Labor Law in Poland for People from Ukraine: A Guide

What rights are available to people from Ukraine who take up work in Poland? In this article, we present the most important aspects of Polish labor law, such as minimum wage, types of contracts, and regulations concerning overtime. Additionally, you will learn where to seek support in case you suspect unfair treatment by your employer.

Every person from Ukraine legally residing in Poland can work

Every person from Ukraine who arrived in Poland after February 24, 2022, can work legally. This right stems from the law enacted on March 12, 2022, concerning aid for Ukrainian citizens in connection with the armed conflict in that country.

Employers are obligated to notify the district labor office about employing a Ukrainian citizen within 14 days from the moment they start work. Importantly, under this law, a spouse is also considered a Ukrainian citizen in this context, even if they do not possess Ukrainian citizenship but have come to Poland due to the war in Ukraine.

Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej [The Association for Legal Intervention] adds that people from Ukraine who have a work permit, a temporary residence permit, or an appropriate residency status—such as refugee status, granted subsidiary protection, permanent residence permit, long-term resident status, permission to stay on humanitarian grounds, or tolerated stay permission—can also work.

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Always work based on a written contract

In Poland, work can be undertaken based on an employment contract or other civil law contracts, such as a contract for specific work or a contract for services. [1]

  • An employment contract is the basic form of employment in Poland, regulated by the Labor Code. It defines the rights and responsibilities of both the employer and the employee. [2] Through this contract, the employee commits to performing work at a specified place and time under the supervision of the employer. This contract guarantees, among other things, a minimum wage, paid leave, sick pay, and specific employment and termination rules. The employer covers a portion of the insurance contributions, the Labor Fund, and the Guaranteed Employee Benefits Fund. The contract can be concluded for a fixed term, an indefinite term, for substitution, or for a probationary period.
  • A contract for specific work is one of the most commonly concluded civil law contracts in Poland. Under its terms, the person accepting the commission commits to performing specific tasks. However, in this case, the provisions of the Labor Code do not apply. Therefore, the client is not obligated to adhere to regulations concerning paid vacation leave, sick pay, or contract termination rules. Nevertheless, the contractor is required to pay social insurance contributions. Importantly, a minimum hourly rate applies in a contract for specific work, which sets the lowest amount the contractor can be paid (more on this below).
  • A contract for a specific task pertains to the completion of a particular job, such as creating a table or a website, for an agreed-upon remuneration. The person carrying out this task is not covered by social or health insurance and does not benefit from the guarantee of a minimum wage, unlike those under employment or specific work contracts.

What should a contract look like?

The employer is obligated to enter into a contract with the employee before they begin performing their tasks. The contract must be prepared in writing and in a language that is understandable to you.

The contract should contain information such as:

  • your details and those of the employer (if an employment agency is hiring you, then the details of both the agency and the company for which you will work);
  • the date the contract is concluded;
  • specification of the type of contract (e.g., employment contract, contract for specific work), as well as its validity period with an end date, unless it is an indefinite-term contract;
  • work conditions, such as: the type of work, its location, the amount of compensation along with its components, the scope of working time, and the start date for the work.

Regardless of whether you are working on an employment contract or another civil law contract (except for a contract for a specific task), the employer must register you for health and social insurance. We have written about health insurance and how public medical care works here

Basic Rights and Responsibilities of a Person from Ukraine Working in Poland

When working under an employment contract, you have rights and responsibilities as defined in the Labor Code. [3]. The most important rights include:

  • the freedom to establish an employment relationship,
  • respect for the personal rights of the Ukrainian citizen,
  • the right to equal treatment and prohibition of discrimination, including on the basis of nationality,
  • the right to safe and hygienic working conditions,
  • the right to a minimum wage and timely receipt of wages,
  • the right to breaks at work, the right to vacation leave,
  • the right to form and join trade unions,
  • rights related to parenthood.

Key responsibilities of the employee:

  • adhere to the working hours set in the workplace,
  • comply with the workplace rules and established order,
  • follow regulations and guidelines on workplace safety and hygiene, as well as fire safety regulations,
  • care for the well-being of the workplace, protect its property, and keep confidential information that, if disclosed, could harm the employer,
  • adhere to confidentiality as specified in separate regulations,
  • observe the principles of social coexistence.

Although the discussed regulations pertain to employment contracts, employers who assign tasks based on civil law contracts must also provide adequate protection to their workers. The type of contract entered into does not eliminate the obligation to ensure safe and hygienic working conditions for both employees and contractors [4].

Minimum Wage vs. “Under-the-Table” Payments

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If you are employed under a full-time employment contract, you are entitled to receive at least the minimum wage. Starting from July 1st, 2023, the minimum wage is 3600 PLN gross, which translates to around 2783 PLN net. [5] However, for civil law contracts, the hourly rate is 23.50 PLN gross.

Unfortunately, in Poland, there is no shortage of cases where employers propose paying a part of the salary “under the table,” bypassing official documentation. A report from the Polish Economic Institute in July 2023 indicates that such practices affect 8% of employees employed under an employment contract. [6]

It’s worth emphasizing that such practices are illegal. In addition to the risk for the employer, this also carries consequences for you as an employee. According to Polish law, taxpayers are obligated to report all income. Failure to comply with this obligation can result in a financial penalty and in extreme cases, even imprisonment. [7]

A full-time position in Poland typically involves an average of 40 hours per week 

According to the Labor Code, an employee under an employment contract works up to 8 hours a day and no more than 40 hours during a 5-day week. When a public holiday falls within a given month and is a day off from work, it reduces the total working time by 8 hours. Therefore, during a week with a holiday, only 32 hours are worked, instead of 40.

Although in Poland, days off are typically Saturday and Sunday, only Sunday is legally considered a day off. As a result, your shifts could be scheduled, for example, from Tuesday to Saturday. In situations where work on Sunday is permissible, the weekly day of rest can be on a different day of the week.

Every employee employed under an employment contract is entitled to a minimum of 11 consecutive hours of rest each day. In this case, a day is defined as 24 hours from the start of work. This means that if you start work at 8:00 AM, the day ends at 8:00 AM the next day. Failing to observe the 11-hour rest period is possible in Poland only if the employee is involved in rescue operations or in resolving the effects of an emergency. [8]

However, these regulations do not apply to civil law contracts. As of now, the issue of daily rest in the case of such contracts has not been regulated in Polish law. [9]

Does an employer have the right to force overtime work?

Overtime in Polish law refers to work beyond an employee’s regular hours. For individuals employed full-time, it would involve working beyond the standard 40 hours per week. [10] Overtime is permissible when there’s a need for rescue operations, emergency response, or in cases of special employer requirements.

praca w nadgodzinach

An employee under an employment contract cannot refuse overtime if given such a work assignment; however, they are entitled to additional compensation or an appropriate number of hours off for the extra time worked. [11]

For overtime scheduled during times when you normally wouldn’t work, such as nights, Sundays, and holidays, you are entitled to double the regular pay rate. On other days, it’s an additional 50% of the standard pay rate. If you wish to receive compensatory time off for the overtime hours, you can take the same number of hours off as you worked. If the employer chooses to compensate for overtime with time off instead of payment, they should offer one and a half times the amount of compensatory time for the overtime hours worked (for example, 6 hours off for 4 overtime hours). [12]

However, overtime hours must not interfere with the regulations regarding the 11-hour daily rest period. The employer also cannot mandate additional work for pregnant women, employees caring for children under 4 years old who haven’t consented to overtime work, or underage workers.

Where to seek help if you’re experiencing unfair treatment in the workplace

In Poland, the primary authority responsible for overseeing labor law compliance is the State Labor Inspectorate (Państwowa Inspekcja Pracy or PIP). PIP operates a helpline in the Ukrainian language, where you can receive free legal advice concerning the legality of employment [13]:

  • From Monday to Friday, between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM, you can contact the following phone number for free legal advice regarding employment legality in the specified voivodeships: Masovian, Łódź, Greater Poland, Świętokrzyskie, Lublin, and Lubusz: Call 22 111 35 88.
  • From Monday to Friday, between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM, you can contact the following phone number for the voivodeships: Warmian-Masurian, Podlaskie, Kuyavian-Pomeranian, Pomeranian, and West Pomeranian: Call 89 333 17 41.
  • From Monday to Wednesday, between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM, you can contact the following phone number for the voivodeships: Subcarpathian, Lesser Poland, Silesian, Opole, and Lower Silesian: Call 22 111 35 29.

You can also file a complaint against your employer with the State Labor Inspectorate (PIP). This complaint can be submitted in the Ukrainian language (more in this article). Complaints can be submitted in writing, online using the e-complaint form, via email, or orally for protocol. If PIP decides to conduct an inspection at the employer’s premises, they are obliged to keep confidential the fact that the inspection is a result of a complaint.

Additionally, in Poland, there are many non-governmental organizations where refugees can seek legal advice or turn to for additional information. Below, we list a few that provide legal consultations.

Unions Help Refugees assists Ukrainian workers in advocating for their rights in the Polish labor market. The organization operates a free support helpline at (+48) 800 800 605, open from Sunday to Thursday, between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM.

Polskie Forum Migracyjne [Polish Migration Forum] – provides individual consultations with a lawyer in Warsaw as well as online. Appointments for consultations are accepted via phone at (+48) 692 913 993 and through email at [email protected]

Instytut Praw Migrantów [Institute of Migrant Rights] – operates an information center where they provide consultations, including those related to labor law for migrants in the Lower Silesian region. Advice is given in Ukrainian, Russian, English, and Polish, both in person and through telephone or email communication.

We also encourage you to use the Mapuj Pomoc database. Simply choose a specific region of the country (voivodeship or city) and a support category. With the map, you can easily find organizations providing legal advice or refresher courses.