February 22nd, 2016, was the implementation date for the changes. Up to this point, Polish law was arbitrary and confusing for employers, who used to breach it by offering their employees consecutive fixed-term employment contracts. As there was no specific restriction to this practice, new provisions are there to revise the law. With their introduction, Polish employers will still choose between only three types of employment contracts: indefinite-term, probationary and fixed-term contracts. Replacement contracts and employment contracts for a specified task will no longer be in use.
Maximum length of fixed-term contracts
The biggest change is related to the fixed-term contracts and is known under the name of restriction 33/3. The numbers refer to two aspects of a job contract. First, the overall period of continuous employment under one or more fixed-term employment contracts between the same employer and employee cannot exceed 33 months. The second part in the name of the regulation, 3, refers to the maximum number of fixed-term employment contracts.
If the two parties (the employer and employee) exceed the number of 33 months or sign the fourth fixed-term employment contract, their contract will automatically become a contract of indefinite duration. However, there may be some exceptions to the rule, provided the employer points out their objective reasons for doing so and notifies the local Social Labour Inspector.
Probationary employment has been designed for employers to find out whether the employee possesses necessary qualifications and skills to perform tasks dedicated to them. The period cannot exceed 3 months and is not included in the limit of 33 months (see point above).
Under certain circumstances, it is possible for the same parties to enter into another probationary contract, e.g. if the work differs significantly from previous tasks or if more than 3 years have passed since the end of the earlier contract.
The biggest change in this field is that notice periods no longer depend on the contract’s duration, but rather on the length of the employment period. Therefore, probationary, fixed-term and indefinite job contracts, will have the following notice periods:
- 2 weeks if employment lasts for less than 6 months;
- 1 month if employment lasts for more than 6 months;
- 3 months if employment lasts for more than 3 years.
The new law also affects fixed-term contracts which are already in force on February 22nd, 2016, for instance these, which last for more than 6 months but give a notice period of 2 weeks only. As far as the 33/3 rule is concerned, the period calculation starts on February 22nd and, depending on that, the ongoing job contract may be regarded as the first or the second one.