On 17 June 2013 Polish employees gained significant new parental rights in the workplace. So radical are the changes that some Polish newspapers have referred to them as a “revolution”. These new rights have been introduced in an attempt to address a falling birth rate, an issue that Poland has been struggling with for many years. Polish MPs have used the same justification (in part) for a proposed ban on Sunday work in shops – see our 12 July blog post http://www.employmentlawworldview.com/poles-apart-proposed-ban-on-sunday-retail-work/.

The amendments to the Polish Labor Code have doubled the amount of time parents can take off work to look after their child immediately following the birth. Under the new rules employees will be able to take up to 52 weeks’ leave, made up as follows:

  • Ordinary maternity leave – employees will be able to take up to 20 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave, the first 14 weeks of which must be taken by the mother. The remaining 6 weeks can be taken by the father.
  • Additional maternity leave – employees (mothers or fathers) will be able to take up to 6 weeks’ additional maternity leave.
  • Parental leave – a further 26 weeks’ parental leave will be available to either mothers or fathers. This is a new concept in Poland.
  • Childcare leave – employees (mothers or fathers) will be entitled to take up to 3 years’ leave during the first 5 years of their child’s life.
  • Paternity leave - fathers will still be entitled to take 2 weeks’ paternity leave up to 12 months after the birth of the child.

All pregnant employees (regardless of length of service) are entitled to take ordinary and additional maternity leave, as well as parental leave. Any employee with at least 6 months’ service is entitled to childcare leave too.

Employees will be required to make a formal request to take additional maternity leave or parental leave, but provided they comply with the requirements governing such requests then their employer cannot refuse it.

With the exception of childcare leave, parents will be entitled to receive statutory maternity pay (or maternity allowance) for any period of leave taken.

Polish employers should review any policies in place and make any necessary changes. They should also bear in mind that provided employees submit their holiday requests before the end of their maternity/parental leave they can also choose to take annual leave immediately after such leave, thus extending the time spent away from the workplace.

In short, Polish employees now have a great deal more freedom about the amount of time they stay at home with their newborn children and so employers need to ensure they have arrangements in place to be able to deal with their staff being out of the workplace for such long periods of time.