Working time in the European Union: Poland

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 16 November 2009

Jan Czarzasty

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.

The aim is to obtain a fuller insight into differences in working time across the European Union and into developments in average hours worked both in total and by specific sections of the work force in different Member States over recent years. The concern is to investigate the factors underlying the changes that are observed in the survey data collected and, in particular, how terms and conditions of employment are changing in relation to working time. In general, data refers to the working time of those in employment.

The national contributions collects data inter alia from; firstly the EU Labour Force Survey which covers average hours worked by men and women employees both overall and in part-time and full-time jobs, the proportion of men and women in part-time jobs and the relative number of men and women employed under different arrangements as regards working time. Secondly, from the Fourth European Working Conditions Survey conducted by the European Foundation which covers other aspects of working time, including the number of days worked per week, evening, night and weekend working, the organisation of working time, the proportion of people with second jobs, the time spent commuting as well as on unpaid work.

These data are intended to form the basis of the replies to the questions asked but other relevant data have been used where available to supplement these.

Duration of work

Average weekly hours

Does the evidence from the above surveys, and other sources, indicate that, over the past five or ten years, employees are working fewer hours in your country?

Is there evidence that any such decline in average working time is due more to compositional changes (e.g. more women entering the labour market and working part-time) than to an across-the-board reduction in hours?

Is there evidence that any fall in average hours over these periods may be due to a reduction in the number of people working very long hours – over 48 per week? Is there evidence that this has been due, to any extent, to the adoption of the EU working time Directive?

The EWCS data does not differ significantly from the data accessible on the national level, as the average working hours are reported as 44 hours.

According to a 2005 survey by the Public Opinion Research Centre (Centrum Badania Opinii Społecznej, CBOS), based on declarations of respondents, a weekly working time was longer then public statistics suggest at 44 hours (in case of male respondents – 46 hours; in case of females – 41 hours).

Labour Force Survey (hereinafter: LFS) (Badanie Aktywnosci Ekonomicznej Ludności, BAEL) longitudinal data suggests: in 2003 average weekly working time amounted to 40 hours, 42.5 for men and 36.9 for women; in 2004 the figures were: 39.9, 42.3 and 36.9 respectively; in 2005 all the figures remained unchanged 39.9; 42.2, 36.8 , in 2006 40.4; 42.9; 37.3. Thus, the national LFS data are generally in line with the EU-LFS findings.

Self-employed are indeed the group most likely to work longer hours. According to the EWCS data, the average weekly working time in that group amounts to 56 hours.

Due to lack of relevant sources, impact of the EU working time Directive at the national level cannot be determined. However, Poland remains sceptical about the Directive’s main provisions.

Annual hours worked

To what extent is the notion of annual working time (calculated to take account of annual holidays, including public holidays, as well as average weekly hours) in common use in political or everyday discussion, or in social partner negotiations?

Is there any evidence that the number of weeks worked per year has declined over the past five or ten years due to increased holidays, or time off for other purposes?

According to the OECD Employment Outlook 2007 data, the average annual working time in Poland in 2006 amounted to 1985 hours. Annual hours worked appear quite stable in recent years: in 2001-2007 period the figure fluctuated between 1974 and 1994 hours. The Eurostat data (1235 hours in 2006) differs significantly, as they refer to employees only.

Trade unions held a long campaign for imposing limitations on weekly working time. Introduction of a new Article 1519a to the Labour Code in 2007 was a success in this regard, as paid work in commercial operations is now forbidden on Sundays and holidays with certain exceptions (e.g. petrol stations).

Days of work per week

Is the five-day week the predominant norm, as opposed to other patterns – four days, four and a half-days, five and a half-days, six days?

Are there any obvious trends in this respect – for example, to reduce the number of days worked per week, but to increase the number of hours worked each day?

Still the five-day per week seems to be a dominant form, which is supported by the EWCS data (56%). However, in recent years a trend to extend the number of days per week emerged. Of dependent employees, service-sector employees are especially prone to be assigned work on weekends and holidays. Nevertheless, the group which is most likely to work more than five days a week is composed of self-employed. As a result, there are no grounds on which the EWCS results (measuring the portion of individuals working six or seven days a week at some 37%) could be challenged.

Full-time and part-time working

Has part-time working grown relative to full-time working over the past five or ten years?

Are there major gender differences in the patterns of part-time working?

Does the government encourage part-time working, either ‘passively’ (i.e. through the workings of social security or taxation rules) or ‘actively’ (e.g. in the sense of particular incentives being offered)?

As LFS longitudinal data indicates: in 2003 10.8% of all employed worked on part-time basis (8.4% for men and 13.7% for women); in 2004 – the figure slightly rose to 11.1% (8.4% for men and 14.5% for women); in 2005 – decreased to 10.9% (8.2% for men and 14.2% for women); in 2006 dropped down further to 9.3% (6.7% for men and 12.6% for women).

Based on OECD Employment Outlook 2007 data, the share of workers employed part-time remains slightly higher than what the national public statistics suggest (due to different methodological approach, under which persons working less than 30 hours a week at their main job are counted as 'part-time employees'), as in 2003 the figure was 11.5%, in 2004 – 12.0%; in 2005 – 11.7% and in 2006 – 10.8%.

Collective bargaining

What are the main working time concerns and priorities of trade unions in collective bargaining?

Is part-time working generally viewed positively, or accepted reluctantly, by trade unions?

As the role of collective bargaining in industrial relations remains largely insignificant, regulations introduced at that level do not have an evident impact on the working time in the national scale. The unions have primarily focused on the issue of overtime pay.

Work schedules

The working day and working week

To what extent does the standard ‘full-time’ working day – 08.00/09.00 to 17.00/18.00 - prevail as the norm?

To what extent does the ‘standard time norm’ of the working week (40 hour, 5 day week) prevail?

According to EWCS data, 31% declared that they work seven days a week, and a total of 44% – that they work six or seven days a week. Only 39% declared to never be working on Saturdays. Therefore, while the five day working week still seems to be a dominant weekly arrangement, there is a growing tendency to introduce other arrangements.

No other relevant sources are available to shed more light on the issue.

Non-standard work arrangements

According to EWCS data, 57% workers declared to be working the same number of hours every day, 69% – the same number of days every week, and 64% – fixed starting and finishing times.

To what extent are non-standard working time arrangements – evening, night and week-end work - mainly limited to those sectors of the economy where it is difficult to avoid – e.g. shift working in continuous process plants or lunch-time and evening work in restaurants?

There are no relevant sources at the national level that would allow to determine whether, and to what extent, such non-standard working time arrangements are limited to workplaces where they are unavoidable.

Is there a tendency for non-standard schedules to enter into other areas of the economy, where it may not be strictly necessary, but where it may have attractions – for employers wishing to make more intensive use of their plant, equipment and other facilities, and for workers wishing to attain a better work-life balance or a more convenient means of taking care of children?

There are no relevant sources at the national level that would allow determining whether, and to what extent, such non-standard working time arrangements are growing beyond their 'traditional sphere'.

However, a reasonable claim can be made that employers are progressively more interested in introducing such arrangements in order to increase production capacity. As observed over last three years, a combination of growing market demand (both domestic and external) and shrinking labour supply provided an obstacle hampering further business expansion, hence repressing economic growth. One feasible solution seems to be to extend working hours.

To what extent are weekend working and other non-standard working arrangements the result of seasonal work (such as in tourism)?

No relevant sources are available to shed light on the issue.

Shift working

How important is regular shift working (as opposed to occasional shifts to cope with increased temporary demand) in your country?

According to the EWCS data, 23.5% employees claimed to be working shifts.

Is shift-working predominantly carried out in specific sectors, and is there any tendency for it to decline (for example as a result of reducing capacity in traditional sectors) or to increase (as employers everywhere seek to make more intensive use of capital investments)?

The share of shift-workers, as indicated by the EWCS data, is generally close to the share of employed by industry, thus it can reasonably be assumed the most of employees affected by the shift-work system belongs to that sector of the economy. Other economic branches with shift-work plays important part include construction and trade and repairs.

What kinds of shift systems dominate – regular mornings, afternoon or nights or mixed patterns?

The EWCS data indicates that 53% of shift-workers work permanent shifts, while 37% work alternating/rotating shifts.

Organisation of working time

Flexibility of working time

How far do individual workers have influence over their own working time arrangements – for example over the time they start and end work?

To what extent is it possible to ‘bank’ hours or days of work – for example to work extra hours for a number of days in order to take day(s) off?

To what extent can workers determine their own work schedules - in other words, work when they like, so long as the work is delivered on time?

From an employee perspective, can a distinction be drawn between ‘positive’ flexibility concerning working time (i.e. arrangements that suit them) and ‘negative’ flexibility (arrangements that suit their employers), or are most arrangements by mutual consent?

Is there evidence that people with higher ranking, better paid jobs are more likely to have greater flexibility regarding their working time arrangements than those with lower ranking/less well paid jobs?

Are there major differences between non-manual workers and manual workers in terms of such flexibility?

Are there major differences between public sector and private sector workers in terms of such flexibility?

Are any major gender differences – for example, are men and women seen to be subject to more or less ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ flexibility?

In general, the issue of working time flexibility has not been examined thoroughly. Yet, the assumption that employees holding professional (i.e. specialist and managerial) positions are more likely to have greater flexibility in their working time arrangements is correct. It has become a pattern that managers work under contractual clause of open-ended working time. It is difficult, however, to provide a conclusive statistical evidence for such phenomena.

Based on official statistics (i.e. national LFS data), is it evident that private sector employees tend to work longer hours than public sector staff. Definitely, there is more space to manoeuvre for both employees and employers in introducing open-ended working time in the private sector.

Based on the EWCS data, 78.8 % employees claimed not to have any impact on determination of their working time arrangements and 68.3 % interviewed reported no changes in their work schedule.

Unlike in case of ‘positive’ flexibility, there is a bulk of evidence documenting incidence of ‘negative’ one: the issue of employers’ voluntarily extending working time has long been one of the major controversies in national industrial relations with trade unions exposing practices of non-payment (or inadequate payment) of wage for overtime. The National Labour Inspectorate (Państwowa Inspekcja Pracy, PIP) monitors the observance of working time regulations by employers. As reported in the Inspectorate’s last Annual Report, in 2006 the most frequent abusive practices related to working time included: not granting employees complementary free days in exchange for work on a mandatory free days (discovered in some 55% of controlled entities); irregularities in working time evidence (nearly 50%), observance of daily norm of working time (more than 30%), observance of weekly norm of working time (more than 30%), providing employees with a sufficient daily rest (30%); providing employees with a sufficient weekly rest (25%); employment of workers on Sundays and holidays without providing free day or extra pay in exchange (more than 15%);%); employment of workers on Sundays and holidays without providing a free Sunday every four weeks (15%); exceeding the lawful limit of overtime on weekly basis (above 20%).

Other working time issues

Multiple job holding

How widespread is the practice of multiple job holding in your country?

Are second or third jobs primarily seen as supplementary sources of income relative to a main job, or are all the different jobs seen as equally valid?

According to the LFS longitudinal data, the practice of multiple job holding is fairly popular, and the share of those with more than one job has been quite steady: in 2003 – 7.6% (8.8% men and 6.1% women) of all employed held more than one job; in 2004 – 7.8% (9.1% men and 6.2% women); in 2005 – 7.8% (9.1% men and 6.2% women); in 2006 – 7.5% (8.4% men and 6.4% women). The picture sketched upon that data is, however, incomplete, as work performed under civil law contracts and activities in the shadow-economy are not included.

The national data in general goes in line with the EWCS data.

Although no data is available on the subject, it can be assumed that, in general, any additional job is perceived mainly as a supplementary source of income.

Commuting time

How much time does commuting typically add to the average ‘working day’ (in the sense of time spent away from home)?

No sources that document the phenomenon on a systematic basis are available. Therefore, one has to rely on the EWCS data (42,2 minutes a day on average).

Is commuting commonplace for everybody, or does the time spent vary in any systematic way – such as according to the type of job, or whether people live in urban or rural areas?

Obviously, commuting poses a problem for both city inhabitants and rural area residents, albeit of different nature. In case of cities (especially in metropolitan areas), the commuting time has been increasing rapidly in recent years due to a growing population, inadequacy of road infrastructure and underdevelopment of public transport. The latter issue is a serious obstacle for spatial mobility of rural areas inhabitants and heavily contributes to the amount of time necessary to travel to and from work.

Is the development of teleworking (full-time or part-time) seen as a viable and attractive alternative to commuting?

Bearing in mind that until recently telework had not been officially recognised in the national legal framework, it is not feasible to determine the actual impact of that form of work on labour market behaviour. Nevertheless, based on experiences of countries where scale and extent of telework are more advanced, it seems reasonable to assume that commuting-avoidance would be a significant factor in individual decisions regarding transition from an irregular job to telework.

In 2005 qualitative survey 'Prospects of telework' conducted as a part of the ESF-funded Telework. Nationwide training and promotional programme for enterprises programme (see: PL0711019 I) , 'opportunity to save time and money, as commuting is unnecessary' was named by employees as one of the most important advantages of telework.

Unpaid working hours (of those in work)

Is there much debate about the impact of time spent on unpaid work in the home, as well as time spent on paid work, on work-life balance, especially between men and women?

Are there pressures for non-paid work to be more recognised, and for the work involved to be shared more evenly between partners?

The issue of home-work has been gaining attention, in particular with regard to old age pensions system. Notably, a concept of an inheritable 'family pension', available to an individual who has not worked professionally in case of his or her spouse’s death had been devised by the former government. Due to the change of government in office, it is not clear, however, whether the concept will be endorsed or abandoned. Not surprisingly, the issue concerns primarily women.

The course of a public debate clearly indicates that non-paid work in households has gradually been winning recognition and acquiring status of valuable social activity that deserves to be rewarded in terms of retirement benefits.

Another vital issue in the context relates to the society’s preferences concerning retirement age of men and women. As surveys show, there is a sustained support among public opinion on retaining unequal retirement age for both sexes (see: PL0708019I). One possible explanation of such predilection for women’s right to retire earlier than men is a common perception of women as main bearers of additional responsibilities related to house-work (as ascribed to their traditional social role), hence more interested and qualified to end their professional life sooner then men.

Such claim is strongly supported by the EWCS data, which indicates huge disparities between the two sexes in the amount of time consumed by various household activities: in case of childcare it is 4.7 hours a week for men and 13.4 hours for women; in case of 'cooking and housework' – 2.9 and 15.6 hours per week respectively; and in case of 'caring for elderly/disabled relatives' – 0.4 and 1.2 hours per week respectively.

Composite indicators of weekly working hours

Composite indicators of weekly working hours have been developed for full-time and part-time workers, both male and female, which include time spent in unpaid as well as paid work and time spent commuting. What do you see as the most significant implications of these indicators so far as your country is concerned?

Undoubtedly, the fact that composite indicators include data for paid and unpaid work around households is the most innovative from Polish perspective, as it provides a solid empirical base for relatively new discussions on such issues as work/life balance and division of professional and family responsibilities between men and women. Furthermore, the data concerning the issue of commuting will certainly be helpful in future analyses of working and living conditions.

Jan Czarzasty, Institute of Public Affairs

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