Laid Off

Perhaps not the jolliest of subjects for Friday afternoon, but it is sometimes necessary for employers to lay off large numbers of employees. As we saw in I’m All Right Jack, often there is a mistaken belief that Polish employment regulations make the dismissal of employees more problematic than it actually is. Is redundancy any different?

The rules for mass redundancy – or, in Polish terminology, collective dismissal (a phrase which conjures up images of a communist workers’ paradise) are set out in the Act on Specific Conditions for Terminating Employees’ Employment for Reasons not Attributable to Employees of 2003. This applies to employers employing at leas 20 employees and says that a collective dismissal will take place where in a period of 30 days the employment is terminated with at least 10 employees where the employer employs fewer than 100 employees; 10 per cent of the employees where the employer employees between 100 and 300 employees; and 30 employees where the employer employs more than 300 employees.

If the redundancy is a collective dismissal, as defined above, then there is procedure which must be followed. The first stage requires the employer to consult with trade unions or, if there are no trade unions, with the employees’ representatives. The consultation should cover such matters as the possibility of avoiding redundancy, alternative employment opportunities, re-training, the reasons for the redundancy, the criteria fir selecting those to be made redundant and so on with the aim of reaching agreement on the rules for the redundancies. If agreement cannot be reached the employer may simply issue the rules taking into account, so far as is possible, points raised during the negotiations. There shortest period for these negotiations is 20 days so it is not a particularly onerous burden on the employer. The employer must also notify in writing the local labour office of the redundancies providing details of the arrangements, numbers affected, reasons for the redundancies and the consultation undertaken with a copy of the notice being sent o the trade unions or employee representatives as appropriate.

Once 30 days from the date of the notice to the local labour office have expired, the employer may serve redundancy notices on the affected employees and the contracts of employment may be terminated. Each employee who is made redundant is entitled to a severance payment based on the length of service with Employer. The actual minimum payment to which employee is entitled is the lesser of one, two or three months’ gross salary (depending on the length of service) and 15 times the current minimum wage. This is set by statute and is currently PLN 1500. Of course, an employer may be more generous, and in many cases the statutory minimum will be less than the months’ salary. Under Polish law, employees employed for an indeterminate time are entitled to three months’ notice of termination. This period may be shortened to one month during a collective dismissal in which case the employee is entitled to a payment in lieu of the remainder of the notice period in addition to any severance payment.

Certain categories of employee – for example women on maternity leave- are entitled to special protection but, all in all, the employer still seems to have the upper hand. Thus provide he employer is organised and takes advice, mass lay offs should be much less troublesome than they are to the unfortunate employees.

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