Anti-crisis Act
Fixed-term contracts
Regulation of fixed-term contracts


Poland has not avoided the effects of the world economic crisis. To mitigate their impact on employment law, the parties of social dialogue have agreed upon a so-called 'anti-crisis package', including a range of instruments aimed at making employment relationships more flexible.

The package was introduced into the Polish legal system by the Anti-crisis Act of July 1 2009, which aims to alleviate the effects of the economic crisis for employees and employers. The act came into force on August 22 2009 and will continue in force until December 31 2011.

Anti-crisis Act

The act provides for the possibility of introducing longer periods for making settlements of working time (up to 12 months), reducing the working time of employees and subsidising employment as an alternative to collective redundancies.

Remuneration and co-financing
As part of employment subsidies, employers may in particular apply for additional payments towards employees' remuneration and co-financing of their social welfare contributions. However, after nearly two years since enforcement of the act, interest in these forms on the part of employers is low (eg, payments from the Employee Guaranteed Benefits Fund involved just 10,000 employees, yet the number of employed persons in Poland is around 16 million).

Fixed-term contracts
The act introduced provisions aimed at stabilising employment contracts by limiting the application of fixed-term contracts. Unfortunately, the provisions in this respect were worded imprecisely, which gives rise to doubts when applying them. Some of these doubts are set out below.

Limited use
In the Polish legal system, fixed-term contracts are easily terminable, for two reasons in particular:

  • It is not necessary for a reason for termination to be given; and
  • The notice period is only two weeks, whereas in the case of open-ended contracts it can be as much as three months.

In Polish market practice, fixed-term contracts tend to be abused by employers, with some employees employed on such contracts for up to 10 years, as the Labour Code does not specify a maximum term for such contracts. Judicial decisions merely point out that the conclusion of a fixed-term contract should be justified by objective conditions - for example, when an employee is hired in connection with carrying out a task with a specified timeframe.

The Labour Code limits the conclusion of fixed-term contracts only by stating that the conclusion of a subsequent fixed-term employment contract is legally identical to the conclusion of an open-ended employment contract if the parties previously concluded two fixed-term employment contracts for consecutive periods (ie, if it is the third fixed-term contract), and provided that the break between termination of the previous employment contract and conclusion of the subsequent contract does not exceed one month. Under the code, the third fixed-term contract becomes an open-ended contract.

Two-year deadline
Under the act, the duration of a fixed-term employment contract, as well as the duration of subsequent fixed-term employment contracts between the same parties, cannot exceed 24 months. An employment contract is deemed to be a subsequent fixed-term contract if it is concluded before three months have elapsed since termination or expiry of the previous contract concluded for a specified period of time.

The act does not specify the date from which this two-year contract period should be counted - that is, whether it starts from the date of entry into force of the act (ie, August 22 2009) or from the date of conclusion of that contract, even if this took place prior to the entry into force of the act. Most authors agree that this period should be counted from the entry into force of the act, which means that on August 22 2011 Polish employers will be faced with the problem of fixed-term contracts.

The intention was that the act would limit only the maximum period for which fixed-term contracts could be concluded and not the number of fixed-term contracts. However, due to the imprecise provisions of the act, it is unclear whether, during the term of the act, the above-mentioned mechanism of the Labour Code was excluded (ie, that a third fixed-term contract becomes an open-ended contract). The act states only that fixed-term contracts existing on the date of entry into force of the act are not limited by the third-contract rule. As a result, the conclusion of a large number of fixed-term contracts during the term of the act gives rise to doubts as to whether the Labour Code rule applies apart from the two-year limitation - and if it does apply, as to which contract should be treated as the first from the point of view of the Labour Code mechanism.

The act also does not state precisely the effects of a breach of the two-year deadline. For example, it is not stated that after two years, the contract is transformed into an open-ended contract. Most authors agree that this would be the case. However, this transformation takes place not by virtue of the law, but by virtue of a decision of a court handed down as a result of an action taken by an employee.


The Anti-crisis Act will remain in force until December 31 2011, although the period of binding force may be extended. However, in its present form the act is likely to result in problems for the application of fixed-term contracts, without offering any overall benefits. If it is to be extended, this should be done only after a number of issues have been clarified - and not only those related to fixed-term contracts.

Irrespective of the above, the issue of fixed-term contracts should be regulated in a comprehensive manner in the Labour Code in such a way that, on the one hand, counteracts abuses of this form of contract by employers, while on the other hand does not deprive a party to an employment relationship of the possibility of regulating his or her relation in a fixed-term manner, in particular if this is justified by objective circumstances.

For further information on this topic please contact Sławomir Paruch or Łukasz Chrusciel at Soltysiński Kawecki & Szlęzak by telephone (+48 22 608 7000), fax (+48 22 608 7070) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).