In this article, we take a look at the key changes to Polish employment law which will be implemented in 2020, including the increase to the minimum wage, the broadening of the definition of discrimination at work, the extended deadline for employers to issue a work certificate, and changes to how courts can grant orders for reinstatement to employment.
Increase in the minimum wage
The minimum wage for employees has increased and in 2020 will amount to 2,600 PLN (approx. 605 EUR) gross per month. The minimum hourly rate for contractors will be 17 PLN (approx. 4 EUR) gross. This is an increase of 350 PLN (approx. 81 EUR) and 2.30 PLN (approx. 0.53 EUR) respectively in comparison to the previous rates. Employers must pay these amounts as a minimum for all employees and contractors irrespective of their nationality, sex or temporary secondment to other countries. If, however, local regulations abroad provide higher rates for posted workers, they overrule the Polish minimum wage and therefore for the duration of the secondment the employee will be entitled to the local minimum salary. This shows the importance of being aware of international developments as well as national ones.
As the minimum wage increases, other allowances will increase, which are calculated on the basis of the minimum wage, for example compensation granted to victims of bullying or discrimination at work cannot be lower than the minimum wage. The increase also affects payments such as the amount of remuneration employees are entitled to receive where they are able to perform work but are prevented from doing so due to the fault of the employer (work stoppage); sickness allowance; and maximum statutory severance pay as a result of group lay-offs, which is a maximum of 15 times the minimum salary (which now amounts to PLN 39,000 (approx. 9,070 EUR) gross; PLN 5,250 (approx. 1,220 EUR) more than in 2019).
For many employers, an increase in the hourly rate means that salaries will have to be increased, with the consequent obligation to amend contracts of employment (by adding an appropriate annex to the contract). The changes also apply to contracts of mandate with contractors, in which the parties have agreed an hourly rate for the performance of the contract.
Extended definition of discrimination at work
On 7 September 2019 several amendments to the Polish Labour Code came into force. One of them has changed the definition of discrimination. From that date, discrimination includes any unequal treatment of employees which is not justified by objective reasons. In particular, any discrimination, direct or indirect, in respect of gender, disability, nationality, conditions of employment for a fixed or permanent period of time, or for full or part time is prohibited.
In order to improve employees' rights, the legislator has opened a catalogue of grounds for discrimination and thus enabled employees to include claims for discrimination not currently listed in the legislation when bringing action against employers. In addition, whereas previously a bullied employee's employment must have been terminated for them to be able to apply for compensation, it is now enough that they suffer some damage as a result of bullying. This may encourage employees, including those in less stable employment (e.g. those on time limited contracts or temporary workers) to enforce their claims against not only former but also current employers if their employment is not terminated.
Employers should revise workplace discrimination, bullying and harassment policies to ensure compliance with the new legislation.
Leaving work certificate – extended deadline for employees
In Poland, after the termination of the employment relationship, the employer is obliged to provide the employee with a document which confirms the details of the employment: a so called employment certificate. The deadline for an employee to request an employer to correct errors on the employment certificate has been extended from seven to 14 days. An employee has the right to make a claim to redress damage caused to them through a failure of the employer to issue an employment certificate in due time, or failure to issue an accurate work certificate.
Reinstatement to work - court order to continue employment
One of the most important changes concerns judgements for reinstatement to work. The change means that the judgment of the first instance court may, at the request of the employee, include an order for the employer to continue their employment until the case is finally adjudicated by the appeal court, which usually takes at least few months. This change has strengthened employees’ position in termination disputes, which may result in employers being more willing to conclude a settlement with an employee who has been unfairly or illegally terminated.