Pillar I: The state’s duty to protect human rights

1. Regulations relating to business and human rights under Polish law

Prohibition of forced or compulsory labour [page 9]

“Referring to the prohibition of this type of work, it should be noted that, although the Labour Code does not contain a definition of forced labour, according to Article 65(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, everyone has the freedom to choose and to pursue their own occupation and to choose their place of work (with exceptions specified by law). On the other hand, one of the basic principles of labour law is the right to choose work freely, resulting from the provision of Article 10 LC, which also guarantees minimum remuneration and the assistance of the public authorities in taking up employment, as part of state policies to combat unemployment. This provision does not, however, provide the grounds to demand employment. In addition to the right to choose work freely, as specified in Article 10 § 1 LC, there is the principle of discretion when establishing an employment relationship, set out in Article 11 LC.”

Pillar II: The corporate responsibility to respect human rights

5. Corporate social responsibility in companies with State Treasury shareholding [page 32]

“as Poland ratified the Protocol of 2014 to Forced Labour Convention No 29 of 1930, it is necessary to initiate measures that will require employers in the public and private sectors to provide information under their reporting procedures on implemented procedures, processes, and standards for counteracting forced labour.”

10. Planned and ongoing activities [page 37]

“working to establish cooperation between state institutions and business-sector entities to counteract and reduce the phenomenon of forced labour, as one of the forms of trafficking in human being.”

Pillar III: Access to remedies

1. Current situation regarding access to legal remedies

Protection under criminal law [page 42]

“In this context, it is worth mentioning the amendment to the Penal Code that introduced a definition of slavery (Article 115 § 23 PC) and a definition of trafficking in human beings (Article 115 § 22 PC) modelled on the standards set by the Palermo Protocol and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Penalisation was provided not only for the act itself, but also for the preparatory stage for its execution (Article 189a PC). In connection with Council Decision (EU) 2015/2071 and Poland’s ratification of the Protocol of 2014 to Convention No 29 on Forced Labour of 1930, it is advisable to continue the work on verifying whether the provisions related to forced labour under Article 115 § 22 PC are sufficient to penalise the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings for forced labour.”

“In connection with Council Decision (EU) 2015/2071 and Poland’s ratification of the Protocol of 2014 to Convention No 29 on Forced Labour of 1930, it is advisable to continue the work on verifying whether the provisions related to forced labour under Article 115 § 22 PC are sufficient to penalise the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings for forced labour”

3. National Labour Inspectorate (PIP): an institution that oversees business and human rights

Tasks of the National Labour Inspectorate in the field of combatign human trafficking, and, in particular, forced labour [page 47]

“National Labour Inspectorate services play an extremely important role in combating trafficking in human beings, including forced labour. The National Labour Inspectorate is included in a group of institutions and organisations carrying out tasks to counteract this phenomenon, as part of their competencies. At the central level, a representative of the Chief Labour Inspectorate participates in meetings of the interdepartmental Team for Combating and Preventing Trafficking in Human Beings and in proceedings of the Teams’ Working Group. The National Labour Inspectorate carries out tasks under the National Plan and reports annually on their implementation to the Ministry of Interior and Administration. In addition, selected labour inspectors from district labour inspectorates participate in the work of Voivodship Teams for Preventing Trafficking in Human Beings.

Within the framework of the supervisory and inspection tasks performed, in particular when inspecting the legality of employment and the assignation and performance of work by foreign nationals, labour inspectors check where there are indications of forced labour at an inspected establishment, which is characterised by taking control over an employee and resulting in a violation of human rights. In order to evaluate and identify potential victims of trafficking, indicators are used, i.e., the circumstances of taking up and performing work, which may indicate that the employee is a victim of this type of crime (developed by both the ILO and the Ministry of Interior and Administration). The signing of an agreement between the Border Guard Chief Commander and the Chief Labour Inspector in 2008 and then in 2015 served as an instrument to strengthen the capacity of labour inspectors to respond to the illegal employment of foreign nationals and to the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings. The agreement serves as the basis for cooperation in undertaking joint inspections by Border Guard officers and labour inspectors, and to exchange information on infringements of the law concerning foreign nationals, including cases of their illegal employment. Effectively combating crimes of trafficking in human beings for forced labour is also possible thanks to mechanisms for cooperation and the exchange of information between National Labour Inspectorate units and prosecutors’ offices, at both the central and local levels, also on the basis on an agreement concluded in 2014. Training courses are conducted at the National Labour Inspectorate Training Centre in Wroclaw to help improve the qualifications of the inspectorial staff involved in the activities related to the issues in question.

The procedure for handling complaints by PIP authorities is an important tool in the prevention of trafficking in human beings for forced labour and violations of labour rights against foreign nationals. Complaints that suggest the need for immediate action are examined first. Respecting the dignity and other personal interests of employees is a fundamental duty of employers. This also includes the prohibition of unequal treatment and discrimination at work. The activities of the National Labour Inspectorate to prevent and combat unequal treatment and discrimination in labour relations include the implementation of activities in the sphere of oversight and inspection, as well as in prevention and information. (…)”

Implementation of the National Action Plan

1. Education [page 54]

“It is appropriate to take preventive measures against forced labour, including education and information initiatives for employers, and to support both the public and private sectors in preventing and responding to the threat of forced labour.”

Apendix 1: International non-binding mechanisms and international legal framework in force in Poland in relation to business and human rights

Conventions for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [page 58]

“Poland has also ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Journal of Laws of 1993, No 61, Item 284, as amended). Article 34 of the Convention provides for the right to file an individual complaint, which makes it possible to initiate proceedings against the defendant state before the Court in order to protect the rights and freedoms of the Convention: (…) Article 4: Prohibition of slavery and forced labour (…).”