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Poland – Equality

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

Regulations relating to business and human rights under Polish law [page 8]

The Constitution introduces the principle of equality before the law and the total prohibition of discrimination for any reason, including in economic life (Article 32).

The standards set forth in the international agreements are reflected in Chapter II of the Labour Code, which contains the basic principles of labour law. The following deserve a mention here:… the principle of equality of employees (Article112 ), the prohibition against discrimination in employment (Article 113 )…

Employment and occupation equality [pages 9-12]

As regards the principle of equal treatment of employees and the prohibition of discrimination in employment, this is clearly established in further provisions of the Labour Code, in particular in Chapter II a, ‘Equal treatment in employment’ (Articles 183a –183e). Counteracting discrimination in employment is one of the basic duties of employers. Employers are also obliged to provide employees with the text of the provisions on equal treatment in employment in the form of written information distributed on the premises of a work establishment or to provide employees with access to the legislation otherwise accepted by a given employer.

The Labour Code sets out an open catalogue of grounds for discrimination. In Article 113 , the Labour Code establishes a prohibition of any discrimination on any grounds 10 whatsoever. Similarly, Article 183a § 1 of the LC, which introduces the obligation to treat employees equally in respect of establishing or terminating an employment relationship, employment conditions, conditions for promotion, as well as access to training in order to improve professional qualifications, in particular regardless of sex, age, disability, race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, trade union membership, ethnic origin, creed, sexual orientation, as well as regardless of whether employment is for a definite or indefinite period of time or full-time or part-time employment.

The Labour Code contains definitions of equal treatment, direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment. Equal treatment in employment means that there must be no discrimination whatsoever, directly or indirectly, whatever the grounds. Discrimination is also taken to include:

  • practices related to encouraging another person to violate the principle of equal treatment in employment or ordering a person to violate that principle;
  • harassment or unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of an employee or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive atmosphere.

Concerning harassment and sexual harassment, the Labour Code guarantees employees that their submission to harassment or sexual harassment or their rejection of harassment or sexual harassment may not result in any negative consequences for said employees. According to Article 183b of the LC, a violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment occurs, with some exceptions, when an employer treats an employee differently on one or more grounds with the effect of, in particular:

1) terminating or rejecting the establishment of an employment relationship;

2) establishing disadvantageous conditions of remuneration for work or other terms of employment, or not being selected for promotion or not being granted other workrelated benefits;

3) not being chosen to participate in training organised to improve professional qualifications unless the employer proves that this was done for objective reasons.

In discrimination cases, the burden of proof is shifted from the employee to the employer. The employee should, however, present facts that would lend credence to a case of discrimination.

The Labour Code guarantees the right to equal remuneration for the same work or for work of equal value, including all components of remuneration, regardless of their name or characteristics. At the same time, it should be noted that the Labour Code does not explicitly define the concept of “the same work”. A person against whom an employer has violated the principle of equal treatment in employment has the right to compensation of at least the amount of the minimum remuneration for their work. The Labour Code also guarantees other rights to employees who assert their rights. The fact that an employee exercises his or her rights due to a violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment may not constitute a reason for disadvantageous treatment of the employee and may not result in any negative consequences for the employee. In particular, it may not constitute grounds for termination of an employment relationship by an employer, with or without notice. This regulation also applies to employees who have provided any form of support to an employee who has exercised his or her rights on account of a violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment.

According to Article 943 of the LC, the employer is obligated to take action against workplace mobbing, which includes acts or behaviour towards an employee or 11 directed against an employee involving persistent and long-lasting harassment or bulling of an employee causing specific negative consequences. An employee who was harassed at work and developed health problems may claim an appropriate amount of money from the employer as a pecuniary compensation for the damage sustained. An employee who terminates his or her employment contract as a result of workplace bullying has the right to claim compensation from his or her employer in an amount not lower than the minimum remuneration for work, as specified under separate provisions. The employee’s statement on the termination of his or her employment contract must be made in writing, stating the reason for termination. Workplace bullying at one’s place of work or in connection with one’s work means a systematic repetition of certain behaviour directed at an employee that results in, e.g., the elimination of such an employee from the group. Particularly important in this case is the health aspect, which distinguishes the phenomenon of workplace bullying from an ordinary conflict.

Ensuring equal treatment with respect to, among other things, undertaking and pursuing economic or professional activity is governed by the Act on the Implementation of Certain Regulations of the European Union Regarding Equal Treatment. This law implemented the following European Union directives: 1. Council Directive 86/613/EEC of 11 December 1986 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity, including agriculture, in a self-employed capacity, and on the protection of selfemployed women during pregnancy and motherhood; 2. Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin; 3. Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation; 4. Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services; 5. Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation; 6. Directive 2014/54/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on measures to facilitate the exercise of the rights conferred on workers in the context of the free movement of workers (OJ L 128, 30.4.2014) The law determines the areas and means of preventing violations of the principle of equal treatment on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation, as well as the competent authorities in this respect. The law applies to individuals, legal entities, and organisational units. The law (Article 3) defines the phenomenon of direct and indirect discrimination and explains the concepts of harassment, sexual harassment, unequal treatment, and the principle of equal treatment. According to Article 4, the law applies to, among other things, undertaking vocational training (including further training, improvement, professional retraining, and apprenticeship); the conditions for undertaking and conducting an economic or professional activity (including, in particular, employment or work under a civil-law contract); joining and taking part in trade unions, employers’ organisations, and 12 professional self-governing bodies; and also exercising the rights that members of these organisations are entitled to; having access to, and the opportunity to use, labour market instruments and services, human resources development and unemployment prevention, social security, healthcare, education and higher education, and services, including housing services, objects, and acquiring rights and energy, if they are offered to the public. Article 8 of the law prohibits unequal treatment of individuals on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, denomination, belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation as regards the conditions of undertaking and conducting economic or professional activity or working under a civil-law contract. It is also prohibited to encourage or order unequal treatment (Article 9). The law also identifies legal remedies for the protection of the principle of equal treatment and the competent authorities to deal with violations. Everyone whose right to equal treatment has been violated has the right to compensation. Employees employed under a contract of mandate or specific work contract have the right to claim compensation from their employer. However, they must justify their claims against the employer, i.e., lend credibility to their claim that there has been a violation of the principle of equal treatment. In this case, the employer is obligated to prove that no violation occurred. According to the provisions of the law, a victim of unequal treatment can only claim compensation, as the law does not provide for the possibility of awarding redress for harm caused by unequal treatment. Victims of discrimination must exercise their rights in court, in which case, the provisions of the Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure apply. Employers employing individuals under civil-law contracts are required to comply with the anti-discrimination provisions of the Act on the Implementation of Certain Regulations of the European Union Regarding Equal Treatment; otherwise, they may be exposed to costs due to possible compensation proceedings. The law introduces the principle of reversed proof of burden, as does the Labour Code. According to this regulation, anyone who alleges a violation of the principle of equal treatment should lend credibility to the fact of its violation, and the party that has been accused of discrimination must try to prove that they have not violated the principle.

Freedom of Association [page 13]

The Labour Code prohibits the unequal treatment of employees with respect to establishing and terminating an employment, terms of employment, terms of promotion, as well as access to training in order to improve professional qualifications, in particular on the grounds of trade union membership (Chapter II a, Equal Treatment in Employment).

An employee may seek compensation from his or her employer before a court of law for a violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment, which cannot be lower than the minimum remuneration for work stipulated in separate provisions.

5. Planned changes in national legislation:

Addition of general principles in administrative proceedings:

The principle of proportionality (relevance), impartiality, and the principle of equal treatment [page 23]

The principles of impartiality and equal treatment, which should be of particular importance in cases involving several parties, have also been included in the provisions of the Act Amending the Administrative Procedure Code. The principle of impartiality means that administration authorities and their employees should not be guided in their actions by any interests or motives beyond the law that might violate the interests of the parties. In accordance with the principle of equal treatment, all parties in the same situation should be treated in a comparable manner without any discrimination. The principle of deepening citizens’ confidence in the state authorities, a fundamental premise for establishing friendly relations between the administration and citizens, needs to be defined in a more concrete way. One of the basic criteria for assessing the extent to which the administration is friendly to the individual is the predictability of the actions of the public administration authorities and their respect for the individual’s interests. A party that files documents with an authority, generally in cases involving investment expenditure or requiring prior involvement of material resources, including time, has the right to arrange their interests in the belief that, acting in good faith and with respect for the law, it does not risk adverse legal consequences of their decisions, especially the effects that they could not predict at the time they were taken. The administration authorities are required to respect the principle of legitimate expectations so that the party is able to plan its activities in a rational manner. This principle is based on the premise that the parties’ expectations are legitimate if they relate to lawful and possible actions, and that the authority, acting within the limits of the law, will adhere to its established practice of resolving matters in similar factual and legal situations. The authority should not, without special and important reasons, depart from established and uniform practice. The adopted provisions also include the principle of proportionality, which requires administration authorities to undertake only such acts that cause an inconvenience for parties that are necessary and proportionate to the intended purpose. Engaging, in the course of proceedings, in activities onerous for the party, in particular involving a limitation of the party’s rights or creating a burden for the party, a public administration authority should take into account the interests of the parties and interfere in those interests only if and to the extent that it is necessary to achieve the intended purpose, in particular resolving the issue in accordance with the law. 11 Cf. J. Zimmermann, Prawo administracyjne, 2014, p. 45. 24 These principles are expressed in, e.g., Articles 5, 6, and 8 of the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour.

7. Planned and ongoing activities [page 27]

Inclusion of references to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in government documents and action plans, including in the National Action Programme for Equal Treatment.

Pillar II: The Corporate responsibility to respect human rights

2. Dialogue and exchange of knowledge and experience in implementing CSR [pages 29-30]

There are four categories of corporate activities that relate to corporate social responsibility: corporate governance, employees, the environment, and the product. The activities conducted within these categories may include:… 2) …recognition of the importance of diversity in the workplace…

9. Support in the implementation the UN Guiding Principles by companies

Equal treatment policy [pages 35-36]

The obligation to treat all employees equally regardless of their sex, i.e., the legal prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex is one of the fundamental human rights under the applicable law. Equal treatment is based on the principle of equal pay for the same work or work of equal value, equality in decision-making processes, and equal access to training and promotion.

The key areas in this respect include: – combating discrimination in the workplace (including on grounds of sex); – equal access for men and women to promotions and training; – equal remuneration for the same work or work of equal value; – increasing the participation of women in corporate decision-making bodies; – diversity management, including employee recruitment and selection, talent management and payroll policies, also in the sphere of an enterprise’s organisational culture; – providing employees with instruments and mechanisms to enable a good work-life balance. 36 Measures planned by the government to support the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles in these areas focus on working with business representatives, representatives of social partners, and non-governmental organisations dealing with the protection and pursuit of equal opportunities, e.g., through: – supporting initiatives to improve compliance with human rights standards, including initiatives to strengthen gender equality and diversity in the workplace; – promoting available solutions and developing, in collaboration with business and social partners, new tools and methods to promote awareness of human rights and equal treatment in the workplace; – supporting initiatives to promote available solutions and developing, in collaboration with business representatives and social partners, new tools and methods to promote awareness in the area of implementation of equaltreatment policies at enterprises; – promoting knowledge about the application of compensatory measures in the workplace, or promoting equal opportunities for people belonging to disadvantaged groups; – measures promoting the benefits of diversity policy and equal opportunities, e.g., balanced participation of women and men in decision-making bodies (promotional and information campaigns, projects co-financed from EU funds, support for initiatives undertaken by entrepreneurs); – promoting good practices with a view to ensuring equal opportunities by enterprises, e.g., in employee recruitment and selection, talent management, protection against discrimination, management of the remuneration system, etc.; – supporting initiatives to build a broad coalition for creating a working environment that is free of discrimination and based on the principle of equal opportunities. These measures should involve a wide range of actors, both state institutions and private companies, NGOs, academia, the media, and social partners; – supporting the development of research and analysis of social inequalities, which may serve as the basis for any possible remedial actions.

Pilar III: Access to Remedy

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

Tasks of the National Labour Inspectorate in the field of combating discrimination in access to employment and in relation to the provision of services by employment agencies [pages 48-49]

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 oversight and inspection measures, as well as prevention and information. Oversight and inspection activities are carried out as a result of, among other things, complaints, notices, and indications of irregularities sent to the National Labour Inspectorate, but also within the framework of inspections carried out in accordance with the Inspectorate’s action programme (thematic inspections), where issues of equal treatment and discrimination are addressed. Inspections of employment agencies include audits of the implementation of the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, age, disability, race, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation, political beliefs, and religious denomination or trade union affiliation of individuals for whom the agency sought employment or other paid work. By verifying compliance with the law in relation to temporary workers, labour inspectors make sure that there has been no violation of the prohibition on unequal treatment of temporary workers—with respect to working conditions and other conditions of employment—as compared to workers employed by the employer in the same or a similar position. As part of inspections concerning the legality of employment, labour inspectors examine issues related to respecting the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination in access to employment. These activities are aimed at disclosing offences with regard to a refusal to employ a candidate for a vacant position or place of vocational training on the basis of their gender, age, disability, race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, ethnic origin, religious denomination, or sexual orientation. Most often, they involve the examination of job advertisements in which employers post illegal criteria for people who apply for employment, where the nature of the work does not justify their use (e.g., relating to gender or age). Labour inspectors also check compliance with the principle of equal treatment of foreign nationals in terms of working conditions and other conditions of employment, 49 compared to Polish citizens employed in corresponding or similar positions. Promotion of the idea of equal treatment and non-discrimination in the labour market, especially with respect to foreign nationals, is supported by projects co-financed from European funds, as well as PIP publications (leaflets, brochures, guides) addressed to a wide audience.

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