The amendment to the Labour Code, which came into force on 26 April 2023, introduced new rules for probationary and fixed-term employment contracts. The change in regulations was influenced by the implementation of the pro-employee EU directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union. Among other things, the aim of the new regulations is to increase employment stability.
Pursuant to Article 25 § 2 of the Labour Code, the purpose of concluding a probationary employment contract is to check the employee’s qualifications and employability to perform a specific type of work. A trial period contract therefore usually precedes a fixed-term or indefinite-term contract. As of 26 April 2023, the length of the probationary employment contract depends on what kind of contract the employer intends to conclude with the employee after this period. The provisions on the length of a such contracts not changed and such a contract under the previous and current legislation may be concluded for a period not exceeding three months. What is new, however, is the introduction into the legislation of additional restrictions on the duration of a probationary period employment contract.
Currently, probationary employment contracts can be concluded for a period not exceeding:
In a probationary employment contract, the employer and the employee will be able to agree to extend the duration of the contract by the employee’s holiday and/or other excused absence from work.
Important: the re-entry of a probationary employment contract with the same employee is allowed in one case if the employee is to be employed to perform a different type of work.
A fixed-term employment contract with one employee may be concluded for a period not exceeding 33 months. An employer may conclude a fixed-term contract with the same employee a maximum of 3 times. After this period or after the limit of contracts has been exhausted, the employee is deemed to be employed under a contract of employment for an indefinite period.
In light of the amended provisions of the Labour Code, the employer is obliged to indicate the reason justifying the termination in the notice of termination of the fixed-term contract. The reason given in the termination notice will be open to challenge by the employee.
Important: if the employee is a member of a trade union, the employer must notify the trade union organisation of its intention to terminate the fixed-term employment contract together with the reason for termination.
The amendment to the Labour Code allows an employee to challenge the reason for termination of a fixed-term employment contract indicated by the employer. If the termination violates labour law or is unjustified, the employee may claim not only compensation but also reinstatement.
Employees have also gained the right to request a change of the type of employment contract to an indefinite contract or for more predictable and safer working conditions. If an employee has been employed with an employer for at least six months, he or she may request once per calendar year that the employer change the type of employment contract to an indefinite-term contract or for more predictable and safer working conditions, including a change in the type of work or full-time employment. This does not apply to an employee employed under a probationary contract of employment. The period of an employee’s employment with a given employer shall be included in the employee’s period of employment with the previous employer if the change of employer took place in accordance with the principles set out in Article 231 of the Labour Code, as well as in other cases when, by virtue of separate provisions, the new employer is a legal successor in employment relations established by the employer previously employing that employee.
The employer is obliged to provide the employee with a response to this request in paper or electronic form within 1 month of receiving the request (i.e. within the statutory deadline). If the request is refused, the employer must inform the employee of the reason for the refusal.
Important: Failure to respond to the request within the statutory period in paper or electronic form or failure to inform the employer of the reason for refusal of the request is punishable by a fine from PLN 1,000 to PLN 30,000.
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