Future of work

The Polish Sejm to address sobriety checks and home office matters

Published on 9th Jun 2022

The Sejm will evaluate a draft amendment to the Labor Code which introduces – among others – an option to check the sobriety of employees and addresses remote work. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, home office has become very popular yet the Labor Code lacked regulations that would take into account the pandemic reality. Employers have been voicing the need to check the sobriety of staff members. The lawmaker decided to amend regulations.

Sobriety check

Under the draft law, employers may control the sobriety of employees provided certain conditions are met:

  • it must be necessary for the protection of life and health of staff members or other individuals, and for the protection of property,
  • it cannot violate the dignity, privacy and other personal rights of staff members,
  • it cannot require a laboratory test.

Also, relevant internal regulations in force at the workplace (collective agreement, regulations, announcement) must define the group(s) of employees covered by the sobriety test as well as the method of performing it. Current staff members must be notified of ‘the sobriety checks option’ at least 2 weeks before the change is introduced. New hires must be notified before they start working.

A positive result of the sobriety check, i.e. alcohol detected in an employee’s organism, will prevent that individual from working. However, please note both the employee and the employer may request a sobriety check by an authority appointed to protect public order (e.g. the police).
The draft law is not limited to sobriety checks for alcohol. The employer may also test employees for the presence of agents that act similar to alcohol. The list of such agents will be defined in a regulation. 

Home office

The draft amendment introduces ‘remote work’ instead of ‘teleworking’. It is defined as performing work entirely or partially in a location stated by the employee and agreed with the employer (e.g. at the employee’s place of residence), in particular with the use of means of direct remote communication.

The rules of remote work must be defined in an arrangement with the unions or in regulations consulted with the employees’ representatives. However, the rules of performing remote work may also result only from an arrangement between the employer and the employee or from the employer’s instruction. 

The draft provides for the possibility of performing work remotely without making the said arrangements with the employee or without releasing regulations. However, this may only be occasional and such a remote work may not exceed a total of 24 days in a calendar year. 

The amendment specifies and clarifies a number of the employer’s obligations in connection with remote work. Here are the key ones:

  • providing employees with materials and work tools, including technical devices necessary for work, or an allowance when the employee uses his/her own equipment;
  • covering the costs of installation, service, operation and maintenance of work tools, electricity and the necessary telecommunications services,
  • covering the costs other than the above, if specified in the regulations, instruction or agreement on remote work,
  • providing employees with training and technical support.

Entry into force and interim period

Works on the draft amendment began a year ago (12 June 2021) and were initiated by the Minister of Family and Social Policy. After a year of consultations and opinions, the draft act was filed with the Sejm on 7 June 2022. It is currently processed by the Sejm’s Legislation Office.

The draft amendment to the Labor Code provides for only a 14-day vacatio legis. Therefore, employers should already now look into adjusting their regulations related to remote work and sobriety checks in their organizations.

Importantly, once the new act enters into force, the ‘Covid regulations’ on remote work will cease to apply. Thus, staff members’ remote work will be governed by the new act. 

Please note that the remote work conditions arranged with the unions or in the work regulations may not be applied for more than 6 months after the Act enters into force. Also, remote work on the basis of an employee’s request is allowed for no longer than 6 months after the amendment becomes valid. This means that the employers must define new rules for remote work within 6 months of the entry into force of the act.

 

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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