The national monthly minimum wage and the minimum wage for formal work agreements meet the social minimum monthly income level. There is no minimum wage for informal work agreements. The government effectively enforced wage laws; however, there were reports of employers withholding wages or underpaying laborers on informal work agreements, particularly among Ukrainian migrant workers.
The law provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours, with an upper limit of 48 hours including overtime. It requires premium pay for overtime. It prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime and sets a maximum of 150 hours of overtime per year. The law provides for workers to receive at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest per day and 35 hours of uninterrupted rest per week. The constitution provides every employee the right to statutorily specified days free from work as well as annual paid holidays. The law also provides for 20 days of paid annual leave for employees with fewer than 10 years of employment and 26 days for those employed at least 10 years.
The law defines strict and extensive minimum conditions to protect worker health and safety, and empowers the NLI to supervise and monitor implementation of worker health and safety laws and to close workplaces with unsafe conditions. Workers could remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. The NLI’s powers are limited to the formal economy; it does not have authority to monitor implementation of worker health and safety laws in the informal economy, private farms, and households.
Resources were inadequate to enforce effectively minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational health and safety in the formal or informal sectors. The number of labor inspectors was/was not sufficient to deter violations.
According to the inspectorate’s 2016 report, the most frequent labor rights violations concerned failure to pay or delayed payment of wages. Most wage payment violations occurred in the services, construction, and processing industries. Seasonal workers were particularly vulnerable to such violations. The national inspectorate’s report did not cover domestic workers because inspectors could only conduct inspections in businesses, not private homes. The second-most common problem was inaccurate timekeeping records for hours worked.
Employers often ignored requirements regarding overtime pay. A large percentage of construction workers and seasonal agricultural laborers from Ukraine and Belarus earned less than the minimum wage. The large size of the informal economy--particularly in the construction and transportation industries--and the low number of government labor inspectors made enforcement of the minimum wage difficult. The Main Statistical Office definition of informal economy includes unregistered employment performed without a formal contract or agreement, and is not counted as a contribution to social security and from which income taxes are not deducted. According to the Main Statistical Office, in 2014 (the latest year for which data were available), approximately 4.5 percent of workforce (711,000 persons) worked in the informal economy.
Trade union leaders stated penalties for employers were not sufficient to deter violations. In the case of serious violations, labor inspectors may submit the case to a court, which may impose a fine of up to 30,000 zloty ($7,600). According to labor laws, persons who maliciously violate the labor rights of employees may face up to two years’ imprisonment. According to the NLI, employers implemented 95 percent of all labor-inspection decisions, although a report by the NLI indicated that some legal restrictions, such as the requirement in some sectors that a company receive seven days’ advance notification of upcoming inspections, weakened the effectiveness of labor inspections. International observers noted that the NLI’s mandate both to confirm the legal status of workers and to monitor working conditions creates a potential conflict of interest.
In 2016 the NLI began a three-year campaign to lower the number of work-related accidents in logging and timber companies and finished its two-year campaign on stress reduction at work, targeting employers and employees of all branches of industry. In addition, the NLI organized a prevention and information campaign--“Construction Site. No More Accidents!”--that targeted construction companies and included training on work safety standards for employees and employers. During the year the NLI visited many private farms to assess safety conditions and organized a number of competitions for individual farmers.
In 2016 the NLI continued a public-awareness campaign, “Before you start,” targeting mainly senior high-school and university students to inform them of their labor rights. In cooperation with the Central Institute of Labor Protection, senior high schools, educational authorities, universities, local governments and trade unions, the NLI continued an educational program called “Safety Culture” to instruct senior high-school and university students about workplace safety and to promote general knowledge about labor law.
In the first half of the year, the Central Statistical Office reported 39,093 victims of workplace accidents, a decrease of 140 from the same period in 2016. The highest number of victims worked in industrial processing, the retail and wholesale trade, the health-service sector, transportation, warehouse management, and construction. In 2016 the inspectorate investigated 2,224 accidents in which there were deaths or injuries, including 254 workers killed and 792 persons seriously injured. The NLI reported that, as in previous years, most of the fatal accidents occurred in the construction, industrial-processing, transport, farming and forestry, mining, and trade industries. Employers routinely exceeded standards limiting exposure to chemicals, dust, and noise. According to the inspectorate’s 2016 report, inadequate training of employees, the poor quality of job-related risk assessment tools, and inadequate measures by employers to prevent accidents were the leading causes of workplace accidents.