Prohibited contract provisions that employers use

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The terms and conditions of the employment contract are determined by the provisions of the Labour Code. An employer is not allowed to include prohibited provisions. If they do so, such provisions are by operation of law invalid. 

The list of illegal provisions is long and includes the following:

  • consent to termination of employment if an employee gets pregnant
  • financial penalties if you decide to quit the job.
  • unconditional consent to change of the place of work, 
  • an obligation to answer the company’s calls at any time
  • a non-compete clause after termination of employment – without the right to compensation (under the Labour Code, the employer must pay a 25% compensation for the non-compete clause period). 

Penalty for violating notice period and shortening of notice period (okres wypowiedzenia).

The right to quit is one of your fundamental rights as a worker. You can terminate the employment contract at any time. You are obliged to keep the notice period (okres wypowiedzenia). During this period, you must continue to perform your duties. The notice period gets longer with the time you’ve worked for one employer. It would be two weeks if you worked for the same employer for less than 6 months, one month if you worked for over half a year and 3 months if you’ve spent at least 3 years in the same company. 

If you work on the contract of mandate, your notice period is specified in your contract. 

The employer is not entitled to any compensation for the fact that you decided to change jobs. Therefore, it is prohibited to introduce any provisions in the employment agreement that require the employee to pay a financial penalty if they choose to quit the job. 

The notice periods established by the provisions of the Labour Code are mandatory. They can’t be changed by the employment contract. If they do, they are, by operation of law, invalid.

Deprivation of remuneration for downtime.

All provisions of employment contracts that deprive you of the right to remuneration for downtime are also prohibited. The provisions of the Labour Code ensure that you must be paid if you were ready to work but couldn’t do so due to reasons beyond your control. You should get a respective salary for downtime, determined by an hourly or monthly rate. If the employer does not specify such a pay component, you should get 60% of your salary.

Confidentiality of salary

Sometimes employers try to make their workers maintain their wages secret by banning disclosing such information in the contracts. The Labour Code guarantees employees equal pay, and the introduction of such a ban prevents the effective exercise of this right. If you can’t get information about the salary of another employee with similar qualifications and seniority working in the same position, you will not be able to assess whether the employer treats you equally.

Immediate termination by mutual agreement

The employer and the worker can terminate the employment agreement without the notice period, provided that they both agree to do so. 

However, such consent can’t be given “in advance” in the contract. Such clauses limit the protection of the continuity of employment. 

This doesn’t apply to dismissals due to gross misconduct on the side of the worker or the employer.

Deductions from the salary without your knowledge and consent.

An employee’s salary is, first and foremost, subject to legal protection. That is why the Labour Code restricts deductions from an employee’s salary. There is an upper limit on the wages that may be taken as a penalty.

Monthly, they can not exceed 10% of your basic salary. Additionally, a penalty for one offence can’t be higher than your daily remuneration.

Excess of the legal limits is possible, but only with your written consent. Such consent cannot be general or arise from an employment contract.

Prohibited non-compete clauses

If an employer requires you to refrain from competition after you stop working for them, they must pay you financial compensation.

You can enter into a non-compete agreement that also applies after the termination of the employment relationship. In this case, the employer must pay you at least 25 per cent of the salary received before you quit.

An agreement that provides for lower or zero compensation for a non-compete clause after termination of employment or compensation is invalid. You are not obliged to comply with the terms that contradict the Labour Code.

The employer cannot prohibit you from any additional work. The regulations explicitly mention only work for the employer’s competitors. Extra work, for example, in another industry, is permitted. Sometimes employers try to extend the competition prohibition to the employee’s family members (spouse, parents, siblings, children). This practice is also illegal and, by operation of law, invalid.

Consent to dismissal during pregnancy.

Pregnant employees have special rights. An employer cannot, for example, force them to work at night, overtime or terminate their employment contract. The only exception is for contracts for a probationary period of up to one month.

Unconditional consent to change the place of work

An employer can send you to work in other locations, in another city or country. However, they are obliged to indicate the place and time of the change and get your consent for the transfer.

The obligation to answer the company’s phone outside of working hours.

You must answer the company’s phone only during working hours. You don’t have to do so after the end of the working day. The employer can’t demand this. If they want you to pick up the phone, they can offer you additional paid-on-duty time.

Other prohibited provisions include, for example, those relating to the employee’s consent to give up annual leave or the liability for property that cannot be entrusted to the employee, i.e. property that the employee cannot manage (e.g. equipment at the enterprise).

Legal consequences of employment contracts containing prohibited terms and conditions

Terms prohibited by Labour Code are simply invalid. If your employer threatens you with them, you should know you don’t have to comply. You have a right to protest, for example, by complaining to the employer or adequate institutions. You can always contact the company’s trade union and Labour Inspectorate; the court should be on your side. 

Legal basis: Article 18 of the Labour Code. “The terms of an employment contract and other acts underlying an employment relationship may not be less favourable to an employee than the labour law provisions. If such provisions are found in them, they shall be invalid by operation of law, and the relevant provisions of labour legislation shall apply instead.”

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