It has been a busy time for HR matters in Poland. The last few months have been marked by a number of significant changes in Polish labour law, with further legal developments on the horizon, which will generate even more work for HR departments in Poland in the upcoming months.
What should have been implemented by now?
The first half of 2023 brought about revolutionary amendments to Polish labour law, including the regulation of sobriety testing (effective as of 21 February 2023), a new remote work framework (effective as of 7 April 2023) and the implementation of two EU directives: Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions (2019/1152) and Work-Life Balance Directive (2019/1158), while also introducing other numerous amendments (effective as of 26 April 2023). As a result, employers in Poland (or, more specifically, their HR departments) have faced a lot of challenges seeking to adjust their organisations to the new legal reality.
Experience shows that the greatest challenges arising out of the new laws discussed above involved:
- deciding on the need to introduce and fulfil formal requirements for sobriety testing, including the respective procedures in work regulations;
- taking structural decisions regarding the type of remote work setup that is most suitable for the organisation as well as fulfilling all formal requirements for its implementation, including (depending on the adopted approach) (i) drafting and introducing remote work rules or regulations; (ii) issuing remote work orders; (iii) concluding annexes to employment contracts or mutual agreements regarding remote work; (iv) issuing supplementary information to employees performing remote work; (v) handling employee’s motions and statements regarding remote work and (vi) carrying out consultation procedures with trade unions or employee representatives;
- preparing new (wider, containing additional information) templates of the employment contract and additional statutory information on the terms of employment to be delivered to the employee by the employer;
- implementing new procedures, amending the current ones, and preparing new forms of documents as well as providing new obligatory information on new aspects to the employees;
- adjusting organisations to the new legal framework regarding parental leaves and extending certain parental entitlements as well as handling employee motions in respect of their new rights under transitional provisions.
The new provisions are riddled with pitfalls and have proved to pose a number of practical doubts that are still subject to various interpretations of authorities. In many cases not fulfilling transitional measures or their inappropriate implementation may be penalised with fines in case of a control from the State Labour Inspection.
What’s on the horizon?
The recent turmoil presented above continues with no end in sight. On the one hand, the Polish government is working on certain internal revisions (eg on the act on the settlement of collective disputes or the act on the liability of collective entities for acts prohibited under penalty). On the other hand, work is underway on the implementation of changes deriving from the EU law, such as the Whistleblowing Directive (2019/1137), ESG measures, Pay Transparency Directive (2023/970) and many more. While the internal revisions are progressing at their own pace, the obligations for the transposition of the EU law set a clear and sometimes challenging timeframe in Poland. The last changes are of utmost importance and preparations for their introduction should be underway so as to avoid any problems in the future.
Although the deadline for the implementation of the Whistleblowing Directive (2019/1137) has already passed on 17 December 2021, work on its implementation in Poland is still ongoing. Recently, the Polish Government Legislation Centre published a new draft act on the protection of persons reporting violations of the law. However, market expectations are that this draft act, despite already being significantly delayed, will be enhanced.
The HR sector will be undergoing changes in the field of new ‘S’ ESG obligations covering several employment-related reporting obligations based on the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (2022/2464) on 5 January 2023 (regarding eg equal treatment and opportunities or several aspects of working conditions). Once implemented, the entities will need to follow ESRS reporting guidelines that should be adopted in the foreseeable future as the consultation phase ended on 7 July 2023.
In light of the revised ESG strategy, new pay transparency standards are approaching as a result of the entry into force of the Pay Transparency Directive (2023/970) on 6 June 2023 (with a three-year implementation deadline). The main aim is to create new reporting standards for gender pay gap and adopt rules to combat discrimination. For the Polish market, pay transparency rules already mean a revolution of its own and a necessity to review remuneration schemes long before the target date. Similarly, larger changes will come with the implementation of the Gender Balance Directive (2022/2381), with it initially applying only to listed companies (excluding SMEs). Its transposition must take place by 28 December 2024.
There is no doubt that HR matters should be on all employers’ radar, as evidenced by all the issues above. It is important to review and make sure that companies have properly adopted to the new requirements. This includes making sure that they have adjusted their internal procedures with regard to formal legal requirements and to follow respective guidelines and positions of the authorities in the newly shaped practice. Given their massive impact on organisations, it becomes essential to be prepared for the changes ahead of time. In addition, overall employee policies and standards have grown in importance with the rise of ESG measures, which affects the perception of the entities by employees (from the attractiveness and retention angle) and investors (under general business consequences). It has become clear that the upmost importance must be given to HR matters.