Eurowatch: Changes in Finland and Poland

Eurowatch takes a look at recent employment law changes in Finland and Poland.

Finland: Discrimination issues addressed

In an interesting decision by the CJEU there has been a significant legal development in relation to the provision of pay for those employees returning to work from maternity leave in Finland.

Under the terms of a collective agreement, female employees were to receive pay higher than the national level of remuneration during maternity leave but one key proviso was that they were not on unpaid leave before returning to work. If they were, then they would not be entitled to the higher rate of pay.

The CJEU determined that applying a collective agreement in such terms that requires employees to move directly from work/paid leave to maternity leave in order to receive this extra remuneration during maternity leave was not acceptable and was contrary to the Equal Treatment Directive. Commentators on the Finnish labour market suggest that this now prevents employers from having the flexibility in incentivising employees to quickly return to work between maternity leave.

Poland: Fixed term contracts under scrutiny

The European Commission has recently given support to a complaint issued by Poland’s independent and self-governing trade union with regard to the regulation of fixed term contracts. The Commission has raised concerns regarding the relevant regulations issued in Poland governing the length of the notice period of fixed term contracts, the use of excessive consecutive fixed term contacts the permitted interval between one contract and another, and the concept of “tasks conducted periodically” (which are used to avoid the ramifications of the provisions).

The general view of the trade unions was that there was a lack of protection from the use of successive fixed term contracts and, in particular, the maximum one month gap permitted between contracts to prevent them being deemed successive was too short. Furthermore, there was a belief that employers were abusing the concept of “periodically performed tasks” to then justify issuing multiple successive fixed term contracts.

There have been some attempts to try and broker a settlement but the trade unions have suspended their participation in the Tripartite Commission for Social Economic Affairs so it looks like talks will not immediately progress.

The trade union representative bodies have, however, put their heads together with a set of proposals namely:

  • Introducing a maximum period of say 18 months during which fixed term contracts can be concluded between a company and in particular the worker
  • Raising the possibility of modifying the maximum duration of a series of fixed term contracts and collective employment agreements up to 30 months
  • Making the notice period dependent on the length of the contract.

However, as yet, the Polish Confederation of Private Employers and the Employers of Poland (some of the main employer organisation representational bodies) have not made their joint views known.

It is interesting to see that the trade unions are now starting to be more vociferous in their concerns about the alleged abuse of fixed term working whilst employers are keen to exploit this type of relationship in an economic environment which is still largely fragile.

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact David Gibson.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.