6.07.2021 Labour law

[Poland] Annual vacation leave – rules for taking the leave and penalties for breaching the regulations

The right to annual vacation leave is guaranteed under the Labour Code for every employee with an employment contract. The employer is obliged to grant the leave according to the rules set out in the regulations and after agreement with an employee. What are these rules and what are the penalties for violating them or unduly reducing the leave?

Leave entitlement and plan, the rights of employees and the obligations of employers

The annual vacation leave entitlement depends on the employee’s length of employment, which includes both the time spent in employment and the time spent in education at vocational school, secondary school, post-secondary school and higher education institution.

 Length of employment

Annual leave entitlement

More than 10 years

26 days

Less than 10 years

21 days

The exception is if an employee has just started his/her first job, because then he/she acquires the right to leave on the basis of 1/12 for each month worked.

Annual leave is paid and granted on the basis of an application made by an employee (this may be an online application submitted through the HR and payroll system), and the leave may be divided into parts, but at least one part of the leave must last 14 consecutive calendar days without interruption (this rule must be observed, except in the case in which an employee is on sick leave during the two-week rest period, or if an employee is just acquiring leave entitlements – first job).

Any employee with an employment contract is therefore entitled to annual, uninterrupted and paid leave, and his/her employer is obliged to grant such leave after consultation with the employee and on the basis of the employee’s request and the company’s leave plans.

E-leave applications and electronic working time settlement – check out the ASISTAR RCP system

Unused annual leave is transferred to the following year, with the possibility to use it until 30 September of the following year. Moreover, in the notice period for the employment contract, an employer has the right to send an employee on leave, both current and accrued, and by a unilateral decision, so without consultation with the employee.

Learn more: Taking leave in 2021 – changes

May an employer change or refuse to grant annual leave?

Both employers and employees have the right to change the pre-agreed date of a vacation leave. Employer can only change the date if the absence of an employee would cause serious disruption to the course of work, while the employee can change the date for various reasons by submitting a reasoned application to the employer.

The employer may also refuse the leave on the indicated date, but only if it will threaten the continuity of the company’s operations. However, it should be remembered that the employer is obliged to provide the employee with rest in accordance with the provisions of the Labour Code, so the employer must grant the leave by 30 September of the following calendar year at the latest.

Yet the employer may not refuse to grant the employee a vacation annual leave immediately after parental leave or maternity leave.

Penalties for employers for violating annual leave regulations

The right to annual vacation leave is an inalienable right of every employee under the Labour Code (the right to rest is a fundamental principle of labour law). Therefore, the provisions of the Labour Code clearly define the sanction of a fine ranging from PLN 1 000 to PLN 30 000 for not granting holiday leave or for unjustified reduction of its amount.

It is worth noting that these fines do not apply to recalling an employee from his leave or failing to establish a leave plan if there are trade unions at the workplace and they do not agree to the failure to establish a plan. However, an employer who decides to recall an employee from a leave for reasons important for maintaining continuity of work must remember that in such a situation the employee has the right to demand reimbursement of costs incurred in this respect (e.g. costs of plane tickets, booked accommodation, etc.).

There is also an option in the legislation not to impose a fine if the labour inspector or the court applies a reprimand, instruction, reminder, warning or other measures of educational or social influence, all depending on the nature and circumstances of the act in question.

Only in extreme situations failure to grant leave may be treated as an offence subject to the provisions of the Penal Code – whoever, while performing duties related to labour law and social insurance, maliciously or persistently violates the rights of an employee arising from the employment relationship or social insurance, shall be subject to a fine, penalty of restriction of liberty or deprivation of liberty for up to 2 years (Article 218 § 1a of the Act of 6 June 1997, Penal Code).

Learn more: Minimum wage in 2022 to be raised by PLN 200

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