Overview

Market

Describe the significance of, and developments in, the automotive industry in the market.

Since 2014, the automotive industry in Poland has been steadily growing. After reaching a turning point in 2008 and losing its leading position in car manufacturing for Central Europe, Poland was faced with a systematic decrease in the automotive sector in the following years. Presently, automotive is once again one of the main drivers of Polish industry in general - automotive manufacturing is one of the largest industrial sectors in Poland, accounting for 11.0 per cent of sold production value in this part of the economy. In terms of sold production value it ranks second after food manufacturing, surpassing all other manufacturing industry sectors as well as many important industry branches like mining and quarrying, energy, oil or utilities. Growth in Poland’s automotive production in recent years was driven mostly by extensive investment outlays. In 2017, the capital expenditure of automotive manufacturers in Poland amounted to 6.7 billion zlotys.

According to the most recent data available from Eurostat, in 2016, the turnover of automotive manufacturing companies in Poland amounted to €34.3 billion. €39.5 billion of turnover was generated by companies involved in the trade and repair related to cars, car parts and accessories. According to Eurostat data, in both areas of the Polish automotive industry as many as 448,100 people were employed in 2016, 58 per cent of which (260,800) in trade and services, and 42 per cent (187,300) in manufacturing.

Taking into account the number of manufactured motor vehicles, Poland remains on the third place among the Central and Eastern Europe countries. In 2017, Polish manufacturers produced 514,700 passenger cars. It means that the production of passenger cars decreased (-7,2 per cent). At the same the production of commercial vehicles also increased, reaching 175,029 (according to OICA methodology). The second - along vehicles production - key segment of the Polish automotive manufacturing industry is the production of automotive parts and accessories. The situation in this category is more stable, with output constantly growing due to investment and reinvestment projects.

The Polish automotive manufacturing is almost entirely export-oriented, thus the sector’s shape depends heavily on the economic situation on foreign markets, notably Western European ones. Sold production value of automotive manufacturers in Poland amounted to 148.4 billion zlotys in 2017, which means a significant increase of 7 per cent y/y in real terms (ie, considering price change).

In 2017, the European Union showed an increasing trend in new passenger car registrations (3.4 per cent greater than in previous year), among which Poland had the largest increase in registrations (17 per cent), placing it seventh in terms of volume. The positive trend could also be seen for other types of cars: 2 per cent increase for light commercial vehicles, 3.9 per cent for commercial vehicles and 1.3 per cent for trailers and semi-trailers, with an increase in the registration of new buses reaching 15.4 per cent. The highest growth trend could be seen in registrations in the premium+ segment where the increase was driven by institutional customers, which showed a 28.2 per cent increase compared with 2016.

The Polish car manufacturing market in 2017 also increased by 3 per cent with the production of 682,000 motor vehicles (excluding two-wheelers). Along with the increase in new registrations and the volume of car manufacturing in Poland, the net value of leased automotive assets and gross premiums for motor liability insurance also rose by 15 per cent and 38.7 per cent respectively.

Currently in Poland a number of regulations aimed at stimulating the growth of electromobility are awaiting the President’s signature. They introduce new definitions of the notions associated with vehicles and their infrastructure, and determine the general principles guiding the usage of alternative fuels in transport, as well as introducing incentives for using alternative fuel vehicles. The trend for developing alternative fuel vehicles has already been seen on the market with a 69.2 per cent increase in the number of alternative fuel passenger car registrations (reaching almost 18,000 new registrations in 2017).

In recent years, Poland has become the production leader of commercial vehicles and buses in Central Europe, but the most dynamically expanding sector has been that of automotive parts and accessories. It is expected that the Polish automotive industry will continue its growth in upcoming years which, among other things, will be the result of key foreign investments in automotive manufacturing. The plans for the next two years include the establishment of three new manufacturing plants for auto parts and the further expansion of the existing plant in Gliwice, with an accumulated value of approximately 680 million zlotys.

Regulation

What is the regulatory framework for manufacture and distribution of automobiles and automobile parts, such as homologation process as well as vehicle registration and insurance requirements?

The regulatory framework applicable in Poland arises from EU legislation.

Type approval

The general system for type approval in Poland is set out in the Act on Road Traffic of 20 June 1997, and in the Decree of the Minister of Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy of 25 March 2013 on the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of the systems, components and separate technical units intended for these vehicles. The above acts implement Directive 2007/46/EC of 5 September 2007 and follow its provisions.

The Act on Road Traffic sets out the general system for EU-type and UN/ECE approval. The Decree contains administrative provisions, samples of required documents and general technical requirements for the approval of all new motor vehicles and their trailers, and of the systems, components and separate technical units intended for these vehicles. It sets out the procedures that need to be followed in order to obtain approval.

The Act on Road Traffic (article 70d) imposes an obligation on original equipment manufacturers (OEM) of any new type of vehicle, component, or separate technical unit to obtain approval before placing a product on the market. An OEM is exempted from the need to obtain approval under Polish law if this approval has already been granted by the relevant authority of another member state and was accepted by the Polish authorities.

According to article 70d, an OEM is responsible for all aspects of the approval process and for the conformity of production, regardless of whether the OEM directly participates in all of the production stages of the vehicle, component, or separate technical unit.

Apart from the technical requirements stemming from Polish law, an OEM should also comply with the directly applicable EU law regulations, namely Regulation (EC) 715/2007 on the type approval for motor vehicles with respect to emissions ranging from light passenger to commercial vehicles (Euro 5 and Euro 6), as well as on the access to vehicle repair and maintenance information, and Regulation (EC) No. 661/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 concerning the type-approval requirements for the general safety of motor vehicles, their trailers and the systems, components and separate technical units. An exhaustive list of EU documents applicable to EU type-approval is provided in Annex IV to Directive 2007/46/EC.

The approval is granted by the Polish authorities once the vehicle, component or separate technical unit concerned complies with all the applicable provisions mentioned above. The approval is granted by the Director of Transportation Technical Supervision.

Please note, however, that in May 2018 the Regulation (EU) 2018/858 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of the systems, components and separate technical units intended for these vehicles was adopted, and from 1 September 2020 it will replace the framework set by Directive 2007/46/EC.

Registration requirements

Owners of new vehicles have the obligation to register their vehicles in accordance with article 71 and following of the Act on Road Traffic.

According to article 72 of the Act on Road Traffic, registration requires, among other things, the vehicle’s compliance with an approved type. For EU type-approved vehicles this is confirmed by the certificate of conformity. According to article 70s of the Act on Road Traffic, an OEM must provide each vehicle that belongs to an approved type with a certificate proving its conformity.

Insurance requirements

Directive 2009/103/EC of 16 September 2009 relating to insurances against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles, and the enforcement of the obligation to insure against this liability is essentially transposed in the Polish Act of 22 May 2003 on Compulsory Insurance, the Insurance Guarantee Fund, and the Polish Motor Insurers’ Bureau.

According to article 23 of this Act, vehicle owners have the obligation to insure their vehicles.

Development, manufacture and supply

How do automotive companies operating in your country generally structure their development, manufacture and supply issues? What are the usual contractual arrangements?

The structure of development, manufacturing and supply in the Polish automotive sector is similar to that in other European countries since OEMs are global businesses. OEMs use a supply chain structure including Tier 1 suppliers (which supply directly to the OEMs), Tier 2 suppliers (which supply Tier 1 suppliers), Tier 3 suppliers, and so on. Supply relationships are often based on the application of an OEM’s general terms and conditions. Development and design is generally done internally; however, cooperation and partnership agreements between OEMs have recently been observed in relation to new technologies.

The usual contractual arrangements include agreements between OEMs and auto parts manufacturers (supply agreements), agreements between OEMs and local importers or distributors (importer agreements, distribution agreements, or commission agreements), and agreements between local importers or distributors and dealers (dealership agreements). Financing agreements with banks that act as an OEM’s subsidiary providing financial support for local importers or distributors and dealers are also common.

Distribution

How are vehicles usually distributed? Are there any special rules for importers, distributors, dealers (including dealer networks) or other distribution partners? How do automotive companies normally resolve restructuring or termination issues with their distribution partners?

New vehicles are usually distributed by dealers acting on the basis of written contracts with local importers or distributors that are subsidiaries of OEMs (as a rule) or are independent (in a few cases). The market of second-hand vehicles is not controlled by OEMs, importers or distributors.

There is no specific legislation enacted in Poland in relation to importers, distributors, dealers or dealer networks. The general provisions of Polish anti-monopoly and contract law apply in this respect, in particular, the provisions of the Polish Civil Code relating to sales and supply. Moreover, EU legislation is also relevant, in particular, Regulations Nos. 330/2010 and 461/2010, and Supplementary Commission Guideline No. 2010/C 138/05.

Issues relating to restructuring and termination are, as a rule, regulated by the parties at the contractual level. In the case of a lack of specific contractual clauses, the general provisions of Polish civil law apply.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Are there any particularities for M&A or JV transactions that companies should consider when preparing, negotiating or entering into a deal in the automotive industry?

Generally, there are no specific issues for M&A or JV transactions relating to the automotive industry in Poland in comparison to transactions in the automotive industry in other European countries. The most important areas that should be investigated and covered in the transaction documentation include the contractual relationships with distributors, dealers and suppliers, employment issues, environmental issues, real estate, subsidies, intellectual property rights and compliance or regulatory issues. Owing to recently introduced legislation, it needs to be verified whether the automotive entity owns any agricultural real estate since in this situation, depending on the type of transaction, the National Centre of Agricultural Support will have a pre-emption right to the real estate or shares in the company. It also needs to be confirmed whether the transaction is subject to merger control by the European Commission, the Competition Authority, or an authority from any other EU member state.

Incentives and barriers to entry

Are there any incentives for investment in the automotive market? Are there barriers to entry into the market? What impact may new entrants into the market have on incumbents?

There are no specific incentives for investments in the automotive market in Poland. However, potential investors in the automotive sector might take advantage of various forms of public support. These are as follows:

  • Obtaining tax exemption (corporate income tax (CIT) or personal income tax (PIT)): this aid is intended for the companies carrying out new investments at the entire territory of Poland, on publicly as well as privately owned properties. The new investment might take a form of establishing of new enterprise, increasing the production capacity of an existing enterprise, diversifying the production of an existing enterprise through introduction of products that previously were not manufactured in this enterprise, or fundamentally changing the production process of the existing enterprise. The decision on granting support is issued at the entrepreneur’s request by the management of Special Economic Zone (acting on behalf of the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology) for a definite period of time (not shorter than 10 years and not longer than 15 years). To obtain tax exemption the entrepreneur must meet certain quantitative and qualitative criteria. The maximum amount of state aid in the form of CIT or PIT tax relief is determined on the basis of the regional aid map for 2014-2020 and varies from 10 to 50 per cent. Support for medium and small or micro enterprises is increased by 10 and 20 percentage points respectively. The tax exemption is only applicable to income generated from business activities carried out as part of an investment covered by the support decision. Therefore, if the entrepreneur simultaneously conducts activities which are not covered by support decision, then the supported activities must be organisationally separated, and the level of exemption should be determined on the basis of data (revenues and costs) of the separated activity. It should be noted that the above mechanism is relatively new (the law was adopted in May 2018) and aims to replace the aid for establishing business within the territory of Special Economic Zone (the aid granted to investors within the old special economic zones shall remain in force until 2026).
  • Obtaining a real estate tax exemption: this aid can be granted by a municipal council. The local authority can, by way of a resolution, decide to exempt an entrepreneur investing on its territory from real estate tax. This aid has an automatic character (ie, an entrepreneur is automatically entitled to exemption after fulfilling the conditions set out in the resolution of the municipal council). This aid is considered as public aid falling under the scope of the de minimis Regulation. Therefore, this aid should not exceed €200,000 over a period of three financial years.
  • Obtaining support for R&D initiatives: entrepreneurs, which in 2015 (or earlier) invested in new technologies could benefit from technological tax relief allowing for a deduction from the tax base of up to 50 per cent of the expenditure incurred for the purchase of new technology. Additionally, since 1 January 2016, entrepreneurs can benefit from tax relief for R&D activities. Entrepreneurs from the automotive sector could also apply for different grants to finance their ongoing businesses. For example, the Innomoto Programme allows financing to be obtained from the National Centre for Research and Development for large R&D initiatives in the Polish automotive sector.

There are no specific barriers for entry to the automotive market in Poland. However, it should be pointed out that Polish automotive manufacturing is almost entirely export-oriented. As a result, it is heavily dependent on the situation on foreign markets, which tends to make it more vulnerable to any potential changes on these markets (mainly Western European countries).

Product safety and liability

Safety and environmental

What are the most relevant automotive-related product compliance safety and environmental regulations, and how are they enforced? Are there specific rules for product recalls?

The most relevant regulations regarding safety and environments issues at the EU level are Directive 2007/46, Regulation (EC) 715/2007, and Regulation (EC) 661/2009. Polish law follows the EU legislation and sets out the procedural rules required for the enforcement of these provisions.

Additionally, automotive-related products are covered by the general system applicable to product safety set out in the Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC and implemented into Polish law by the Act of 12 December 2003 on the General Safety of Products. The provisions of this Act are only applicable to those products that are intended to be used by consumers.

According to the Act of Road Traffic, which implements Directive 2007/46/EC:

  • the Director of Transportation Technical Supervision can refuse to grant EU-type approval if it finds that a vehicle, component or separate technical unit, although in compliance with the required prescriptions, presents a serious risk to road safety or seriously harms the environment or public health (article 70p(3)); and
  • the Director of Transportation Technical Supervision can revoke the EU-type approval granted in Poland (upon a prior demand to the manufacturer to remedy a non-compliance) if an inspection shows the non-conformity of the production of the vehicle, component or separate technical unit, or the installation of an liquefied petroleum gas system with the required standards (article 70r). The Director of Transportation Technical Supervision can initiate an inspection if it obtains information on any non-conformity (article 70w).

As far as the obligations of an OEM to which EU type approval has been granted are concerned, the OEM must immediately inform the Director of Transportation Technical Supervision if it discovers that a vehicle could cause road safety danger or damage to the environment (article 70u). The OEM must additionally undertake actions required to remove this danger or damage. In order to remove the danger or damage, the OEM must prepare a schedule of planned corrective actions, agree on a plan with the Director of Transportation Technical Supervision and inform the owner of the vehicle about the necessity to inspect the vehicle. The costs of any corrective actions are covered by the OEM.

Apart from the requirements stemming from the specific provisions applicable to car manufacturers, OEMs are covered by the general system on product safety. An OEM is obliged to immediately inform the Polish Competition Authority as soon as it has obtained information that a car is unsafe. Failure to fulfil this obligation can result in a financial penalty imposed on the OEM of up to 100,000 zlotys.

The Polish Competition Authority will initiate proceedings and decide on a case-by-case basis as to what steps should be taken towards a specific product. Before issuing a final decision, the Polish Competition Authority might render a temporary decision in which it prohibits the further supply of the product (for a maximum of 90 days), until a final decision has been reached. This decision can only be issued if the initial assessment provides grounds to a claim that the product might be unsafe.

If, in its final decision, the Polish Competition Authority claims that the product is unsafe, it can order a specific corrective action (eg, recall or an obligation to inform consumers on the possible dangers caused by the product). In general, it is advisable to cooperate with the Polish Competition Authority within the proceedings and propose specific corrective actions in order to mitigate any potential legal or financial risk for the manufacturer.

In the second quarter of 2017, the Polish Competition Authority conducted a broad inspection of the components and separate technical units available on the Polish market. The objective was to determine whether the products possessed the required approval certificates. The inspection revealed that the majority of products had the appropriate certificate, and only 3 per cent of the products were questioned by the Polish Competition Authority.

Product liability and recall

Describe the significance of product liability law, and any key issues specifically relevant to the automotive industry. How relevant are class actions or other consumer litigation in product liability, product recall cases, or other contexts relating to the automotive industry?

Depending on the circumstances of a given claim, product liability claims can be pursued as contractual or pursued under the tort law system (which also includes the strict dangerous product rules).

Contractual claims encompass all of an OEM’s or supplier’s potential breaches of an agreement (in terms of product quality), as well as any customer’s warranty claims. A violation of an agreement claim is usually aimed at a payment relief, whereas a warranty allows for a wider scope of remedies: the customer might demand to have the vehicle part rectified or replaced, to have the product price reduced or to withdraw from the agreement and claim back what was already paid.

The tort law, in turn, allows for an OEM or a supplier to be held liable regardless of whether any agreement is in force. As a rule, the general tort liability requires the customer to demonstrate that the OEM’s or supplier’s actions leading to the damage were intentional or, at least, accidental, but still attributable to it. Therefore, a more favourable solution for a person (usually a consumer) harmed by a product is to seek damages under the Polish strict dangerous product rules.

Under this system, an OEM (or a supplier - should the OEM, as a producer, be unidentified for any reason) can be sued if the product does not provide the safety level expected of this product. The claimant can win the case even though the damage occurred for reasons not attributable to the OEM or supplier. Basically, the OEM or supplier can be released from liability only if the unsafe features of a product were revealed just after it was placed on the market (unless they resulted from features previously inherent in the product), or if the unsafe features could not have been foreseen at that time in light of scientific or technical knowledge.

The amount of damages for personal injuries that can be sought in accordance with these strict dangerous product rules is unlimited. In turn, compensation for damage to property can only be awarded if the destroyed or damaged property is ordinarily intended for personal use, and the total actual loss exceeds €500 (this sum cannot include damage to the vehicle part itself, or any benefits the party could have gained in connection with its use). Liability under this Polish strict dangerous product liability law cannot be contractually excluded or limited.

Polish law allows that basically all product liability claims can be pursued through class action proceedings if they are raised by at least ten people. The sought claims need to be of the same kind and be based on the same or identical facts. Group proceedings, however, are not well recognised in Poland as a common means to claim damages in the automotive industry. There have been very few such class action cases in Poland, mostly unrelated to product liability.

As regards recalls, while the automotive industry is not one that is highly affected in Poland, it does raise certain concerns. Among the 139 alerts registered in the Rapid Alert System in 2018 and referring to Poland, only 10 per cent of recalls concerned the automotive industry. Despite this, motor vehicles were the second category of products that were most commonly notified (after toys). Therefore, product recall cases might be considered as relevant in the context of the automotive sector.

Disputes

Competition enforcement

What competition and antitrust issues are specific to, or particularly relevant for, the automotive industry? Is follow-on litigation significant in competition cases?

The main focus of the Polish Competition Authority within the automotive industry has so far concerned consumer issues (in particular, concerning product safety). Concerning competition law, the Polish Competition Authority has not recently conducted any investigations or issued any decisions regarding enterprises from the automotive sector. The last decision regarding this sector dates back to the year 2004 when the Polish Competition Authority considered an agreement between a car producer and its distributors that obliged the distributors to refuse to supply cars to a specific enterprise as an anticompetitive agreement (Dec. No. RKT-1/2004).

Regarding follow-on litigation in Poland, there have been no cases referring to the automotive industry. In general, damage claims in the case of antitrust infringements are not common in Poland. The potential for follow-on claims in the automotive industry is additionally reduced due to the low activity of the Polish Competition Authority in this sector.

However, taking into consideration that Directive 2014/104/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 November 2014 on certain rules governing actions for damages under national law for infringements of the competition law provisions of the member states and of the European Union has been implemented in Poland, and that Polish law grants a new mechanism for claiming compensation in the case of EU and Polish competition law infringements, the potential follow-on claim cannot be excluded in the future (especially owing to the recent decisional practice of the European Commission - see the truck cartel case).

Dispute resolution mechanisms

What kind of disputes have been experienced in the automotive industry, and how are they usually resolved? Are there any quick solutions along the supply chain available?

Disputes in the automotive industry sector usually result from the following situations:

  • customers claiming that certain parts were delivered in an untimely manner, or that a specific element transpired to be defective; and
  • OEMs or suppliers, in turn, experience late payments or warranty claims that transpire to be groundless (eg, claims that happened not to be covered by the warranty or that a warranty has expired owing to the previous improper use of the machine).

The aforementioned contentious matters usually arise out of B2B relations. They concentrate on demonstrating whether a particular irregularity has indeed occurred, and to which party the irregularity can in the end be attributed. In most cases these differences between contractors cause supply chain disruptions.

These matters usually go to arbitration. Unlike in certain other jurisdictions, it is not possible to enforce the continuation of supply. Therefore, it is highly recommended that, in the course of the contract negotiations, customers should ensure that an adequate contractual penalty for any increasing delay is determined in order to discourage OEMs or suppliers from any supply stops.

In addition to the types of disputes listed above, litigation matters also involve claims pursued under the product safety rules. They normally do not refer directly to B2B relations and are usually brought by ultimate consumers. As explained in question 8, defective products can trigger liability for the OEM (or a supplier should the OEM, as a producer, be unidentified for any reason). This can be pursued under general Polish tort law or under the Polish strict product rules, which are more favourable for the injured party. These product safety litigation cases are resolved before Polish state courts.

Distressed suppliers

What is the process for dealing with distressed suppliers in the automotive industry?

Suppliers facing a lack of financial liquidity usually request relatively high advances and afterwards delay delivery of the ordered parts. These warning signs should encourage customers to thoroughly verify a contractor’s financial condition. The results of this examination can provide grounds to consider actions that could protect the customer from potential losses. It is critical, however, that these undertakings be consulted with a lawyer who will point out the risks related to their potential subsequent ineffectiveness.

Eventually, a distressed supplier might have no choice but to launch a court-directed restructuring process or commence bankruptcy proceedings. The goal of the former option is to allow for the further operation of the company thanks to arrangements with creditors, as opposed to the latter option, which aims at the liquidation of the company. In both cases, the contractual position of customers significantly differs from that which results from the concluded contract.

In the case of restructuring processes, the supplier offers arrangement propositions. These might include different solutions to restructure its position. The distressed supplier might propose postponement of the delivery date, earlier payments or (higher) advances, a reduction in the quality of the product or limits to the warranty or guarantee claims. Ultimately, the arrangement plan is voted on by the council of creditors.

In turn, in the case of bankruptcy, as of the day of the declaration of bankruptcy, the supplier’s obligation to deliver the ordered products automatically becomes a cash debt. The customer is then entitled to submit its claim (if any) in the course of the bankruptcy proceedings. If it is acknowledged, the claim is satisfied from the bankruptcy estate proportionately with the other claims falling under the same category. The decision as to whether the claim is justified is firstly vested in the bankruptcy receiver, who examines its grounds. The decision is subject to challenge resolved by a judge-commissioner, and finally, by a bankruptcy court. It happens less often that, instead of making the supplier’s obligation a cash debt, the bankruptcy receiver decides to continue to perform the obligation, and to serve the ordered part in exchange for remuneration.

Under Polish law, contractual provisions allowing a customer to revise or to terminate a contract in the event of a supplier’s bankruptcy or restructuring process is invalid. Additionally, in these cases, any obtained security can also be considered ineffective even if it was granted by a distressed supplier within the previous few months. Therefore, it is advisable that any risky contract should be specifically protected by, for example, a bank guarantee issued by a parent company.

Intellectual property disputes

Are intellectual property disputes significant in the automotive industry? If so, how effectively is industrial intellectual property protected? Are intellectual property disputes easily resolved?

In recent years automobile manufacturers’ interest in intellectual property in Poland has focused mainly on trademarks. Most of the cases are those between automobile manufacturers and unauthorised distributors, or between OEMs and producers of spare parts. Disputes connected to other intellectual property rights such as patents, designs or copyrights are still rare. However, recently we have been observing some interest in the use of design rights as the basis for claims.

Intellectual property is well protected by Polish law. National laws contain comprehensive provisions concerning copyrights as well as industrial property rights such as trademarks, patents, industrial designs and utility models. Polish law also provides for rules of fair competition, which are relevant for the protection of intellectual property and are often used to support claims concerning the infringement of these rights. Since Poland is a member state of the European Union, European regulations on EU trademarks and Community design are directly applicable.

Intellectual property infringement matters are heard by courts of general jurisdiction. A designated court in Warsaw has exclusive jurisdiction in matters concerning EU trademarks and Community design. Oppositions and cancellation matters are heard by the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland in the first instance and can be appealed to the administrative courts. Proceedings before courts and the Patent Office last approximately one year in each instance. Proceedings in matters concerning EU trademarks and Community designs are usually even quicker. In a significant number of disputes between automobile manufacturers and intellectual property infringers in Poland, it is possible to reach out-of-court settlements, mostly owing to the small size and the lack of bargaining power of the infringers.

Employment issues

Trade unions and work councils

Are there specific employment issues that automotive companies should be aware of, such as with trade unions and works councils?

There are no specific automotive sector labour regulations in Poland. The minimum labour standards are laid down in the Labour Code, which specifies the rights and duties of the parties to an employment relationship irrespective of the industry or sector. Some of the most important aspects of Polish labour law are:

  • national minimum wage (in 2019 it is €535 gross per month, in the case of a full-time employee);
  • minimum standards of sick pay, annual holiday leave and statutory notice periods;
  • minimum standards of working time (the working period cannot exceed, in general, 40 hours per week, within a five-day working week);
  • obligatory social security insurance (health, sickness, pension and disability); and
  • minimum statutory severance payments due in the case of redundancies.

The legislation imposing an obligation to implement additional system for collecting pension savings for employees (called employee capital plans (PPK)) entered into force on 1 January 2019. The PPK will be created in stages depending on the headcount and type of employer (the biggest companies with a headcount over 250 will be obliged to join the new system on 1 July 2019). The employer must (i) enter into agreements with a financial institution to set up and manage the PPK and (ii) pay contributions. Savings in the PPK are to be fully private and inheritable. Participation in the PPK is voluntary, on an opt-out basis. Participants will automatically be registered for PPKs and they may file a non-participation declaration to the employer (regularly renewed). The employer and participant must pay statutory contributions that amount to: (i) payment financed by the employee - 2 per cent of the employee’s gross remuneration, and (ii) financed by the employer - 1.5 per cent of gross remuneration of employee.

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 employment contracts. They include contracts of mandate, where an employer wants to hire a worker to perform a particular action without entering into an employment contract, and contracts for specific work, which are structured around and remunerated for the completion of specific work. The provisions of the Polish Labour Code do not apply to persons employed under civil law agreements (eg, contracts of mandate, contracts for specific work or managerial contracts, etc) since they are legally not considered employees. However, Polish law guarantees them the national minimum wage (in 2019, €3.50 gross per hour).

The automotive industry commonly uses external personnel employed by temporary work agencies. Temporary personnel cannot be employed in the same company for more than 18 months and their employment terms and conditions cannot be less favourable than those of employees employed directly by the company.

The automotive sector is quite unionised in Poland. Trade unions are voluntary and self-governing organisations of individuals who provide paid work. The amendments to the Act on Trade Unions entered on January 2019. According to the new provisions, individuals who provide paid work on a basis different from an employment contract have the right to create and join trade unions, and to benefit from certain trade union privileges. Until now, civil law workers could not join to and create the trade unions. The types of working arrangement covered by the new rules include both contracts of mandate and contracts for specific work. Trade unions are founded to represent and protect employees’ rights, as well as their professional and social interests. Trade unions also have the right to conduct collective negotiations and enter into collective labour agreements. In addition to trade unions, in companies with more than 50 employees, employees have the right to establish a work council. Employers are obliged to inform the work council about the economic activity of the company and any expected changes in the employment situation or organisation of the work. A work council can issue its own regulations, resolutions, standpoints and opinions.

New technologies

Legal developments

What are the most important legal developments relating to automotive technological and mobility advances?

One of the most important developments concerning automotive technological and mobility advances is an amendment to the Polish Act on Road Traffic, which introduces a legal basis for testing autonomous cars on public roads in Poland. The amendment, which came into force in February 2018, contains a definition of an autonomous vehicle - a car equipped with systems controlling its movement and enabling its movement without the intervention of a driver, who remains able to take control of the vehicle at any time.

Testing autonomous vehicles in road traffic on public roads, in particular for the use of autonomous vehicles in collective transport and the implementation of other public tasks, is possible provided that the safety requirements have been met and a permit for carrying out these tests has been granted. The permit is issued by way of decision by a traffic management body on the road where the tests are to be conducted.

Update and trends

Recent developments

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in automotive regulation in your jurisdiction?

No updates at this time.