April amendments in law have been followed by several important changes have been introduced in the Polish legal order, which may prove to be of particular interest from the employers’ perspective. Some of the changes include an increase in the minimum wage, the strengthening of the employee’s position in disputes with the employer, a higher limit on the exemption from social security contributions or changes to the rules on the employment of adolescent workers. We look at what employers should be preparing for in the first few months of the new year, 2024.
Increase in the minimum wage
On 1 July 2023 – for the second time this year – we witnessed the increase in the minimum wage to PLN 3,600 (PLN 23.50 per hour).
However, employers have to face further increases. The Regulation stipulates that the minimum wage in 2024 will increase in two steps, and will be as follows:
- From 1 January 2024 – PLN 4,242;
- From 1 July 2024 – PLN 4,300.
And the minimum hourly rate will be as follows:
- From 1 January 2024 – PLN 27.70;
- From 1 July 2024 – PLN 28.10.
The minimum wage constitutes a very important variable that directly affects the amount of other costs that employers are required to pay.
The following benefits will be affected by the increase in the minimum wage:
- Increase in allowance for night work – in January-April 2024 it will amount to PLN 5.05 per hour.
- Compensation to an employee for breach of equal treatment in employment or harassment – cannot be less than PLN 4,242 and, from July 2024 – PLN 4,300.
- The maximum amount of severance pay for termination of employment for reasons not related to employees until 30 June 2024 cannot exceed PLN 63,630, and from 1 July – PLN 64,500.
- The amount free of deductions will increase.
- The minimum benefit assessment basis will increase – pursuant to Article 45 sec. 1 of the Act on cash benefits from social insurance in the event of sickness and maternity – to PLN 3,660.42.
Significant changes in employee processes
On 22 September, legislation came into force that has increased the position of employees in disputes with their employer.
Today, in cases of recognition of termination of employment or reinstatement, the court imposes on employers an obligation to continue employing the employee until the proceedings have become final. Vulnerable employees may make such a request throughout the proceedings, and therefore also at the time of filing a claim. Other employees may obtain such entitlement together with the judgment of the court of first instance.
These are not all the changes that make a significant improvement to the situation of employees – the rules for paying court fees on lawsuits have also changed.
From 28 September 2023, an employee may sue an employer for any amount without having to pay any fee. So far, lawsuits in which the demand did not exceed the amount of PLN 50,000 benefited from such an exemption.
The above changes may significantly affect the day-to-day operations of employers.
Firstly, due to the absence of an initial fee, more lawsuits against employers can be expected than before, including lawsuits involving higher claims than before.
Secondly, employers should draft their termination notices in even greater detail, in particular for protected employees, so that the court already concludes at the stage of the analysis of the case and the lawsuit filed that the claim is unfounded, which is the only reason to deny security.
Higher limit for exemption from social security contributions
On 1 September 2023 we witnessed the application of an increased amount of exclusion of the value of employer-funded meals for employees from the base for pension contributions, without entitlement to an allowance therefor. Previously it was PLN 300, today it is PLN 450.
At the same time, coupons, vouchers, meal vouchers and prepaid cards were also excluded from the contribution base.
Changes to the employment of adolescent workers
Start from the new school year, there have been a number of changes to the employment of adolescent workers.
They resulted from the fact that the ratios that constitute the basis for the calculation of adolescent workers’ remuneration have increased, which from 1 September 2023 amounts to the following:
- In the first year of study or in class I of a first-degree vocational school in the case of an adolescent worker’s undertaking further theoretical training at this school – not less than PLN 560.46 (not less than 8% of the average monthly wage in the previous quarter, previously not less than 5%).
- In the second year of study or class II of a first-degree vocational school in the case of an adolescent worker’s undertaking further theoretical training at this school – not less than PLN 630.52 (not less than 9% of the average monthly wage in the previous quarter, previously no less than 6%).
- In the third year of study or class III of a first-degree vocational school in the case of an adolescent worker’s undertaking further theoretical training at this school – not less than PLN 700.58 (not less than 10% of the average monthly wage in the previous quarter, previously not less than 7%).
Please note that the increase covers all adolescent workers, including those employed before 1 September 2023.
The Regulation on the list of work prohibited to adolescent workers has also changed, which may entail the need to update internal regulations (e.g. work regulations).
Changes to immigration law
In connection with the visa scandal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced its decision to terminate contracts with external outsourcing companies that supported the Polish visa application process.
The MFA is planning to open its own network of visa application points using its own infrastructure.
Currently, visa applications can be submitted at the Polish Consular Offices by appointment through the e-konsulat system. In some countries, it will still be possible to use the so-called “visa centre” reception points. The list of selected countries and methods to apply for a visa is the following:
- Japan – consular post with territorial jurisdiction in the Republic of Poland;
- China – consular post with territorial jurisdiction in the Republic of Poland;
- United Kingdom – Consular and Polish Section of the Polish Embassy in London;
- India – Embassy of the Republic of Poland in New Delhi / Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Mumbai (depending on the state of which the applicant is a citizen or resident);
- Belarus – Visa Application Points.
Extension of temporary protection on the territory of the Republic Poland in connection with the armed conflict in Ukraine
According to the current wording of the Law of 12 March 2022 on assistance tocitizens of Ukraine in connection with the armed conflict on the territory of that country, Ukrainian citizens (and some of their family members) who have been coming to our country since 24 February 2022 due to the war may legally stay here under temporary protection until 4 March 2024.
This means that Ukrainian citizens can stay in Poland without a valid visa or other residence permit and can take up employment without additional work permits.
As recommended by the EU Council, this deadline is to be extended to 4 March 2025.
Occupational health and safety at work – changes to the workstation equipped with screen monitors
On 2 November this year we saw publication of the Regulation of the Minister of Family and Social Policy of 18 October 2023 amending the Regulation on health and safety at work in workplaces equipped with screen monitors (Journal of Laws 2023, item 2367).
The most important changes concern screen monitors, chairs and the obligation to provide glasses or contact lenses.
The changes also include the definition of a workstation as a space with basic equipment, including a screen monitor, keyboard, mouse or other input devices, software with a user interface, chair and table, and optional accessories such as a disk station, printer, scanner, document holder and footrest.
For many employers, the new definition of the “workplace” may mean additional costs for the purchase of missing equipment.
The Regulation sets forth the minimum health, safety and ergonomic requirements to be met by workstations equipped with screen monitors.
This includes the obligation to provide equipment to employees working with laptops (or other portable devices) for at least half of their daily working hours.
The employer will have to equip their workstations with a desktop monitor or (alternatively) a stand ensuring that the screen is positioned so that its top edge is at eye level, an additional keyboard and a mouse. The above requirements apply not only to stationary workers, but also to remote workers.
The Regulation also introduces other changes to the workplace, i.e.:
- The monitor does not need to be set at the required tilt angle, it is sufficient to ensure a position that does not strain head and neck movements.
- The employee’s chair must have an adjustable armrest.
- The obligation to finance the purchase – not only of corrective glasses – but also of contact lenses, if these are recommended to the employee by an occupational medicine doctor.
At the same time, the legislator has left it up to the freedom of the employer to determine the frequency with which glasses/contact lenses are subsidised or the amount of the subsidy. In practice, this means that the above regulations should be established by the employer in internal regulations (e.g. work regulations).
The Regulation is effective as of 17 November 2023. In relation to workstations with screen monitors created before the Regulation came into force, the employer has 6 months to comply with the new regulations. This deadline will expire on 17 May 2024.
What we can expect in the future
In addition to the above changes, employers should be aware of the numerous draft laws, regulations and EU legislation that will directly affect employment rules in Poland. Key projects include:
- Act on the protection ofwhistleblowers – a draft act on whistleblowers is being developed, and should be in force for almost three years. Currently, the draft has undergone the review of the Committee on Legal Affairs and in the current state, it assumes, inter alia, the following:
- Obligation for entities employing more than 50 people to establish an internal notification procedure (for companies employing fewer people, the establishment of a procedure will be voluntary);
- Rules for the receipt and processing of any notifications, including the duration of data retention and method of safeguarding their confidentiality;
- Penalties for breach of statutory obligations.
The entry into force of the act will result in the obligation to introduce a new procedure and to activate numerous mechanisms within the organisation itself, as the act requires procedures to be established at local level. It is also important to note that the procedure will have to be consulted with the company’s trade union organisation or, if there is none, with the employees’ representatives.
- Equal pay directive – an EU directive, which came into force in May, introduces a number of mechanisms to counteract gender-based pay discrimination and to close the pay gap between women and men. You can read more about this in our article.
III. Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the improvement of working conditions through online platforms – online platforms are becoming the workplace for many people, so this is a topic the European Union has decided to address. The directive provides for, inter alia, a definition of an online platform and a presumption of an employment relationship in cases defined by the act. It is still under development and its final form is not known, which will have to be introduced into the Polish legal order by means of an appropriate act.
- Act on industrial disputes – a new act onindustrial disputes is being drafted. The draft envisages a departure from the enumerative definition of the subject matter of an industrial dispute: the act will set out the rules for the initiation, conduct and termination of an industrial dispute. On a positive note, the definition of a maximum duration of the dispute (9 months with the possibility of an extension for a further 3 months), which must be concluded with the elaboration of relevant documents or, after expiry, with the termination of the dispute by operation of law. A new catalogue of punishable acts is likely to be introduced – the draft provides for a fine or restriction of freedom for, inter alia, failing to negotiate, preventing a vote, prohibiting participation in a strike or other industrial action.
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 Regulation of the Council of Ministers of 14 September 2023 on the amount of the minimum wage and the amount of the minimum hourly rate in 2024(Journal of Laws, item 1893).