Upgrading professional qualifications is the process of gaining or updating knowledge and skills by an employee, either at the employer’s initiative or with the employer’s consent. Specific benefits are provided for employees improving their qualifications in the Polish Labour Code, the most important of which seems to be training leave. For the employer, it is not only an obligation provided for in the Polish Labour Code, but also an opportunity to invest in the development of staff and improve the qualifications of their team.
What is training leave?
According to the interpretation of Article 1031 of the Polish Labour Code, training leave is time off work granted by the employer to an employee for the purpose of improving their professional qualifications. Improving qualifications may include gaining or updating knowledge and skills, either at the employer’s initiative or with the employer’s consent. The employee retains the right to remuneration for the period of training leave.
Training leave – who is entitled to it and when can it be granted?
In accordance with the provisions of the Polish Labour Code, training leave is granted to an employee who takes an external examination, a final high school exam, an examination confirming qualifications in a profession or a labour exam. In addition, student-employees in their final year of studies (bachelor’s, engineering and master’s degrees) are entitled to training leave to prepare their diploma thesis and to prepare for and take the diploma examination.
To how many days of training leave is an employee entitled?
The amount of training leave depends on the type of examination the employee is taking. The employee is entitled to:
- 6 days of leave for external examinations, final high school exams or examinations confirming professional qualifications;
- 21 days of leave in the final year of Bachelor’s, Engineer’s and Master’s degree programmes to prepare a thesis and to prepare for and sit the diploma examination.
Training leave is granted on days that are working days for the employee, according to the employee’s working time schedule.
In addition, due to the gaining of additional knowledge, the employee is entitled in certain situations, and in agreement with the employer, to take unpaid leave and to be excused from all or part of the working day.
Employer’s initiative and the entitlement to leave
It is important to note that, in accordance with the provisions of the Polish Labour Code, an employee is entitled to take training leave only in cases where the improvement of professional qualifications has taken place:
- on the employer’s initiative or
- with the employer’s consent.
The occurrence of just one of the above mentioned conditions entitles the employee to take training leave, while it should be noted that court case law clearly indicates that the employer’s consent should be understood as a clear behaviour approving the improvement of qualifications (e.g. consent to leave the workplace early to attend classes at a university). However, the employer’s consent should be unambiguous, expressed in a way that is clear to both the employee and the employer.
An employer may grant additional benefits to an employee improving their professional qualifications, such as covering training fees, travel, textbooks and accommodation. This additional support can significantly motivate employees to actively participate in training and courses.
The employer has the right to conclude a training agreement with the employee, in which it will specify the mutual rights and obligations of the parties in relation to the employee’s upgrading of professional qualifications (these cannot be less favourable than those under the Polish Labour Code). Such a document is intended to safeguard the employer’s interest by creating a provision obliging the employee to remain in the workplace after the completion of the upskilling.
If the employee fails to undertake or interrupts the further training, the employer may claim a proportionate compensation of the costs incurred for this purpose.
Leave to prepare for the PhD final examination
The situation is slightly different for students in their final year of PhD school (or PhD studies), for whom the above-mentioned provisions of the Polish Labour Code do not apply, but the Polish Act of 20 July 2018 – Law on Higher Education and Science (i.e. Journal of Laws 2023, item 742, as amended; hereinafter: LHLS).
According to Article 196 of the LHLS, the following leaves of absence, granted on days which are the employee’s working days, are provided for employees preparing for their dissertation defence:
- 28 days to prepare for the PhD final examination;
- time off from work for the PhD final examination.
For the leave and time off from work, the employee is entitled to remuneration established as for annual leave.
It is also worth mentioning that, in the case of leave for the PhD final examination, the provisions of the Polish Labour Code regarding the employer’s initiative and consent to improving qualifications do not apply – the employee receives the right to the above leave on the sole fact of preparing for the PhD final examination, regardless of the employer’s will in this respect.
Training leaves are not only an obligation of the employer, but also an opportunity to develop the potential of employees and increase the competitiveness of the organisation in the market. Understanding the regulations on the provision of training leave allows employers to manage their staff effectively. An investment in employee development is an investment in the future of the business, which can bring measurable benefits for all parties involved.
Our team will be happy to assist you with both the creation of a training contract and the implementation of an efficient employee training policy in your organisation.
Zofia Kwiatkowska, Legal assistant