The new year has brought numerous changes in the spectrum of the employment regulations in Poland. The amendments affect a number of important areas, such as the previously unforeseen ability to detect alcohol usage of employees, or the introduction of proper, fully-fledged regulations on remote work. What challenges will have to be faced by employers in Poland? Will the employees benefit from the changes?

1. Higher minimum wage

As of January 1 of this year, the minimum wage was raised to 3490 PLN (gross). However, this is not the end of the increases: the next one will take place as early as July 1, when the minimum wage is scheduled to rise to 3600 PLN. This is more than originally expected. This means that a minimum-wage employee will receive over 2700 PLN transferred to their bank account (remember, however, that the net amount always depends on the personal and individual situation of a given employee!).
The amount of the minimum wage also carries over into the amount of the minimum hourly rate – this one is 22.80 PLN (gross), and in July will be raised to 23.50 PLN per hour.

2. Sobriety controls

The previous legislation did not provide a clear and safe legal basis for employers to conduct sobriety checks of employees or inspect whether they are under the influence of intoxicants. Now, in cases where such inspections are necessary to ensure the protection of life and health of employees or the protection of property – such an option has been given to employers.

Note: not only will you be able to test employees, but also other staff cooperating with you on the basis of other types of civil law agreements (e.g., mandataries, B2B contractors)!

The terms and conditions of sobriety inspections will have to be laid down in work regulations (or an official statement, if the employer is not obliged to introduce work regulations). Sobriety tests may be conducted only if they do not infringe on the dignity and other personal rights of employees. Employers will need to use a method that does not require a laboratory test, such as using a device that has a valid calibration. New laws also provide for a legal basis for processing personal data (such as the date and exact time of the inspection and its result), as well as retention periods (in principle, one year following the collection of data).

The regulations came into force on February 21.

3. Remote work

The new laws regulating remote working will completely replace the previously functioning concept of ‘teleworking’, which, in fact, had never been that popular. New provisions are a hybrid of the scarce rules introduced during the pandemic, as well as previous laws on telework. They completely revolutionise the legal status quo.

Under new laws, the transition to remote working will be possible either as a result of a unilateral order of the employer or a consensual agreement between the employer and the employee. The latter can take place either at the conclusion of the employment contract or later, during the course of employment. Moreover, the employees will be able to take advantage of spontaneous, “occasional” remote working.

As both the employer and the employee will need to agree on the location of the remote work, neither party will be able to impose it on the other. Aside from that, the employer’s ability to order remote work will be subject to the employee’s declaration that they have access to facilities (premises) and technical capacities enabling them such mode of work.

The new rules describe situations in which the employer will be obliged to let their employees work remotely – for instance, when a request is submitted by a pregnant employee or an employee raising a child up to the age of four. The refusal will only be possible if remote work cannot objectively be carried out due to the type of tasks to be fulfilled. 

A previously unknown concept of ‘occasional remote work’ is also introduced – by which an employee is entitled to work remotely for a maximum of 24 days per calendar year. This type of work is envisaged to meet the employee’s incidental needs. It is only the employee who will be able to take the initiative to make use of this means of remote work. Due to its spontaneous nature, the employer will not have to regulate it in internal acts or in the employment contract. Moreover, the employer will not be obliged to incur additional costs to make such occasional remote work possible.

New laws concurrently mean new obligations on part of the employer, such as:

The new regulations on remote working will come into force on April 7.

4. Implementation of the work-life balance directive

The directive on work-life balance for parents and carers (Directive (EU) 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the Council) has been waiting to be implemented in the Polish legal system for a long time. The bill has already been signed by the President and will soon come into force.

Its main purpose is mainly to extend leave entitlements. Both mothers and fathers will be guaranteed parental leave – in most cases 41 weeks, with a non-transferable part of this leave of up to nine weeks for each parent. Employees will also receive additional days off work as part of their carers’ leave (5 unpaid days). Member States, including Poland, are also obliged to ensure that each employee is entitled to time off work on grounds of force majeure for urgent family reasons (for instance in the case of illness or accident) – to the extent of 2 days. When an employee makes use of this entitlement, they will retain the right to half pay.

There are also other aspects to the work-life balance – employers will have to, among other things, allow employees who are caring for a child up to the age of 8 or relatives/peers living in the same household to make greater use of flexible working arrangements (remote working, reduced working hours, flexible hours).

5. Implementation of the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions

The second EU legal act awaiting implementation into the national legal order is the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions (Directive (EU) 2019/1152 of the European Parliament and of the Council). Also in this respect the draft legislation has already been signed by the President and will soon come into force.

The draft legislation will oblige employers, among others, to indicate the grounds for termination of fixed-term employment contracts and to inform employees about promotion opportunities and internal vacancies. Employees will also have to be allowed to change their terms and conditions of employment once a year, and they will gain the right to request from the employer to transition from their current form of employment to a more predictable one, or one with more secure working conditions.

The new rules will also explicitly sanction the situation where an employee takes up employment with other employers. The fact of additional employment will not be able to constitute a reason for termination of the employment contract, and employees may not be subject to adverse treatment for doing so. Additionally, in the case of employees subject to special protection, simply attempting to prepare for termination will be prohibited.

6. Summary

As you can see, 2023 will be full of important changes for both employees and employers. Not all of them have already entered into force and we will have to wait to see how they are developed in practice. As they are not simple, it is impossible to thoroughly describe them all in one article. Stay tuned! We will keep you updated.

If you have any questions, you can always reach out to us for more information!