Polish employers must provide employees with what is known as a “work certificate” on termination of their employment. This is a document which sets out the parties to the employment contract, its duration, the type of work carried out, the positions held by the employee and the method of termination, as well as various other information necessary to determine the employee’s rights under the Social Security system on the loss of his job. On request an employer must also provide details of the employee’s salary and qualifications.

Work certificates must be issued “immediately” on termination of employment, i.e. on the actual date the employment contract is terminated or expires. As a general rule this means handing a copy of the certificate to the employee on his last day of employment. If this is not practicable, the employer must send the certificate to the employee within 7 days.  

This requirement obviously placed a considerable administrative strain on employers with large numbers of employees engaged on successive fixed-term contracts, especially at a time when the Polish Government was encouraging employers to enter into such contracts to help the employment figures. It meant that employers had to issue a work certificate every time a contract expired, even if the employee was subsequently re-engaged on the same terms on another contract.  

On 20 March 2011, in response to concerns raised by employers, the Polish Government amended the legislation to include an exception to this rule. Employers are now allowed to issue one certificate covering a 24-month period, irrespective of the number of fixed-term contracts that have expired during this time. It is crucial to remember, however, that employees can still ask for a work certificate on termination of each fixed-term contract if they wish. Employers must respond to such requests within the normal 7-day timescale. Employees also have the right to ask for changes to be made to any work certificate if they consider it to be inaccurate in any aspect.  

Employers should take their obligations to issue work certificates seriously. A failure to issue a timely or proper certificate can give rise to a claim for compensation of up to 6 weeks’ pay. The Government also has the ability to impose fines for non-compliance.