May 2024

Polish Law Bolsters Employees’ Position in Court

With Poland becoming an increasingly attractive prospect for large investments, employment law is becoming ever more critical for the future prospects of the country. Recent changes to Polish procedural law have strengthened employees’ position in court.

Retaining Unwanted Employees

Employees who have already enjoyed special protection (such as trade union members, pre-retirees, parents and soon-to-be parents on parental or maternity leave) may now request reinstatement in their former job until their claim for unfair dismissal is resolved. The court may deny such a request only if the employee’s claims are manifestly groundless.

The employer may challenge the reinstatement order; however, once it becomes final, it may be reversed only if new grounds for disciplinary dismissal materialise after the order has been issued. The order will remain in force even if the facts disclosed during the proceedings completely undermine the employee’s case.

Additionally, all employees can now request the court of first instance ruling on their reinstatement to oblige the employer to retain them until a final judgment is made by the court of second instance, and such a request is binding for the court. This could mean forcing the employer to keep an unwanted employee for what may turn out to be several years.

The new law aims to protect employees from the negative effects of lengthy legal proceedings. At the same time; however, the lawmakers have shifted the burden of dealing with systemic inefficiencies onto employers.

The newly devised solutions appear to be simplistic, particularly since the decision to reinstate an employee until the final resolution of the case is subject to minimal court discretion and can only be reversed in exceptional circumstances. Moreover, no measures have been put in place to compensate employers vindicated in court for the costs incurred to comply with reinstatement orders.

Reduced Court Fees

Another significant change concerns the cost of filing a claim. Previously, employees were only exempt from court fees if the amount in dispute did not exceed PLN 50,000 (approximately EUR 11,500). Now, employees may issue a claim free of charge, regardless of its value. Furthermore, the fee for an appeal will only be charged if the disputed amount exceeds PLN 50,000. In such a case, the fee will be calculated as a percentage of the amount that exceeds the threshold.

As a result, employers may now face more claims from their top-tier employees, who may feel emboldened to pursue cases of questionable merit in hopes of negotiating a lucrative commercial settlement. On a more positive note, eliminating the fee for filing a claim should curb the practice of filing multiple claims, each addressing only a portion of the employee’s grievances, where one claim would suffice.

Author: Piotr Bobrowski

Originally published Spring 2024 in GGI FYI