The year 2019 saw an abundance of labour law novelties, including amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure, the Act on Trade Unions and the Labour Code. To welcome 2020, this article is a summary of the biggest changes that employers and employees faced in 2019.

New rules for maintaining personnel records

The year 2019 brought many changes to the rules for maintaining personnel records. Personal files have been divided into four sections. Following the amendment, Section D was added to personnel files to include documents relating to employee liability for breach of order and discipline or liability specified in separate provisions. In addition, the option of keeping personnel records in electronic form was introduced and the period of employers' obligation to keep personnel files following employment termination was reduced from 50 to 10 years.

Amendments entailed by GDPR

The scope of information that employers may process at the recruitment stage and during employment relationships has changed. The amendment prevents employers from requesting that candidates provide data such as their parents' first names and address. The new restrictions also include provisions regulating video surveillance of sanitary rooms. Following the changes, in order to introduce video surveillance, employers must receive the prior consent of the company's trade union organisation and, if none exists, the prior consent of the representatives.

A provision was also added to the Labour Code which explicitly prohibits video surveillance of premises being made available to the company's trade union organisation.

Mobbing and discrimination

Employees' rights to claim damages on account of mobbing have been modified. Following the amendment, the early termination of an employment contract is not a prerequisite for seeking damages. In addition, employees who continue in employment relationships are entitled to claim damages. The provisions on discrimination and unequal treatment have also been amended to the extent that any unequal treatment of employees will qualify as manifest discrimination.

Amendments to issuance of work certificates

An amendment to the Labour Code in September 2019 changed the deadline for employers to issue work certificates. At present, employers must issue a work certificate on the day of termination or the expiration of an employment relationship. Failure to comply with the deadline is subject to a fine. Further, the period in which an employee may apply to their employer for rectification of an employment certificate has been extended from seven to 14 days. If an employer fails to consider the application, the employee may directly request the labour court to rectify it.

Employee testing with breathalyser

In a 27 June 2019 communique the Personal Data Protection Office (UODO) stated that employers cannot perform random sobriety tests on their employees. According to the UODO, information on a person's intoxication constitutes data concerning health; thus, sobriety testing can be performed only on an employee's initiative and with their consent. An employee may be denied access to a workplace without a test only if they are reasonably suspected of being intoxicated. In such cases, employers should call the appropriate public services to perform the test and confirm an employee's intoxication.

Expansion of right to unionise

As of 1 January 2019, the right to join and establish trade unions has been granted to persons employed under mandate or managerial contracts and those who are self-employed. Following the amendments, a person employed on a basis other than an employment relationship may enjoy additional employment protection and qualify as a so-called 'trade union activist'.

Obligation to continue employment until final termination of proceedings

The 2019 amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure have also affected the principles of conducting labour disputes. Following the amendment, courts of first instance may require employers to continue the employment of a dismissed employee until the final termination of the proceedings (irrespective of the notice period). In practice, this means that an employee who appeals against a termination notice and demands reinstatement will be able to return to the company on the basis of a non-final judgment of the court of first instance.

Protection of persons exercising parental rights

The group of persons entitled to maternity and parental leave has been expanded. As of 2019, immediate family members in special situations (eg, the death of a mother, abandonment of a child or a decision regarding a mother's inability to live independently) will have a right to take such leave. Consequently, during the maternity and parental leave period, the abovementioned persons will be subject to additional employment protection on the same terms as female employees taking care of newborn children.

Direct debit of remuneration

As of 1 January 2019, new rules apply to salary payment. The amendments state that remuneration should be paid into employees' bank accounts; employees who wish to receive their salary in cash must submit a formal request.

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.