The coming months will see a number of amendments to Polish labour law. We are still waiting for the implementation of the EU Whistleblower Directive, and a bill on the permanent introduction of remote working into the Polish legal system has been submitted to the Polish Parliament for the first reading. On 6 June 2022, a bill on amendments to the Labour Code was published on the website of the Government Legislation Centre which concerns, among other things, the implementation of the EU Work-life Balance Directive (we have already discussed this in an earlier blog; see link). This new bill (the first version was published on 15 February 2022) addresses the work-life balance of parents and guardians. Please see below for a brief summary.
EXTENSION OF PROTECTION
The scope of protection for employees exercising their rights related to parenthood will be extended. It will become unlawful to make preparations aimed at terminating an employment relationship with pregnant employees, employees who have applied for a part of their maternity leave, as well as paternity leave and parental leave or a part thereof, and employees who have applied to the employer to benefit from flexible working arrangements. Moreover, Article 183e of the Labour Code will be supplemented to provide that an employee’s use of entitlements to which he/she has a right cannot be the basis for any unfavourable treatment of the employee or cause any negative consequences for him/her (e.g. it cannot constitute a reason for termination of the employment contract).
An employee will be entitled to five days of leave per calendar year to care for close family members or members of his/her household who have serious health problems. A family member is defined as a son, daughter, mother, father or spouse, which means that care leave will not be granted to take care of a partner if that person does not live with the employee. The employee will have to apply for the leave in writing – in paper or electronic form and the application will have to indicate the level of family relationship with the person in need of care or the residential address of the person if he/she is not a family member as defined by law. The deadline for submitting the application will be one day before the leave is due to begin (in the previous version of the bill it was three days).
The total length of parental leave for both parents will be extended. In the case of one child born in one delivery, it will be 41 weeks, and in case of two or more children born in one delivery, it will be 43 weeks. Moreover, part of the parental leave (nine weeks) will not be transferable to the other parent. This means that one parent will be able to take a maximum of 32/34 weeks of leave on their own. The bill clarifies that the above amount of leave is granted to both parents of the child together, and that parental leave can be taken by both parents at the same time. Furthermore, it adds that while one of the child’s parents is receiving maternity benefits for the period corresponding to the period of parental leave, the other parent may take parental leave. In both of these situations, the total amount of parental leave (and the period of receiving maternity benefit for the period corresponding to the period of parental leave) may not exceed 41/43 weeks.
PARENTS OF CHILDREN UNDER EIGHT YEARS OF AGE
Provisions regarding flexible working arrangements have also been amended in the bill. Parents of children under eight years of age will be able to apply for telework, flexible working time, individual or irregular working time, a shortened working week, weekend work and part-time work. Importantly, if an employee’s application to benefit from flexible working arrangements is rejected, the employer will have to provide a written justification within seven days of receiving the application. At the moment, the bill does not provide any mechanism of appeal against the rejection of an application. Time will reveal whether the court practice will develop a different solution and, nevertheless, allow for the judicial path.
The bill also changes the deadline for submitting the application to the employer from 14 days to 21 days prior to the planned beginning of the flexible working arrangements, and it also obliges the employee to indicate in the application the type of arrangement he/she plans to use.
In addition, the bill indicates that an employee who is raising a child up to eight years of age will not be allowed to work overtime, work at night, work intermittent hours, or be posted away from his/her regular place of work without his/her consent. These rights are intended to help employees adjust their working hours to their individual needs arising from family and care-giving responsibilities.
Based on the EU Work-life Balance Directive, a release from the obligation to perform work due to a force majeure event will also be introduced. In every calendar year, an employee will be entitled to two days or 16 hours off work due to urgent family matters caused by illness or accident, when the employee’s immediate presence is necessary. During this time off, the employee will be entitled to one-half of his/her salary. The employee will decide how to use the time off in a given calendar year in the first application for such exemption. The employer will be obliged to grant the time off at the request of the employee no later than on the day the time off is used. The bill makes only cosmetic changes regarding this issue – the main provisions from the version of 15 February 2022 remain unchanged.
To sum up, there will be some innovations to the Labor Code in the form of care leave and leave due to force majeure. Parental leave, the scope of protection of the employment relationship of parents and their possibilities in the organization of work will also be subject to significant changes.
As we can see, labour law is about to change in a significant way, and there is less and less time to implement the changes – the bill is due to be passed into law at the beginning of August 2022. Time will tell whether the proposed solutions will in fact make it easier for employees to balance their work tasks with family and caring responsibilities.
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Hubert Hajduczenia, Senior Associate
Justyna Helbing, Intern