The year 2023 is a time of fundamental changes in Polish employment law, which we systematically analyse and comment on in our blog. 23 March 2023. President signed a law amending the Labour Code in connection with the obligation to implement Directive 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the EU Council of 20 June 22019 on work-life balance for parents and carers and repealing Council Directive 2010/18/EU, conventionally referred to as the “work-life balance directive”. The amended regulations will take effect within the next month.
What does the work-life balance directive concern?
The objectives of the work-life balance directive, already adopted by the European Parliament in 2019, are:
- to improve the quality of life of employees;
- to provide employees with a better match between work and their private life;
- enabling employees to better balance work and family life;
alluded to in recital 1 of the Directive, according to which the Union is to support the activities of its Member States in the area of equality between women and men.
Furthermore, recital 10 of the Directive indicates that:
- work-life balance continues to be a major challenge for many parents and workers with caring responsibilities, in particular because of the increasing prevalence of long working hours and fluctuating work schedules, which have a negative impact on female employment;
- a significant factor contributing to women’s under-representation in the labour market is the difficulty of reconciling work and family responsibilities.
It is therefore worth looking at the changes that its inclusion in Polish labour law will bring.
Changes concerning employment agreements
Once the provisions of the Directive enter into force, the parties to the employment relationship will be able to agree in the employment contract for a trial period that the employment contract for a trial period is extended by the time of holidays, as well as by the time of other excused absence from work of the employee, if such absences occur.
In addition, the periods for which a probationary agreement may be concluded will be changed to be, in addition:
- 1 month – in the case of the intention to conclude an employment agreement for a fixed term of less than 6 months;
- 2 months – in the case of the intention to conclude an employment agreement for a fixed period of at least 6 months and less than 12 months.
The draft also provides for the possibility to extend the above-mentioned periods once, by no more than 1 month, if justified by the type of work.
The possibility to re-employ an employee for a probationary period after the lapse of 3 years from the date of termination or expiry of the previous employment agreement has also been removed from the Labour Code.
In addition to the above changes, covering the employment relationship itself between the employer and the employee, the amendment introduces a number of new additional elements that the employment agreement and information on the terms and conditions of employment should contain, such as:
- the address of the employer’s registered office
- the duration or end date of the probationary period agreement;
- the duration or end date of a fixed-term agreement; and information on breaks in employment;
- information on the rules on overtime;
- the procedures for termination of the employment relationship;
- information on the employee’s training rights.
Also new is the need to inform the employee of the name of the social security institution and the protection, related to social security.
Additional employee rights
In addition to the above changes, the possibility of exemption from work due to force majeure in urgent family matters, caused by illness or accident, will be introduced if the employee’s immediate presence is necessary.
The dimension of this leave is 2 days or 16 hours.
During the time off, the employee retains the right to be paid at half salary. Upon the employee’s request to take time off for reasons of force majeure, the employer should agree.
Facilitations for employees related to parenthood
In addition, the Act provides for an amendment to the provisions on parental leave, introducing, among others
- a longer duration of this leave – 41 or 43 weeks;
- limitation of the possibility to transfer part of the leave to the other parent – the minimum period of parental leave that must be taken alone and that cannot be transferred to the other parent will be 9 weeks.
The amended Labour Code introduces the possibility to apply to an employee raising a child, until the child is 8 years old, flexible work organisation, which is considered to be:
- remote work;
- intermittent working time system;
- the shortened working week system;
- the weekend working time system
- flexible working time;
- the individual working time schedule;
- reduction of working hours.
An employee wishing to take advantage of such arrangements is required to submit an appropriate application to the employer.
What else will change?
Out of the whole pool of changes introduced by the implemented work-life balance directive, it is worth pointing out that:
- the employment relationship will be established on the day indicated in the agreement as the day of commencement of work (the possibility to assume that the employment relationship was established on the day of conclusion of the agreement has been removed);
- the employer will not be entitled to prohibit the employee from being simultaneously in an employment relationship with another employer (or any other legal relationship being the basis for the provision of work), however, this entitlement does not apply in the case of concluding a non-competition agreement;
- an employee who has been employed for at least 6 months will be able to request from the employer a form of employment with more predictable/secure working conditions (e.g. to change a fixed-term agreement into an open-ended one);
- a prohibition has been introduced to make preparations for the termination or termination without notice of the employment relationship in connection with the intention to terminate the employment of a pregnant employee or an employee who has applied for paternity leave.
As can be seen, the introduction of the work-life balance directive is associated with a rather broad amendment of the labour legislation, covering many issues concerning the employment relationship.
One may wonder which of the introduced changes – regulation of remote work or implementation of the above directive – has brought about a greater revolution for the parties to the employment relationship, however, it is certain that from the moment the amended Labour Code enters into force, both employers and employees will have to be aware of the obligations, rights or prohibitions imposed on them, which may be problematic given the number of changes in a relatively short period of time.
In addition to the need to implement the relevant regulations on remote working and sobriety testing, it is already worth reviewing the documents and making the relevant changes to prepare the company for the new obligations arising from the implementation of the work-life balance directive.
Paula Staszak-Urbańska, LL.M., Trainee attorney-at-law (PL)
Mateusz Turowski, Trainee attorney-at-law (PL)