Poland: Temporary agency work and collective bargaining in the EU

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 18 December 2008

Piotr Sula

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Recent years have seen dynamic growth of the temporary work market in Poland, to mention only the fact that the number of temporary workers has increased from 167,000 in 2004 to 486,000 in 2007. It was hoped that the controversies surrounding this form of employment (complaints by the trade unions) might be resolved through amendment of the law regulating temporary agency work. A workable compromise has been reached within the Tripartite Commission in the summer of 2007, but there is little to indicate that it is about to be implemented.

Section 1. Definitions

1) In your country, is there a statutory definition of:

a) temporary agency work?b) agency worker?c) user enterprise?

A temporary work agency is defined as a type of employment agency which is a non-public organisational entity providing temporary work services.

A temporary worker is a person employed by a temporary work agency for the sole purpose of performing temporary work to the benefit, and under the management, of the user employer.

A user employer, finally, is a legal entity or a natural person ‘setting tasks for the temporary agency employee and controlling their performance’.

2) Is there a collectively agreed definition of:

a) temporary agency work?b) agency worker?c) user enterprise?

If yes, please give details (e.g. how and where defined).


3) In your country, would you describe TAW as a sector in its own right?

It is impossible to answer a question phrased in this way with an unequivocal yes or no. That said. the proliferation of temporary work agencies militates in favour of treating them as a distinct sector, especially seeing as most agencies do not limit their staff placement activities to any one industry.

Section 2. Regulatory framework

1) Have there been any changes in the law concerning TAW since 2004?

a) Yes b) No

The legislative Act of 20 April 2004 regarding promotion of employment and labour market institutions which regulates the operation of temporary work agencies was amended on 28 July 2005 (effective 1 November 2005). Under this amendment, responsibility for registration of employment agencies has been shifted from government level (PL0506105T) to the regions; at present, the register of employment agencies (a category which includes temporary work agencies) is maintained by the marszałek, i.e. the head of the regional self-government, and it is to her/him that applications for registration are submitted (subject to a registration fee of PLN 100, or EUR 30, payable to the bank account of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (Ministerstwo Pracy i Polityki Społecznej, MPiPS). The marszałek issues an agency seeking registration for the first time with a preliminary registration certificate which is valid for one year. An entity seeking a permanent certificate must then re-apply not later than seven days before expiration of the temporary certificate, declaring that it has operated a work agency during the period covered by the temporary certificate.

The amendment of the original statute has also entailed the promulgation of a new executory instrument – the regulation concerning registration of entities operating employment agencies and the information submitted by employment agencies promulgated by the Minister of the Economy and on 13 October 2005.

Meanwhile, 1 July 2007 saw the coming into force of amendments to the legislative Act regarding employment of temporary workers. Under the amended statute, ‘the user employer shall provide the temporary worker with working clothes and footwear as well as personal safety equipment, ensure supply of prophylactic beverages and meals, carry out occupational health and safety training, establish the circumstances and causes of accidents at work, and assess occupational risk and inform about such risk’.

The scope of the user employer’s remaining obligations with respect to occupational health and safety is left to be regulated by way of a written contract executed by and between the temporary work agency and the user employer before the agency executes an employment contract with the temporary worker.

2) How is TAW regulated in your country?

a) Is there a legal framework specifically for TAW; and/or is it covered by general labour law (including case law/ jurisprudence)?

What is the role, if any, of collective labour agreements and self-regulation?

Apart from issues subject to more specific regulation, as described herein, temporary work in Poland is governed by the Polish Labour Code.

The largest temporary work agencies (in terms of temporary employee headcounts) are affiliated in the Union of Temporary Work Agencies (Związek Agencji Pracy Tymczasowej, ZAPT). Much like the Association of Employment Agencies (Stowarzyszenie Agencji Zatrudnienia, SAZ), which affiliates employment agencies (including temporary work agencies), this organisation has drawn up a code of ethics intended to regulate the operations of member entities, preserving a high standard of service.

3) What is regulated in these provisions? In particular, does it cover:

a) use of agency work (e.g. length of assignment, sectoral bans, permitted reasons of use, number of agency workers per company, other)

A temporary employee may not work for any one employer for more than 12 months over a period of 36 consecutive months. There is one exception from this general rule – when the temporary employee is filling in for an absent full-time employee; in such an event, the temporary work may go on for a maximum of 36 months, but the temporary worker in question is then barred from accepting new assignments with that user employer for the next 36 months.

The status of user employer is dependent upon fulfilment of certain conditions laid down in the statute. This status will not extend to employers which, during the 6 months preceding commencement of the planned temporary work assignment, served notice of termination on employees or terminated their employment by mutual agreement for reasons not attaching to the employees where the number of such terminations meets the criteria for group redundancy (as defined in the legislative Act of 13 March 2003 regarding specific terms for termination of employment relations on grounds not attaching to the employees). A user employer which has not effected group redundancies in the space of the past six months must submit a written statement to this effect before beginning to negotiate the character and terms of the temporary employment.

b) the form of the contract (e.g. project, fixed-term, special contract, open ended, etc.)c) social security and social benefits

The Polish social insurance system extends to temporary workers in the same way as to other workers (as per their contract).

See also: Section 2. Regulatory framework (about changes in the law concerning TAW since 2004).

d) conditions to open a TAW agency (e.g. license or authorisation schemes, supervision by public authorities, financial requirements, or others - please specify)

See: Section 2. Regulatory framework (about changes in the law concerning TAW since 2004).

e) business activities/services delivered by TW agencies (e.g. prohibition to provide other services than TAW)?

Companies receive certificates for operating temporary work agencies on the basis of which they can pursue activity exclusively as a temporary work agency. This is not to say that such companies may not offer other services, but these services will be distinct from the temporary work agency service and, accordingly, will be subject to different rules.

f) third-national companies or temporary agency workers (e.g. activities of foreign agencies)?

Of the temporary work agencies operating in Poland, the most robust growth is enjoyed by local units of international networks (e.g. Adecco, Randstad).

4) Do any regulations (by law and/or collective bargaining in the TAW sector) specify equal treatment rights for agency workers with permanent workers in the user enterprise concerning:

a) payb) trainingc) other terms or conditions of employment?

If yes, please give details.

Under the legislative Act regarding employment of temporary workers, a temporary work agency hires temporary workers pursuant to an employment contract for a fixed term or for the time required to perform a certain task.

This Act stipulates that a temporary worker may not be assigned to perform particularly dangerous work for the user employer, to a position held by a regular employee of the user employer who is presently on strike, or to a position vacated over the three months preceding planned commencement of temporary work through termination of employment on grounds not attaching to the employee.

The user employer must notify the agency of the remuneration defined for the job in question in the user employer’s internal rules and of the solutions with regard to occupational health and safety. The user employer also assumes other obligations, as provided for in the given contract.

As long as she/he works for the user employer, the temporary employee may not receive less favourable treatment with respect to remuneration and other working conditions than the user employer’s own employees in the same position or in a similar one. In the event of any violation of the temporary worker’s rights in this respect, the temporary worker is entitled to seek damages from the temporary work agency in reference to pertinent provisions of the Polish Labour Code. The temporary work agency, meanwhile, may then recoup the amount of such damages from the offending user employer.

Under Art 5 of the legislative Act regarding employment of temporary workers, with respect to issues not addressed by the Act and by other laws relating specifically to temporary work agencies, the rights and duties of the temporary worker and of the user employer shall be regulated by provisions of labour law appertaining to, respectively, employees and employers, with the reservation that temporary workers are not covered by the legislative Act of 13 March 2003 regarding specific terms for termination of employment relations on grounds not attaching to the employees (group redundancies).

As regards leave from work, temporary workers also enjoy rights broadly similar to those extending to full-time employees. A temporary worker is entitled to two days’ paid leave for every month in which she/he remains at the disposal of a single user employer or of more than one user employer. Where the temporary worker does not use up her/his leave allotment in the course of her/his assignment, the temporary work agency will disburse to the employee a cash equivalent for unused leave.

According to information furnished by the National Labour Inspectorate (Państwowa Inspekcja Pracy, PIP), a temporary worker may receive remuneration lower than that of the remaining employees provided that it falls within a specified range. Higher earnings for full-time employees are justified in terms of the fact that, apart from the skills needed to perform specific tasks, regular employees also dispose of greater experience and of a better capacity to handle crisis situations.

5) Do TAW workers have the right to information, consultation and representation?

If yes, please specify the nature/basis.

A user employer must inform temporary workers in accordance with the procedure followed at the given employing establishment of vacancies for which it will be recruiting new employees.

Temporary workers have the right to join trade unions; the Independent and Self-governing Trade Union ‘Solidarity’ (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy ‘Solidarność’, NSZZ ‘Solidarność’) is one of the union organisations which has accepted them.

6) Is there a control/enforcement mechanism regarding any TAW regulation?

If yes,

a) is there a special labour inspectorate or a bi-partite body governing TAW?b) are there any sanctions/penalties for not respecting the regulations (whether stemming from law and/or collective agreements)?

Observance of employee rights, also with respect to temporary workers, is policed by the PIP. Employers which do not abide by the Polish Labour Code or by occupational health and safety rules are liable to fines.

7) Are there any procedures governing use of TAW and strike breaking?

In particular, can workers on strike be replaced by agency workers?

Art 8 of the legislative Act regarding employment of temporary workers proscribes assignment of temporary workers by the user employer to posts whose regular holders are on strike.

Section 3. Social dialogue and collective bargaining

1) Is there any employers’ association(s) for TAW firms in your country?

If yes, please provide any data on membership (e.g. sectoral coverage of firms/workers)

There are two organisations affiliating temporary work agencies – the ZAPT and the SAZ; the latter affiliates various employment agencies, temporary work agencies included. Both these organisations assemble companies which provide temporary workers to all sectors of the Polish economy.

2) Is there any union(s) specifically for agency workers?

If no, have any unions or confederations targeted the recruitment of agency workers? launched any campaigns around agency workers’ rights?

There are no unions which would assemble only temporary workers. Union activists have worked together with representatives of organisations affiliating temporary work agencies to organise a number of conferences on the role of temporary work.

3) Collective bargaining levels

Is TAW governed by collective bargaining at:

a) intersectoral/ national level?b) the sectoral level for TAW?c) company (ie. temporary agency firm) level?

If yes, please provide details of the parties concerned.

In mid-2007, the Tripartite Commission for Social and Economic Affairs provided a forum for debating the length of time for which a temporary worker should be able to remain with a single user employer. In light of the conflicting postulates advanced by trade unions: NSZZ ‘Solidarność’, the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (Ogólnopolskie Porozumienie Związków Zawodowych, OPZZ)) and by employer organisations: Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan (Polska Konfederacja Pracodawców Prywatnych Lewiatan, PKPP Lewiatan) and the Confederation of Polish Employers (Konfederacja Pracodawców Polskich, KPP) of which, respectively, ZAPT and SAZ are members, a compromise was reached.

Art 23 of the legislative Act regarding employment of temporary workers obligates a user employer to notify a representative union organisation (within the meaning of art 241 of the Polish Labour Code) of its intent to entrust temporary work to a temporary agency worker. A user employer intending to retain a temporary agency worker for a period longer than six months, meanwhile, must consult these plans with representative union organisations. A representative union organisation is one which assembles at least 10% of the employees working at the given employing establishment, or one belonging to a multi-employer union organisation recognised as representative (provided that it assembles at least 7% of the employees of the given employer). In the event that none of the union organisations operating in the employing establishment meets these criteria, a representative organisation for purposes of the rules just cited will be the one with the largest membership.

A user employer must inform temporary workers in accordance with the procedure followed at the given employing establishment of vacancies for which it will be recruiting new employees.

4) Collective bargaining outcomes

Please provide examples and details of any recent/ significant collective agreements governing TAW at the levels referred to in question 3.

The compromise reached within the Tripartite Commission has become the basis of legislative work undertaken by the government and of the proposal included in the draft statute whereunder, at companies at which representative trade unions are active, representatives of such unions could join in decision-making as to whether the period of time with a single employer shall be extended to 18 months or reduced to 6 months.

5) Are there any examples of sector- or company-level collective agreements in other sectors that restrict, permit or otherwise regulate the use of TAW within their domain?

[Correspondent:] If yes, please give details. Particularly highlight any agreements that have any terms concerning parity with permanent workers at the user enterprise.

No information available.

6) Please provide any data concerning:

a) trade union density for agency workers b) the coverage of collective bargaining within the sector.

Temporary workers display very little interest in joining trade unions. The exact unionisation level is hard to assess; no collective agreement has been executed.

Section 4. Employment and working conditions of TAW workers

1) Please provide the most recent data (averages) on TAW employment

a) longevity of TAW employment, i.e. how long workers remain employed

  • - in the sector?
  • - with a particular agency?

b) duration of TAW placements, i.e. i.e. the length of assignment in a user company.

Table 1. Persons assigned to temporary work for periods of: up to 3 months, 3 months to 1 year, and over 1 year
Work assignment: Total Women Men

Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Policy

Of the categories defined above, the greatest number of temporary workers (150,429) worked assignments of up to three months in duration, and the smallest number (7,771) – for more than one year.

Other data is not available.

2) Please provide any evidence from official, academic and social partner sources concerning:

a) the reasons for user companies’ usage of TAW, including any differences by sector, occupation, firm size etc.b) reasons for workers participation in the sector and levels of satisfaction, including any differences by age, sex, education etc.

The experts are generally in agreement that, in light of the considerable drop of unemployment, the Polish labour market is becoming very much an employees’ market, with employers struggling to recruit the staff they need. In this context, the interest of employers in temporary work services is hardly surprising. The temporary work agencies assume the responsibility of recruiting employees with the requisite skills and of attending to the formalities of retaining them.

Proceeding to the reasons why temporary workers choose this form of employment, it appears that, in many cases, this is their only possibility of finding a job. On the other hand, a decision to become a temporary worker needs not result from negative selection but, rather, from considered choice; increasingly often, skilled temporary workers (e.g. information technology specialists, accountants) assigned to specific projects by a temporary work agency earn higher remunerations than full-time employees and benefit from broader experience.

3) In practice, which rules and procedures may apply to temporary-agency workers in contrast to other workers in the user company?

Temporary work agencies and user employers are bound by law to treat temporary workers and regular workers equally. Violations of this rule centre mainly on the types of contract executed with temporary workers; the MPiPS estimates that roughly half of the contracts made with temporary workers are of a type other than employment contracts, for instance contracts for completion of a specific task or commission contracts.

Audits carried out at temporary work agencies by the PIP in 2004 and 2005 indicate that abuses vis a vis temporary workers refer to occupational health and safety, payment of cash equivalents for unused leave, and tracking time worked. It is worth mentioning that most of the discovered violations were perpetrated by the smaller temporary work agencies, ones which are not committed to the sector’s self-regulation work.

Section 5. The extent and composition of TAW.

1) For 2004 and 2007, please state

a) the number of agency workers b) total revenues of the TAW sector


Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Policy

More than half of the temporary work market in Poland is controlled by member organisations of ZAPT, most of which are international companies. The financial reports published by these companies specify consolidated revenues for all their national units taken together.

2) What proportion of the TAW workforce is currently

a) male/ female?b) full/part time?c) young (<c. 25) or older (>c. 50) workers?

The MPiPS yet has to publish detailed data for 2007. The Ministry’s data for 2004 indicates that the number of workers placed by temporary agencies in that year amounted to 167,644, of which 76,070 were women and 8,554 took up temporary work with foreign employers. Of temporary workers assigned to temporary posts, 108,064 (64% of the total) were retained pursuant to employment contracts, and 59,580 (36%) pursuant to various other civil law contracts.

As regards temporary work by young people, the chairman of SAZ, Tomasz Szpikowski, maintains that at Polish temporary work agencies, as much as 80% of the persons placed are aged up to 26.

Table 2. Collective results of temporary work agencies in 2006
.Total .Incl. women Assigned to foreign employers

Of all the temporary employees, 148,800 (52%) were retained pursuant to employment contracts, and 140,106 (48%) - pursuant to various other civil law contracts. The statistics for 2005 were, respectively, 127,706 and 78,959.

Of this total, 7,716 temporary workers took up assignments with foreign employers (in 2005 – 7,094).

User employers accepting temporary workers in 2006 numbered 6,754, marking an increase of 1,418 since 2005.

No other information is available.

3) Has there been any changes to the TAW sector in terms of

a) concentration, i.e. proportion of employees or turnover accounted for by the largest firms?b) internationalisation, i.e. number/significance of multinational TAW firms?

50% of temporary workers in Poland are retained by 20 companies belonging to ZAPT. Most of the large temporary work agencies are Polish units of international networks.

Of the 486,000 temporary workers in 2007, no less than 256,000 (almost 53%) worked for companies affiliated with ZAPT:

  • Active Plus,
  • Adecco,
  • Akcja Job,
  • Allbecon,
  • d2d,
  • e-work,
  • Grafton Recruitment,
  • Hartmanns,
  • In Temporis,
  • Job Impulse,
  • Manpower,
  • Randstad,
  • Runtime Polska,
  • Start People,
  • Stegmann,
  • Techno Service,
  • Trenkwalder, Vedior,
  • Work Express.

4) What is your evaluation of the availability and quality of statistical data concerning TAW in your country?

The data presented in this text is readily available and has been posted on the websites of the relevant Polish government agencies. Additional information, however, is hard to come by.

Commentary by the NC

The European environment influences the temporary work market in Poland to a small degree, if at all – a corollary of the fact that there is no common model for organising temporary work in Europe.

Any discussion of temporary work in Poland must take account of the ongoing debate about extending the maximum period for which a temporary employee may remain with a single user employer. Proponents of the solution presently employed argue that its objective is to have a user employer who is satisfied with a temporary worker after one year and wishes to keep her/him on the job offer that worker a regular employment contract. In practice, it turns out that no more than 10% of temporary workers are hired for good. Less scrupulous temporary work agencies dodge the 12-month rule by swapping temporary workers between themselves, with an employee approaching the 12-month limit nominally passing to a new temporary work agency, signing a new contract and then being ‘re-assigned’ to the same user employer. The social partners are in agreement that the laws regulating temporary work in Poland are imperfect. Accordingly, there is much to suggest that the fragile compromise presently in place will not last, and the very fact that temporary work is continuing to boom is likely to precipitate regulatory changes.

Piotr Sula, Institute of Public Affairs

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