On 21 August 2015 an act amending the Polish Labour Code was published in the Journal of Laws. The long-expected changes come into force after 6 months from publication. We would like to highlight the following changes:

1.    Fixed-term contract

The most important changes refer to the duration and periods of notice for fixed-term labour contracts.

Key regulations:

  • an employer will be able to conclude a maximum of three fixed-term contracts with the same employee and the total duration of these contracts shall not exceed 33 months,
  • the duration of the breaks between the successive contracts will not be relevant,
  • concluding a fourth fixed-term contract or exceeding the limit of 33 months will result in a conversion of this contract into a contract for an indefinite period of time,
  • an employer will be able to conclude a fixed-term contract for a period exceeding 33 months only in case of objective reasons on the employer's side justifying a longer fixed-term contract with a given employee. In this case, the employer is obliged to inform the regional labour inspector of the conclusion of such a contract,
  • the limitation of the duration and number of contracts will not apply to replacement employment contracts or contracts for casual or seasonal work, 
  • new regulations are to be applied for fixed-term contracts concluded for a period exceeding six months, effective on the day of the amendment's entry into force, whereby the period of validity of the contract will be calculated from the day of the amendment's entry into force,
  • the new regulations will not annul the number of the fixed-term contracts concluded before the amendment; this means that if on the date of the amendment's entry into force an employee is employed under a second fixed-term contract, the employer will only be able to conclude one additional fixed-term contract with this person, 
  • the notice periods will be changed and will be the same as for contracts concluded for an indefinite period of time, i.e. two weeks, one month and three months. As before, there will be no obligation to name the reasons when terminating such contracts and therefore the legitimacy of the contract termination will not be examined by the court.

2.    Elimination of the contract for the duration of a specified task

The contract for the duration of a specified task was in practice very rarely used due to the doubts concerning for which specific tasks it is permissible to conclude such a contract and for which tasks a fixed-term contract would be recommended instead. Following the elimination, there are currently three types of employment contracts mentioned in the Labour Code: contract for an indefinite period of time, fixed-term contract, and contract for a trial period.

3.    Employment contract for a trial period

The amendment allows for the possibility of concluding a further contract for a trial period with the same person if the employee is to be employed for different tasks or -- in case the same tasks are relevant – after three years from the date of termination of the previous contract.

4.    Releasing an employee from reporting to work

The amendment allows the employer to unilaterally release an employee from the duty to report to work during their notice period while the employee retains the right for remuneration, regardless of the type of employment contract. So far, this matter had not been clarified by law; in practice, the employee's consent was required.

5.    Changes of rights connected with parenthood (entering into force on 2 January 2016)

The amendment provides a range of simplification measures for working parents. The most important ones are:

  • eliminating additional maternity leave and vacation on terms of maternity leave, while at the same time lengthening parental leave to up to 32 weeks in case of the birth of a single child and up to 34 weeks in other cases,
  • lengthening the timeframe for taking parental leave while working part-time to up to 64 weeks in case of the birth of a single child and up to 68 weeks in other cases,
  • lengthening the timeframe during which paternity leave can be taken until the completion of 24 months by the child,
  • lengthening the timeframe during which parental and child-raising leave can be taken to up to the child's sixth birthday.

6.    Introduction of electronic sick-leave certificates (entry into force on 1 January 2016)

The amendment modifies the form and the procedure of issuing medical certificates of temporary incapacity to work, which is based on eliminating paper certificates and instead introducing electronic certificates transferred directly to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS). The paper certificates will only be issued in case of house calls and lack of internet connection.

The new regulations abolish the employee's obligation to submit the medical certificate of temporary incapacity to work to the employer.

Electronic certificates will be submitted by the doctor electronically directly to the Social Insurance Institution and then to the employer, without the need for the employer to submit paper certificates, as is currently the case. Moreover, the introduction of an electronic system of issuing medical certificates will improve the controls carried out by the Social Insurance Institution regarding the legitimate use of the sick leave, especially short-term instances.