Main grounds for extension of a settlement period
A settlement period is a basic element of working time organisation. It is a time interval in which the employer has a possibility to manage days and hours of work in a flexible manner while retaining the employee‘s right to daily and weekly rest. It is rigid and cannot be changed by the employer.
The appropriate length of the settlement period, adjusted to the character of the workplace, will enable the planning of the work of the entire firm and the use of employees’ working time effectively.
Until now, the Polish Labour Code allowed for a settlement period lasting up to four months. From 23 August 2013 it is possible to extend the settlement period up to 12 months.
The 12-month settlement period may be introduced in any work time system defined by the Polish Labour Code. It is a different regulation from the previously one, which determined the length of the settlement period depending on the used working time system.
The main criterion to be satisfied when extending the settlement period is the existence of objective reasons, technical reasons, or reasons concerning the organisation of work. In practice, it can be introduced in any sector where the volume of orders for goods and services depends on a season.
Agreement with employee representatives
The employer cannot decide whether the above requirements are met and thus whether there is a need to introduce the extended settlement period. Extension of the settlement period up to 12 months can be introduced only in a collective labour agreement, an agreement with the company’s trade unions or, when there are no operating trade unions, an agreement concluded with employee representatives.
The subject of negotiations with trade unions / employees’ representatives is not only the reasons for extending the settlement period but also its length. The 12-month period is the maximum and will not be necessary in every workplace.
The employer must then submit a copy of the concluded agreement to the appropriate regional labour inspector within five business days from the date of conclusion of the agreement.
Guarantee of a minimum rest time
Despite the introduction of the extended settlement period, the employer, when planning work, must still comply with the provisions guaranteeing employees’ right to rest.
The employee may not work longer than 13 hours a day, including overtime hours. The employee is entitled to 11 hours of interrupted rest each day and 35 hours of interrupted rest each week. The employer must also grant employees the minimum number of days off: 115 days in 2014. The employer determines days off in particular months of the settlement period, while taking into consideration the rule of an average five-day working week that does not exceed an average of 40 hours of work per week.
Flexible planning of working time
The possibility to use the extended settlement periods is particularly advantageous for employers affected by seasonal variations. The amendment to the Labour Code enables planning a higher number of working hours in periods of greater demand for services or products and thus for the employees’ work and a smaller number of working hours when there are fewer orders.
Sectors in which workload depends on the season (eg, construction and retail) frequently record losses connected with the obligation to maintain employment off season. In this period, the working time of employees cannot be used effectively, while in periods of greater demand the employer is forced to hire more employees, generating additional costs.
Compensation for overtime work
Introduction of a longer settlement period clearly limits employers’ expenses connected with employees remuneration for overtime.
If it turns out that due to the seasonal nature of work, in some months the employee will not have determined hours of work or their number is minimal, this will not deprive the employee of the right to remuneration. In such case, the employee will be entitled to receive no less than the minimum remuneration of PLN 1,680 in 2014 (app. EUR 420).
Under amended provisions of the Polish Labour Code, employers may adapt settlement periods to the seasonality of the business.