On March 14, 2018, the Codification Commission in Poland, after one and a half years work, forwarded its proposals for amendments to the Labor Code to the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Policy. Elżbieta Rafalska, the head of the ministry, stated that the ministry needs a minimum of one month to analyze and evaluate these projects. Despite this, the draft of the new Labor Code raises some doubts and controversies among public opinion meaning that trade unions and employers are divided on this matter. So what are the changes proposed by the Codification Commission?
According to Marcin Zieleniecki, deputy minister of family and labor and chairman of the Labor Law Codification Commission, the current Labor Code in force since 1974, despite being amended on numerous occasions, in some cases does not meet the needs of either employees or employers. Another fundamental problem is the fact that it mainly promotes so-called typical employment, based on an employment contract for an indefinite period.
One of the main anticipated changes, which has a large group of supporters, is the introduction of 26 days of annual leave for all employees, regardless of the length of employment or several types of employment contracts. At present, employees are entitled to 20 days leave if they have been employed for a total of less than 10 years and 26 days if they have worked longer. Unfortunately, this vacation will have to be used in the year to which it corresponds. If this does not happen, the employee has the opportunity to use his/her vacation days until the end of the first quarter of the next year, otherwise the leave will be forfeited. However, in return, the employee would receive twice the remuneration for any unused holiday leave.
The draft Labor Code also provides for the introduction of new types of employment contracts in Poland, which would replace the so-called zero hours contracts. Casual, seasonal, part-time or substitute contracts are addressed to the youngest participants in the labor market.
One of the most controvertial proposals put forward by the Codification Committee is the possibility of dismissing pregnant women, which is not possible under the existing legislation. According to the proposed changes, this protection would cease to apply to women working in small businesses, that employ up to 10 employees as well as women employed under the newly introduced substitute contracts.
The current Labor Code also protects against the dismissal of an employee who is on sick leave or on holiday leave. Unfortunately, the new regulations provide for termination of employment in such circumstances, prohibiting, instead, the employee's dismissal without warning. The Labor Law Codification Commission proposed a provision requiring the employer to notify the employed person of the intention to give notice of termination of the employment contract a few days in advance. The employer would also be required to hear any explanations provided by the employee, even if the employment relationship is due to be terminated for cause, e.g. for disciplinary reasons.
Elżbieta Rafalska emphasizes, however, that the publication of some of the proposed changes to the Labor Code is done in a random way, which may lead to an unfair assessment of the work of the Codification Committee and the lack of fair debate on the subject.