Fixed-term contracts – changes to the Polish Labour Code

Pawel Krzykowski

New provisions of the Polish Labour Code regarding fixed-term employment contracts came into force on 22 February 2016.

Fixed-term employment contracts – what’s new?

Under the new law in Poland, the period of employment under a fixed-term employment contract and the total period of employment under fixed-term contracts between the same parties cannot exceed 33 months, and the total number of such contracts cannot exceed three. If a fourth fixed-term employment contract is entered into, or the maximum period for which an employee can be employed under a fixed-term contract is exceeded, the employee is deemed to be employed under an indefinite-term employment contract.

This restriction does not apply to employment contracts entered into:

  1. to replace another employee for the time of that employee’s justified absence;
  2. to perform contingent or seasonal work;
  3. for a term of office; or
  4. if the employer has legitimate reasons for doing so.

If the employer has legitimate reasons for entering into a fixed-term employment contract  (bullet 4 above), the employer will be obliged to notify the competent district labour inspector within five days from entering into the contract.fixed-term

According to new provisions of the Polish labour Code, each fixed-term employment contract executed after 22 February 2016 can be terminated on notice. Before that date it was possible to terminate a fixed-term contract on two conditions: if the contract was longer than six months; and if the parties agreed a clause that the contract could be terminated on two weeks’ notice. In addition, the notice periods for fixed-term employment contract and indefinite-term employment contracts have been unified. They depend on the period of employment with the given employer and range from two weeks to three months, if the length of service is three years.

The new legislation also introduces the possibility of releasing the employee from the obligation to perform work for the time of the notice period. This solution is already used in practice; however,  it did not have a statutory basis until now.

Before 22 February 2016 the maximum duration of fixed-contracts was not regulated in Poland, which often led to disputes between employers and employees. Employees tried to reclassify longer contracts into indefinite-term employment contracts, often successfully.

The Polish Parliament has introduced the new rules as a result of pressure from EU institutions, which stated that Polish labour law was not fair to employees working under fixed-term employment contracts because it was possible to include a clause in the agreement that a fixed-term employment contract longer than six months may be terminated on two weeks’ notice. The situation of an employee who was employed under a fixed-term contract for three years was much worse in comparison with an employee employed under an indefinite-term contract for three years (in relation to the notice period), as in the first case the notice period was two weeks, and in the second case it was three months.

 

Prepared in cooperation with Katarzyna Oleksik (Associate at A&O Warsaw)

Comments published on Employment Talk do not necessarily reflect the views of Allen & Overy.

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