Poland: Changes in employment law in Q4 of 2023

The last quarter of 2023 has brought changes for employers regarding health and safety at workplaces equipped with screen monitors, as well as subsidies for eyeglasses and contact lenses. As a result of the changes, employees have also been exempted from court fees on employment lawsuits, and the court may oblige employers to temporarily reinstate a dismissed employee, who has been terminated during a period of special protection of the employment relationship, pending the resolution of the proceedings.

Below we summarize the key labour law changes of the last three months.

OHS at workplaces equipped with screen monitors

On 17 November 2023, the Regulation on occupational health and safety at workplaces equipped with screen monitors came into force. One of the key changes is modifying the equipment elements of such a workstation.

This means essentially that employers are required to:

  • Equip the workplace of an employee using a laptop with additional elements:
    • a stationary monitor or stand, ensuring that the screen can be positioned so that its upper edge is at the user's eye level,
    • an additional separate keyboard and mouse;
  • Review and update the health and safety information provided to employees,
  • Consider carrying out a new risk assessment - such a requirement is not explicit in the new legislation, but for some employers, this may need to be amended;
  • Collect a new statement from remote and hybrid employees confirming that they have read and undertake to comply with the new OHS information, and that safe and hygienic working conditions are provided at their remote workstation.

IMPORTANT: All the above requirements also apply to remote and hybrid employees, which may entail providing them with additional equipment or an allowance for using their own equipment.

As so far there has been no clear guidance and information in this regard from the Ministry of Family Labour, and Social Policy, as well as the State Labour Inspectorate, there are different interpretations of the new regulations. Nevertheless, our above approach aims at reducing the risks on the part of the employer.

Timetable for implementation by employers:

  • Newly created workstations should comply from 17 November 2023.
  • Existing workplaces should be equipped, and documentation updated by 17 May 2024.

For this reason, employers should be reviewing and updating internal documentation and procedures and providing employees with the documents and equipment required.

Eyeglasses and contact lenses

The Regulation has also extended the obligation to reimburse spectacles to employees to include contact lenses as well. In this case, it is the doctor who determines which option is recommended for the individual.

Employees will not pay court fees

One of the changes as part of a broad amendment in the field of court proceedings is the amendment modifying the fees in labour law proceedings.

Under the new rules, both the employee and the employer will pay a proportional fee only on the appeal and not on all chargeable pleadings. However, this does not apply to the basic fee payable by the employer on appeals, complaints, cassation complaints and actions for a declaration of unlawfulness of a final decision, which must be paid as before.

IMPORTANT: Employees have been completely exempted from paying court fees on employment lawsuits, and this applies regardless of the value of the subject matter of the dispute.
In cases where the value of the dispute’s subject is at least PLN 50,000, employees and employers appealing against the judgment of the court of first instance will have to pay a proportional fee on the appeal in the amount of 5% of the value of the claim, but not more than PLN 200,000.

The amendment came into force on 28 September 2023.

Mandatory reinstatement of a dismissed employee?

The amendment in the civil procedure allows the court to establish judicial security by means of mandatory temporary reinstatement of an employee who has been terminated during a period of special protection of the employment relationship (e.g. pregnancy, pre-retirement age, etc.) pending the resolution of the proceedings. This applies to any mode of termination, including disciplinary.

Such reinstatement is available to an employee who has brought an action in court to declare the termination unlawful and requested reinstatement. The request may be made at any stage of the court proceedings.

The previous wording of the procedural rules only provided for an optional reinstatement. Currently, such an application is binding on the court.

Judicial security may be granted based on the plausibility of the main claim. The court may only refuse to grant security if the claim is obviously unfounded.

The above means that when deciding whether to terminate employees under special protection, these additional legal, HR and work organisation risks should be taken into account upon dismissal. So, we recommend consulting HR and lawyers in this regard.

The above provision is effective from 22 September 2023.

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