Minimum Working Conditions
The most important principles regarding working and remuneration conditions are set forth in the Labour Code. Nevertheless, the provisions of the Labour Code in this scope constitute only a minimum of employee rights, which can be broadened by the employer. Therefore, the provisions of collective labour agreements and collective settlement agreements as well as the rules and procedures and statutes, have priority before the solutions in the Labour Code and the provisions of other acts and secondary legislation, as long as they are not less beneficial to the employees. Also, under the employment contract concluded by the parties thereto, it is acceptable to grant employee rights, which are more advantageous than the ones provided for in the Labour Code.
The basis for the amount of employee’s remuneration is found in the employment contract concluded with the employer. The most popular and the most important criteria for setting the amount of one’s salary are the kind of work and the qualifications required to perform the work and the quantity and quality thereof. An employee has a guaranteed minimum pay, which is set pursuant to the principles and the procedure provided for in the Minimum Wage Act. If, however, a higher minimum salary has been set in collective labour agreements or the remuneration rules and procedures, then the employer is obligated to respect such agreements in place of the act.
Apart from his/her basic pay, an employee may receive different allowances. Granting the latter is justified by special circumstances pertaining to the kind of work or skills of an individual employee. Additional remuneration can be divided into those which are obligatory (e.g., extra pay for working overtime, extra pay for working at night), and those which are optional (e.g., extra pay for working shifts, service premiums). An employee can also be granted different kinds of awards and bonuses.
Maximum Working Week
The working time may not exceed eight hours a day and forty hours in an average five-day working week in an accepted settlement period, which does not exceed four months (there are however, cases where settlement periods of up to 12 months may be used). The legislator has introduced a possibility to shorten or extend the settlement period and the working time in a day in accordance with the cases defined in the Labour Code. The weekly working time together with the overtime may not, however, exceed forty-eight hours in the accepted settlement period on average.
Working overtime is accepted in two situations only: in the event when there is a necessity to conduct a rescue mission to protect human life or health, to protect property or the environment, or to remove a breakdown, or in the event of special employer’s needs. It is the employer who assesses whether there have occurred special needs which justify working overtime.
Due to the special character of working overtime and the dangers, which are connected thereto, the principle is to impose a limit to overtime hours. The limit exclusively includes the work performed as overtime due to the special needs of the employer. It is the employer’s duty to ensure an employee an uninterrupted eleven-hour rest period per 24-hour day. The weekly working time together with overtime may not, in turn, exceed forty-eight hours in an accepted settlement period on average.
In the case of an annual limit, the Labour Code states that, for an employee, the number of overtime hours may not exceed one hundred and fifty hours in a calendar year. If the employer is not obligated by a collected labour agreement or by work rules and procedures, it is acceptable to define another (higher) number of overtime hours in a calendar year. The maximum annual number of overtime hours is contingent on the need to maintain the maximum weekly number of working hours (on average, forty-eight hours per week in an average settlement period).
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
The Constitution of the Republic of Poland states that everyone is entitled to safe and hygienic work conditions. This principle has been specified in the Labour Code, which states that both the employer and the employee have obligations in the field of health and safety at work.
The employer is responsible for health and safety in the workplace. The employer’s scope of responsibility is not affected by employees’ duties in the field or by entrusting the performance of work health and safety service tasks to specialists from outside the employing establishment. The employers cannot free themselves from the obligation to provide safe and hygienic work conditions for their employees.
The employees’ main duties in the field of health and safety in the workplace include: being familiar with the provisions and principles of health and safety at work, participation in training sessions and briefings in this field, compliance with the instructions and directives issued by superiors, undergoing initial and periodic medical examinations, check-ups and other medical examinations as recommended, and co-operation with the employer and superiors in the performance of duties concerning health and safety at work.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
The employer is obliged to protect the health and well-being of employees by ensuring conditions of health and safety at work, through the appropriate use of the achievements of science and technology. In particular, the employer is obliged to:
- organise work in a manner ensuring conditions of health and safety at work;
- ensure the provisions and the principles of health and safety at work are followed in the work establishment, issue instructions to remedy breaches within this scope, and supervise the implementation of such instructions;
- react to the needs related to ensuring health and safety at work, as well as adopt measures to improve the existing level of protection of health and well-being of employees, given the changing conditions of work;
- ensure the development of a coherent policy preventing accidents at work and occupational diseases; the policy should consider technical problems, work organisation, conditions of work and social relations, as well as the effect of factors of the work environment;
- consider the protection for the health of young employees, pregnant employees or employees nursing a child, as well as disabled employees within the preventive measures undertaken;
- ensure the implementation of orders, submissions, decisions and decrees issued by the authorities exercising supervision over the conditions of work;
- ensure the implementation of recommendations of a social labour inspector.
The costs of the acts undertaken by an employer as part of health and safety at work must not be borne by the employees in any way.
The employer and a person managing the employees are obliged to know, to the extent necessary to perform the duties imposed on them, the provisions on the protection of work, including provisions and principles of health and safety at work.
In case of breach of health and safety rules, employees can submit their objections to the health and safety at work service operating at the workplace. If the health and safety at work service does not take appropriate action, or if there is no health and safety at work service at the workplace, employees can submit their objections to the State Labour Inspection, which can penalise the employer.
Protection from Retaliation
Employees cannot be discriminated due to the fact of submitting their objections to the health and safety at work service or the State Labour Inspection.