In January and February 2016, a number of substantial amendments to Polish employment law regulations came into force.
From 2 January 2016, the period of additional maternity leave has been included in the length of parental leave, which facilitates employees in balancing their professional careers with raising children. The new parental leave has been increased from 20 weeks to 32 weeks for single births, and up to 34 weeks for multiple births. The timeframe during which parental leave can be taken (either in full or in part) has also been extended to the end of the calendar year when the child turns 6.
Social security contributions for civil law contracts
Previously, individuals who were party to more than one contract for services (i.e. consultancy contract, services contract or agency contract) only needed to pay social security contributions for one of the contracts. As the contribution calculations were based on the remuneration of the employee, this led to situations where the social security contribution payments were based on wages lower than the statutory minimum wage.
The new rules effective from 1 January 2016 require individuals (whose remuneration, under all contracts for services they are party to, is at least equal to the statutory minimum wage) to base their social security contributions on as many contracts as required in order to obtain the contributions calculation base equal to the statutory minimum wage. This change was aimed to ensure at least minimum social security coverage, but at the same time has resulted in a material increase in labour costs for certain industries, such as security and cleaning.
The current statutory minimum wage is 1,850 PLN (435 EUR) gross per month.
In the past, medical certificates of temporary incapacity to work were issued only in paper form, one copy sent to the Social Security Agency (SSA) and the other handed out to the employee. The employees needed to submit their copy of the certificate to their employer. The new rules, which came into force on 1 January 2016, have introduced electronic certificates, which can be submitted by the doctor directly to the SSA and then to the employer via an information profile (provided that the employer has set up the information profile).
Under the new regulations, it is compulsory for employers who pay social security contributions for at least 6 employees to set up such an information profile in the software system provided free by the SSA.
Medical certificates may be issued in either paper or electronic form up to the end of 2017, but from 2018 only electronic certificates can be issued. Even though the change is designed to eliminate the circulation of paper documents, it might be advisable for the employers to continue to demand, at least for the transition period, that the employees submit any obtained medical certificates (in case of electronic certificates – their printouts requested from the doctors) to the designated employer’s representatives for the purpose of verifying their absence from work.
Due to social security requirements, paper medical certificates still need to be submitted to the employer within 7 days from doctor’s receipt, otherwise the employee might be deprived of a part of his/her sickness benefits.
Fixed term employment contracts
On 22 February 2016, new regulations regarding fixed term employment contracts came into force. Fixed term contracts now have the same requirements as to notice of termination as indefinite term (permanent) contracts.
The maximum period of employment under a fixed term contract with one employer is 33 months, and the total number of fixed term contracts per employee cannot exceed three (the new 33/3 Rule). If either of these limitations are exceeded, (i.e. the fixed term contract is longer than 33 months, or an employee has more than 3 fixed term contracts in total), the fixed term contract will be automatically converted into an indefinite term contract. Although this does not impact tax and social security contributions, there are other legal consequences related to permanent employment, in particular the employer’s obligation to justify termination of employment by reference to a just cause. The National Labour Inspectorate (NLI), a regulating body, will carry out inspections in order to ensure compliance with the new rules of entering into fixed term contracts and the new termination notices.
The new regulations provide for very specific circumstances where the abovementioned restrictions will not apply, e.g. they will not be applicable to contracts for substitution of an absent employee. The transitional provisions are rather complex. It is important for employers to check the quantity and length of current and future fixed term contracts to ensure they are still appropriate under the new rules.
The proposed changes in employment law regulations presented below are still to be confirmed.
Minimum wage and pay
A minimum wage of PLN 12 per hour has been proposed to apply from 1 July 2016 for workers providing services to hirers under mandate or specific work contracts (including the self-employed). As a rule, the hirer is obliged to keep records of the number of hours worked by such workers. Further to this the State Labour Inspectorate will have broad powers to audit compliance with these requirements. The bill has not yet been presented before Parliament. Currently, there is no statutory minimum wage for such non-employees (those with civil contracts). For employees (those employed under employment agreements), the statutory minimum wage is equal to 1,850 PLN gross per month.
There have also been discussions regarding fixing the statutory minimum wage (applicable to personnel hired under employment contracts) at the level of 50% of the average remuneration in the national economy (the statutory minimum wage applicable in 2016 constitutes 45% of the projected average remuneration being PLN 4 080).
Lowering of retirement age
Former regulations allowing women to retire at the age of 60 and men at 65 are to be reintroduced, lowering the retirement age from the current age of 67. The new regulations were meant to come into force on 1 January 2016, however legislative work is still in process before Parliament and according to government officials, it seems unlikely that the bill will enter into force this year, as no funds have been allocated for early retirement payments in this year’s budget.
More restrictive working time rules
There will be more restrictive work time rules regarding work performed on Sundays and bank holidays, including the exception concerning shift work. According to press reports, the government does not envisage any ban on working in retail on Sundays, but some restrictions in this respect are still being considered (see previous update here).
Civil law contracts (e.g. consultant contracts)
The issue of granting labour inspectors the power to reclassify (by virtue of administrative decisions) the employment status of individual contractors is, again, under review.
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