On Tuesday, the Council of Ministers will proceed the changes to fixed-term contract regulations. The draft introduces new rules with regards to fixed-term contracts of employment. If the legislation procedure is swift, new regulations – so important for employers and millions of employees – may come into force before the need of 2015.
The key feature of the draft is that it restricts the number of fixed-term contracts with an employee to 2 (the current limit is 3) and introduces a time limit of 33 months. New regulations will also specify exceptions to these rules. Ground for exception are as follows: stand-in work, seasonal and temporary work, the duration of terms an situations where the employer can specify “objective causes on his part”. According to the draft, signing a fixed-term contract for the reasons listed above “serves to answer a real need of temporary character and is necessary in light of all the circumstances of the signing”. However, such a formulation can hardly be considered sufficiently specific. This also creates and opportunity for the Chief Labour Inspectorate to decide what constitutes a real need of an employer.
Another issue is the obligation to notify the relevant labour inspector of a fixed-term contract being signed “due to objective causes on his part”. Such notification could be made in writing or by e-mail within 5 working days of the signing. For employers, this would be another administrative obligation and failure to comply with it would be treated as an infringement of employee rights and punished with a fee of 1000 to 30000 PLN.
Among new solutions is the possibility of signing a contact with the same employee for the same kind of work after free years had elapsed since the end of the last contract. This change has to be assessed positively, but sadly does not apply to fixed-term contracts – in their case not even a 3-year gap will “reset the counter” on the limit of 33 months and 3 contracts.
It is hard to disagree with the need to stabilize employment, which is the principal objective of this draft of amendments in the Labour Code. However, the draft needs to be modified in order to eliminate the objections which are now being raised. Otherwise the new regulations – which the Ministry of Labour has been attempting to introduce for several years – will cause unnecessary chaos on the labour market. We hope that problematic issues will be dealt with in the course of the legislative procedure and the final amendment will be clear for both parties of labour relations and answer their needs and expectations.
Wioletta Żukowska, labour law expert of Employers of Poland