely to be presumed, in light of the Supreme Court’s rulings, a contract for an indefinite period of time.

Employment contract for a trial period

The employment contract for a trial period – as the name suggest – is a contract to try out the employee (or the employer :-))

The contract for a trial period may come before any other type of the employment contract. “It may” means that the parties have an option to go for a trial period at the beginning of their cooperation but they do not have to: there is no statutory obligation to do so and another type of contract can be implemented forthwith, whatever suits the parties.

Important practical aspects of a trial period employment contract to remember:

  • the length of the trial period may be determined freely by the parties (in days, weeks or months), irrespective of the kind of work, position or other, provided that it is kept within the statutory limit of 3 months – that limit may not be extended even if both parties agree;
  • pursuant to a Supreme Court ruling, an employment contract for a trial period exceeding 3 months may be considered, upon lapse of 3 months, a contract concluded for a definite period of time;
  • the employment contract for a trial period may be concluded only once with the same employee;
  • the employer is not duty bound to continue employment with the employee whose trial period has come to an end, even if the employee’s performance was satisfactory;
  • the employment contract for a trial period may be terminated by notice, duration of which depends on the length of the trial period.

Are trial employment contracts practised in your home countries? Please drop a few words on that.

Types of the employment contract

Under Polish Labour Code several types of the employment contracts are available. They are:

  • a contract for a trial period;
  • a contract for an indefinite period of time;
  • a contract for a fixed period of time;
  • a contract for a period to perform a specific task;
  • a replacement contract.

Generally, the employer and the employee are free to choose the type of the employment contract to govern their mutual relationship (subject to certain statutory limitations, e.g. a contract for a trial period may be concluded only once with the same employee; a replacement contract is essentially concluded for a period covering another employee’s justified absence from work). However, on entering into the employment contract the parties need to bear in mind that the type of their choice may determine the procedure for terminating employment as well as influence their mutual rights and obligations.

Employment contract – formation

Traditionally, under the Labour Code the employment contract is formed by concluding a relevant agreement in writing by the employee and the employer. However, failure to stick to the written form does not nullify the employment contract and does not prevent it from being formed. Oral stipulations exchanged by the parties are valid, effective and binding and lead to formation of the employment contract. Also, the mere fact of entrusting the employee (without written backing documents) with a certain kind of work may give rise to the employment contract.

Because the absence of the written employment contract aggravates the employee’s position, in such an event the Labour Code requires the employer to confirm to the employee, at the latest on the day of commencing work, the mutual arrangements on:

  • the parties to the employment contract;
  • the kind of the employment contract and
  • the conditions of the employment contract.

The employer’s failure to provide the written confirmation is an offence punishable by a fine of 1.000 PLN 30.000 PLN.

The employment contract should at least indicate the following details:

  • the parties;
  • the kind of the employment contract (i.e. whether it is a fixed term contract or a contract for an indefinite period of time);
  • date of signing;
  • the kind of work to be done (e.g. by indicating a position or a job description);
  • salary plus additional pay components (e.g. bonuses, commission, etc.);
  • working time;
  • the day of commencing work (which need not be the same the date of signing of the employment contract – it may be later).

Apart from that, the employment contract may include other clauses which are material to the parties, e.g.:

  • on covenants not to compete;
  • on employee trainings to be financed by the employer;
  • on the confidentiality  obligation;
  • on employment-related employee benefits (e.g. company car or mobile).

The employment contract with Polish nationals should essentially be drawn up in Polish although also a bilingual version is permitted, provided that the Polish language is the prevailing one. Employees other than Polish nationals may ask for a version in a language they have command of.

Employment law in Poland – legal framework

Polish employment law legislation is based on the 1997 Constitution, which provides for a number of labour rights and guarantees, inter alia:

  • equal treatment in employment relationships;
  • freedom of employment and free choice of profession;
  • right to safe working conditions;
  • right to time off work and paid leave;
  • right to social security benefits in specific situations;
  • freedom to establish trade unions and employer organizations.

These fundamental rights and guarantees are further elaborated on in the 1975 Labour Code, which constitutes the major piece of Polish employment law legislation. The Labour Code governs the most vital issues with respect to the employer-employee relationships, including:

  • formation and dissolution of the employment contract, as well as relevant claims;
  • salary and other employment-related payments;
  • mutual duties of the employer and the employee;
  • covenants not to compete;
  • employee liability for loss inflicted on the employer;
  • working time;
  • annual leave;
  • parents’ rights;
  • employment of minors;
  • health and safety at work;
  • collective labour agreements;
  • offences against employee rights.

However, the Labour Code does not provide for exhaustive coverage of all employment-related issues. Some more detailed problems come in separate pieces of legislation, like specific acts of law (e.g. collective dismissals, collective bargaining) or statutory instruments (e.g. health and safety at work, protection of women and minors).

Polish employment law is also greatly influenced by the Supreme Court’s rulings (though officially they do not form a part of law), the EU legislation and judgments of the European Court of Justice as well as international treaties under the International Labour Organization.