New legislation means that workers in Poland employed using more flexible, task-based ‘civil law contracts’ will be entitled to join or form trade unions and to benefit from protection previously reserved for trade union members

On 5 July 2018 the Polish Parliament adopted amendments to the Act on Trade Unions and certain other acts. According to the new provisions, from January 2019, individuals in Poland who provide paid work on a basis different from a conventional employment relationship will have the right to create and join trade unions, and to benefit from certain trade union privileges.

In principle in Poland, work may be provided under an employment contract or a ‘civil law contract’. Civil law contracts are not regulated by the Labour Code and are more flexible than conventional employment agreements. They include contracts of mandate, where an employer wants to hire a worker to perform a particular action without entering into an employment agreement, and contracts for specific work, which are structured around and remunerated for the completion of specific work. Until now, civil law workers were not covered by the Act on Trade Unions. The types of working arrangement covered by the new rules include both contracts of mandate and contracts for specific work

Workers employed on civil law contracts will not only get the right to create and join trade unions, but will also be entitled to privileges stemming from union membership that have so far been restricted to employees. By way of example, they will have the right to be released from work with remuneration, or to special protection against termination. Where a contract with a contractor who is a trade union official is terminated without the approval of the union, the employer may have to pay a severance payment amounting to six months’ remuneration. The amount of this payment will be a lump sum, unrelated to the loss suffered. However, if the contractor’s loss is higher, they will be able to pursue damages or compensation in excess of the standard severance payment.

The changes will come into force on 1 January 2019.