By Agnieszka Szczodra-Hajduk, head of Employment Practice and Aleksandra Sudak-Przybyła, associate, Employment Practice, Hogan Lovells law firm in Poland



The spring brings with it a series of changes in the labour law. Apart from remote work, the most relevant and significant developments for HR Departments concern the new regulations dealing with work-life balance and transparent employment conditions. The new provisions implement two EU Directives: Directive (EU) 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on work-life balance for parents and carers, and Directive (EU) 2019/1152 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on transparent and predictable employment conditions. These provisions will come into force on 26 April 2023. The new “work-life balance” provisions were intended to make it easier for working parents and family caregivers to balance work and family life, as well as to contribute to gender equality with respect to labour market opportunities. Even though the idea behind this is a noble one, it is presently difficult to assess whether these introduced solutions will work in practice and will actually help employees achieve a balance between their private and professional worlds, or whether these new developments will only trigger additional duties and paperwork for HR teams. What does the new law implementing the “Work-Life Balance Directive” give? The most important changes concerning work-life balance include:

  • The extension of parental leave: Parental leave will be extended to 41 weeks. The change introduces a non-transferable portion of parental leave for up to nine weeks for each parent. If an employee does not use their entitlement, it will expire.
  • Carers’ leave: Employees are granted the opportunity to take unpaid care leave for five days every calendar year in order to take care of a family or household member.
  • Flexible work arrangement: The establishment of more flexible work arrangement options for working parents with children under the age of 8. These options include the possibility to request remote work, the possibility to request an individual work schedule, the possibility to request part-time work, the possibility to have the right to refuse overtime work, or the possibility to have the right to refuse being delegated outside the permanent workplace.
  • Shorter deadline for using paternity leave: A working father will be entitled to up to 2 weeks’ paternity leave only within first 12 months of the child’s life (instead of the current 24 months).
  • Time of work: A new exemption from work has been introduced with the right to maintain 50% of one’s salary on the grounds of force majeure, to be taken in the event of an emergency concerning family matters (two days, or 16 hours per calendar year).
Which provisions of the Polish Labour Code will change in order to implement the Directive on transparent and predictable employment conditions? The aim of the Directive on transparent and predictable employment conditions is to give employees more rights within their employment, and to increase the predictability and transparency of employees’ working conditions. The most progressive change is the obligation to indicate the reason for a termination of a fixed-term employment contract, and to be able to consult this termination with a trade union. In addition, certain modifications will be made to the rules connected with employment contracts covering a probationary period. The general rule for the duration of a probationary period up to three months will remain unchanged. However, the maximum length of a contract for a probationary period has been made subject to the length of the next fixed-term contract that the employer intends to enter into after the probationary period, for example for a six-month fixed-term contract the probationary period will be one month, for contracts between six and 12-months the maximum probationary period will be two months, and the longest one will be three months for those with a fixed term contract for more than one year or for an indefinite period contract. Additionally, within the employment contract, the parties can include the possibility that the probationary period can be extended by the utilised days of vacations or the days of the employee’s other justified leaves of absence. This rule only applies to a one or two-month probationary period. Other important changes specifically concern:
  • No possibility of prohibiting an employee from being in an employment relationship with another employer (excluding work for a competitor)
  • An extension of the scope of the information concerning the terms and conditions of employment.
  • The possibility that, once a year, fixed-term employees who have been employed for at least six months can request a change of their employment contract into an employment contract for an indefinite period of time. The employer has one month to respond and is required to provide reasons if this request is declined.
  • Temporary employees who have had their contracts terminated contrary to the provisions of the regulations have been granted a claim for reinstatement if the termination occurred after they had applied for maternity, parental, or paternity leave.
  • Employees will be entitled to two additional breaks of at least 15 minutes depending on the number of daily working hours. The second break applies if the employee works for more than nine hours, and the third break occurs if the employee works for more than 16 hours.
What obligations await employers following the implementation of the EU Directives into Polish labour law? The adoption of the new legislation imposes many responsibilities on companies and can significantly affect the organisation of their work (leading, for example, to the need to organise replacements more often). Employers will be obliged to adjust their HR documentation to the new legislation, including:
  • Preparing extended information on working conditions
  • Preparing additional information for employees working abroad, or for employees taking foreign business trips
  • Updating internal regulations
  • Preparing new templates of employment contracts.
Conclusion It is obvious that the recent changes in the Polish labour law concerning work-life balance and transparent employment conditions were expected more by individuals than by firms. The new law was supposed to meet the expectations of employees who wish to combine family and professional life and are looking for flexible working arrangements. Time will tell whether the adopted solutions have been successful and will actually improve the well-being of employees, or whether they have just become an additional burden for employers.