A number of significant changes to Polish labour law have been announced in recent months. This article examines these amendments in detail.

Changes to Labour Code

The Act of 16 May 2019 amending the Labour Code and other acts came into force on 7 September 2019.

The changes introduced concern:

  • the equal treatment of employees – changes have been made to the definition of 'discrimination' resulting in the introduction of a new list of possible causes of discrimination;
  • the protection of persons exercising parental rights – employees who are immediate family members of a child now have the same rights to leave as fathers;
  • workplace bullying – employees can seek damages if their employment contract has been terminated due to bullying;
  • issuance of work certificates – the deadline for an employee to request an employer to correct errors on a work certificate and submit a request for rectification of a work certificate to a labour court has been extended from seven to 14 days and the untimely issuance of a certificate is now subject to a fine; and
  • rules concerning the alleged limitation of claims under an employment relationship – the limitation of claims under an employment relationship will be considered only if the person against whom the claim is sought made the charge and the claim is not made ex officio.

Enforcement of 'irreplaceable acts'

Article 1050 of the Code of Civil Procedure regarding the enforcement of so-called 'irreplaceable acts' was amended on 7 September 2019. 'Irreplaceable acts' are defined as acts which cannot be performed by another person on behalf of the debtor (eg, an employer). In the field of labour law, such acts include drawing up and the issuance of work certificates.

At present, courts with territorial jurisdiction where an act was to be performed are the competent courts for the enforcement of irreplaceable acts. This principle is also applied to labour law matters.

According to the recently added Section 11 of Article 1050 of the Code of Civil Procedure, in labour law matters, creditors can submit an application for the enforcement of irreplaceable acts to the court with:

  • general jurisdiction over the debtor;
  • territorial jurisdiction over where the work is, was or was meant to be performed; or
  • territorial jurisdiction over the localisation of the work establishment.

As indicated in the explanatory memorandum to the draft amendment, this change aims to enable the more effective enforcement of judgments and streamline judicial proceedings.

Remuneration of vocational training and apprenticeships

On 1 August 2019 the minister of family, labour and social policy amended the regulation on the reimbursement of remuneration paid to young employees from the Labour Fund.

The amended regulation governs, among other things, the option for employers (in the event of a change to the minimum wage rate) to apply to the education centre responsible for vocational training placements, directly or through an employers' organisation, to adjust reimbursements received from the Labour Fund accordingly within 30 days from the date of the new minimum wage rate's entry into force.

On 1 September 2019, following the entry into force of the Regulation of the Council of Ministers of 13 August 2019 (which amended the regulation on vocational training for young people and their remuneration), a 1% increase in remuneration rates for employees in vocational training and apprenticeships was introduced compared with the average remuneration enjoyed by regular employees.

Internship allowance excluded from minimum wage

The Act of 19 July 2019 amending the Act on Minimum Remuneration for Work will enter into force on 1 January 2020 (Articles 2 to 4 concern the costs of performing a public contract following changes to the remuneration rates of employees in vocational training and apprenticeships as of 1 September 2019). The act will exclude internship allowances when calculating employee remuneration.

The amendment aims to foster a more transparent minimum wage structure and to improve the situation of the lowest-paid employees. The change will increase the remuneration of employees who have been earning the minimum wage with an internship allowance included.

Minimum wage increased

On 18 September 2019 changes to the minimum wage were announced. As of January 2020, the minimum wage will be Zl2,600 gross. This is an increase of Zl350 compared with the current rate.

The minimum hourly rate will be Zl17. These increases exceed the rates announced previously (ie, the government had said that the minimum wage would be increased to Zl2,450 gross and the minimum hourly rate to Zl16).

According to the government's announcements, the minimum wage looks set to increase steadily in the coming years (Zl3,000 gross in 2021 and Zl4,000 gross in 2023).

In 2020 the minimum wage will be equal to 49.7% of the average remuneration forecast for that year.

Limit on retirement and disability insurance contributions abolished

The recently published explanatory memorandum to the draft budgetary act for 2020 announced that the limit on retirement and disability insurance contributions will be abolished.

At present, pursuant to Article 19 of the Social Insurance System Act (Journal of Laws 1998, 137, Item 887, as amended) retirement and disability insurance contributions in a given calendar year must not exceed 30 times the expected average monthly remuneration for a given calendar year.

In 2018 the Constitutional Tribunal found a previous amendment abolishing this limit to be unconstitutional due to an incorrect adoption procedure.

Therefore, the possibility of amending Article 19 and abolishing the limit on retirement and disability insurance contributions (which would lead to a sudden increase in labour costs and a burden on the part of the highest-paid employees) should be taken into account by the legislature and employers.

Confusion over social security rates

The media has recently reported on proposed changes to the deduction of social security contributions from business income. The changes concern:

  • the full deduction of social security contributions from business income;
  • introducing an upper limit on business income from which social security contributions would be deducted; and
  • introducing a flat-rate increased social security contribution for persons subject to flat-rate tax and a deduction of social security contributions from full income for persons subject to a tax scale.

The scope of the actual changes remains uncertain, but employers should prepare for a significant increase in social security charges going forward.

According to the 2020 draft budgetary act, average remuneration in 2020 will increase from Zl4,765 to Zl5,227 (ie, by almost 10%). In practice, this means that the social security contributions paid by employers will increase by almost 10% in that time.

Changes to social benefit fund contributions

On 27 September 2019 a government bill amending the Act on Special Solutions Serving the Implementation of the Budget Act 2019, the Act on the Company Social Benefit Fund and the Large Family Card Act, which provides for an increase in the amount of deductions from the Company Social Benefits Fund, was sent to the president for approval.

The amendment assumes the following basis for calculating fund contributions:

  • from 1 January 2019 to 31 July 2019 – fund contributions will equal the average monthly remuneration in the second half of 2013 (ie, Zl3,278.14); and
  • from 1 August 2019 to 31 December 2019 – fund contributions will equal the average monthly remuneration in the second half of 2014 (ie, Zl3,389.90).

The bill sets a deadline of 31 October 2019 for the transfer of additional contributions and increases to the appropriate parties.

Changes to Social Insurance Institution applications

A recently published draft regulation of the minister of family, labour and social policy aims to amend the existing Social Insurance Institution practices regarding:

  • social insurance and health insurance applications;
  • personal monthly reports and personal monthly corrective reports;
  • contribution payer applications;
  • settlement declarations and corrective settlement declarations;
  • reporting data on work in special conditions or of a special nature;
  • information reports; and
  • declarations of intention to provide information reports and other documents.

The proposed changes are expected to come into force on 1 January 2020.

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.