By Piotr Lewandowski and Agnieszka Piasecka, FIrm:Raczkowski
This article sets out what limitation periods apply to some of the most common employee claims against employers in Poland.
Most employee claims against employers are barred by statute of limitations: upon the elapse of a certain period the employer may refuse to satisfy the employee’s claims. Usually, this is three years.
The limitation periods are specified in generally applicable laws. It is not possible to set different limitation periods in the employment contract (or in another contract entered into with the employee). These contractual provisions will be invalid.
We describe the statute of limitations for some common employee claims below.
Claim for payment of base remuneration
This claim is subject to a limitation period of three years, counting from the day following the payment date. The payment date should follow from the collective bargaining agreement, work regulations, or employment agreement. If it is not specified in one of these, employers can rely on Article 85, paragraph 2 of the Labour Code. It states that monthly remuneration is paid out no later than on the tenth day of the following calendar month.
Claim for payment of bonus
This claim is subject to a limitation period of three years, counting from the day following the bonus payment day.
Claim for payment of remuneration of overtime in case of exceeding the daily working time standard
This claim is subject to a limitation period of three years. This period is counted from the day following the payment date of base remuneration for the month in which the overtime occurred.
Claim for payment of remuneration for average weekly overtime
An employee should not work more than an average of 40 hours per week in every settlement period. If s/he works more, the employer must pay remuneration for ‘weekly’ overtime. This claim is also subject to a limitation period of three years. However, the three-year statute of limitations period only starts after the end of the full settlement period in which the overtime occurred.
Claim for granting vacation leave
A claim for granting vacation leave is also subject to the statute of limitations. Usually, the three-year statute of limitations period is counted from either the end of the calendar year for which the leave was due or the end of the third quarter of the following year (if the leave has been postponed to the next year).
Claim for determining the existence of an employment relationship
This claim is not subject to the statute of limitations. This means that a person employed by the employer on a basis other than an employment agreement may apply for a determination of the existence of an employment relationship at any time, even many years after the end of employment. However, it is important to remember that the claim for determination of the existence of an employment relationship is different from claims for payment of overdue remuneration and other benefits resulting from an employment relationship. These latter claims are subject to the statute of limitations (in principle, three years).
Rectification of damage incurred by an employee as a result of a crime
An employee has as much as 20 years to claim compensation from an employer on this account. The 20 years is counted from the moment the crime was committed.
Claim confirmed by a settlement agreement or court ruling
If an employee claim has been confirmed by a final court ruling or a settlement agreement entered into before a court or conciliatory commission pursuant to Articles 242-256 of the Labour Code, it is subject to the statute of limitations only ten years after the date of the ruling becoming final or the date the settlement agreement was entered into.
Be careful about the end of the limitation period
Employers should bear in mind that the statute of limitations on claims under an employment relationship is regulated separately in the Labour Code. This means the statute of limitations on these claims is not subject to the provisions of the Civil Code, which stipulate that the end of the statute of the limitations period falls on the last day of the calendar year. Claims under an employment relationship expire on the exact day on which the statute of limitations period elapses, not at the end of the year.