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Carer’s leave. Trade unions criticize the proposed solutions

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Unpaid carer’s leave, within the scope of 5 days, is a proposal that appeared in the latest government proposal to amend the Labor Code. The changes are to implement two EU directives aimed at introducing a work-life balance. However, NSZZ “Solidarity” and the National Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ) were critical of the proposal.

The amendment to the Labor Code, which, after being adopted by the Sejm last Wednesday, will be dealt with by the Senate, is to implement the provisions of two EU directives into Polish law. Their aim is to provide clearer and more predictable employment conditions as well as work-life balance for parents and carers.

Trade unions critical of unpaid leave

NSZZ “Solidarity” and the National Alliance of Trade Unions have reservations regarding the unpaid five-day care leave provided for in the amendment to the Labor Code. According to the unions it will not perform its function.

According to the OPZZ the worker should be able to retain the right to remuneration for this leave in order to meet the objective of the directive being implementedof combining family and caring responsibilities with professional work. Paweł Śmigielski from OPZZ noticed that unpaid holidays are not very popular in Poland.

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– We propose that for the duration of this leave, the employee should receive remuneration calculated as for the period of holiday leave or that he/she should have the right to receive an appropriate cash benefit from ZUS. (…) We believe that this will be a good solution that will strengthen the popularity of carers’ leave, Śmigielski told PAP.

Changes to parental leave

The second point relates to parental leaveand specifically to its 9-week non-transferable part.

– We understand the purpose of this regulation, but there may be situations when the other parent of the child is unknown, may be dead, or the other parent is not entitled to parental authority. Then these 9 weeks will not be usable by the other parent and will simply be lost – he noted. Therefore, OPZZ proposes that in the above-mentioned cases, the 9-week leave could be transferred to the only parent. – In our opinion, this will be in line with the principles of social coexistence to enable this parent to use the full amount of parental leave – said Paweł Śmigielski.

The right to be offline

The third element that OPZZ would like to change in the amendment is the introduction of the right to disconnect an employee (the right to be offline). Śmigielski pointed out that the line between the working time and the private time of employees is blurred in many cases. He pointed out that employers engage employees to perform official duties outside working time via text messages, telephone calls or e-mails, which was particularly evident in the two years of work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This problem is growing, especially in times of popularity remote work. Therefore, we want to focus on the relevant provisions in this area – said Śmigielski.

In his opinion, despite the fact that the Labor Code contains a number of provisions indicating the employee’s right to be offline (including standards regarding working time, rest periods or settlement periods), “a clear and understandable regulation should be included directly in the act”.

– In my opinion, in the face of incorrect practices of employers in this area, it would also have an informative and educational function(…) that the employer cannot contact the employee in any form outside the working time – added the OPZZ representative.

He noted that deviations from this rule could be allowed in extraordinary situations in the workplace, e.g. rescue operations, breakdowns.

Solidarity critical of some provisions

NSZZ Solidarność also has comments regarding the payment of care leave, as well as leave from work due to force majeure.

– While this leave is paid 50 percent, carer’s leave is unpaid (…) employees will not use these forms of leave or dismissal. They will choose child care, they will take holiday leave, but most likely they will take unpaid care leave in the last place, Dr. Anna Reda-Ciszewska, an expert of NSZZ “Solidarity”, told PAP.

She noted, however, that the draft act itself, from the employee’s point of view, should be assessed positively due to a number of various beneficial, protective solutions. Especially when it comes to fixed-term employment contracts.

Amendment of the Labor Code. Equating two types of contracts

– Fixed-term employment contracts will be equated with indefinite-term contracts in terms of their termination. The employer will have to give a reason when terminating a fixed-term contract – said the representative of NSZZ “Solidarity”. She indicated that this is a good solution that will benefit employees. In her opinion, one should not be afraid that employers will move away from fixed-term contracts in favor of civil law contracts.

“We have an employee market right now. If an employer wants to compete for a good employee, he must provide him with an appropriate, stable basis for employment, so I would not be afraid of employers escaping into civil law contracts, she said.

Parliament for the amendment of the labor law

Changes in parental leave, wider use of flexible work organization and the possibility of dismissal from work “due to force majeure” – such as e.g. The solution is provided for in the amendment to the Labor Code, which was passed by the Sejm last week. 439 MPs voted for the amendment, 6 were against and 6 abstained.

The leave from work “due to force majeure” will be available for urgent family matters for 2 days or 16 hours per calendar year. For the time of this dismissal, the employee will retain the right to half of the remuneration.

According to the amendment, the employee will also be able to take advantage of unpaid care leave of 5 days in a calendar year. Leave will be available to provide personal care or support to a relative (son, daughter, mother, father or spouse) or householder who needs care or support for serious medical reasons. You will not be paid for this leave.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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