Poland: New rights to unionise for non-employees

Posted on 2nd January, 2019

Estimated reading time 3 minutes

As of 1 January 2019, a major amendment to the Polish Unions Act allows those working under non-employment arrangements such as civil law contracts or under self-employment are to unionise. The new regulations apply to those who provide work outside of the standard employment relationship. This is provided that they do not employ others to provide their work, and that the rights and interests related to their work that can be represented and defended by a union.

Non-employees have now been given a number of rights similar to those of employees, including, without limitation:

  • The right to establish and join trade unions;
  • The right to be appointed a protected union steward, with whom the (civil law) contract cannot be terminated or adversely modified without consent of the board of a union’s local chapter. This in practice means that consent of the board of the local union must be obtained, in order to terminate or implement any adverse modification to the contract of the protected person. An infringement of this requirement entitles the protected person to seek a compensation generally equal to their six-month salary plus damages or redress;
  • The right to be excused from work for the term, on the board of the local union;
  • The right to be excused from work for the time necessary to conduct ad-hoc actions related to their union responsibilities outside the workplace, provided that such actions cannot be conducted outside the working hours (unless special provisions stipulate otherwise, such a person will still have the right to receive his/her remuneration for that time);
  • A person who provides work and is not a union member has the right to protect their rights on the same terms as those who provide work and are union members, if the local union chosen by that person agrees to defend their rights;
  • The right to seek damages for discrimination on the grounds of union membership on the same terms as employees (before labour courts);
  • The right to initiate collective disputes concerning the rights of persons employed on a different basis than an employment contract (e.g. claiming a pay rise).

In practice, these amendments have the potential to revolutionise the working relationship with those non standard employer/employee relationships that this amendment targets. It should also be kept in mind that any business decisions concerning such persons may now be assessed from the angle of discrimination for union membership.

For further information or to discuss any of the issues raised, please contact Roch Pałubicki at +48 61 856 04 14, roch.palubicki@skslegal.pl or Karolina Kanclerz at +48 71 346 77 00, karolina.kanclerz@skslegal.pl