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Leave and benefits related to maternity and parenthood

The following types of leave may be granted to persons taking care of children: maternity leave, parental leave, childcare leave and paternity leave. Both biological parents and other persons taking care of children are entitled to these types of leave. See what the rules for granting these types of leave are and what benefits may be granted to persons taking care of children.

Maternity leave

Duration of maternity leave and leave on the terms of maternity leave

As an employer, you must grant maternity leave to:

  • the mother
  • the father, to the extent to which the mother has not used the leave.

In specific circumstances, another immediate family member may also apply for maternity leave. This may happen if:

  • the mother has died (the part of maternity leave remaining after the date of the mother’s death may be applied for)
  • the mother has abandoned the child
  • the mother is an employee certified of inability for independent existence
  • the mother who is an employee is in hospital or in another medical centre providing round-the-clock inpatient medical services and cannot take personal care of the child for health reasons.

Another immediate family member – there is no legal definition of an immediate family member but, in practice, immediate family members include in particular the parents and siblings of the child’s mother and father.

Regardless of who uses maternity leave, its duration depends on the number of children born at one time and is as follows:

  • 20 weeks – if one child is born
  • 31 weeks – if two children are born
  • 33 weeks – if three children are born
  • 35 weeks – if four children are born
  • 37 weeks – if five children or more are born.

If a male or female employee has taken a child in to be raised in a foster family (except for a professional foster family) or has taken a child in and has lodged an application for adoption to a guardianship court, that employee is entitled to leave on the terms of maternity leave. The duration of the leave depends on the number of children taken in:

  • 20 weeks – if one child is taken in
  • 31 weeks – if two children are taken in at one time
  • 33 weeks – if three children are taken in at one time
  • 35 weeks – if four children are taken in at one time
  • 37 weeks – if five children or more are taken in at one time.

In such a situation, the leave cannot last longer than until the child reaches the age of 7, or the age of 10 if the child may begin compulsory education at a later date. If the child has not reached the age of 7 (or 10 if the child may begin compulsory education at a later date) when it is taken in, the employee is always entitled to the minimum leave on the terms of maternity leave of 9 weeks.

The employee is entitled to a maternity allowance for the period of the maternity leave.

How leave is used

A pregnant employee may, at her request, use up to 6 weeks of maternity leave before the estimated date of childbirth. After giving birth, she is entitled to the part of the leave that has not been used previously. A female employee who gave birth during unpaid leave cannot use part of maternity leave before giving birth. If a female employee did not use maternity leave during pregnancy, the first day of maternity leave is the day of childbirth.

While a female employee cannot waive the right to maternity leave, she may decide not to use part of the leave after having used 14 weeks and return to work, provided that:

  • she has used 14 weeks of the leave after giving birth (it is irrelevant whether she used the maternity leave during pregnancy and what part of it she used)
  • the remaining part of the maternity leave is transferred to the father of the child
  • she submits a written application for cancelling part of the maternity leave at least 7 days before returning to work, indicating the date of return
  • she encloses a copy of an application by the father who is an employee, to whom the remaining part of the leave will be transferred, or a declaration of the father who is covered by a social security scheme on the cessation of gainful activities for the duration of the remaining part of the maternity leave.

The application by the father, submitted no later than 14 days before the beginning of the leave, should contain:

  • the full name of the father
  • the full name and date of birth of the child
  • a declaration of the employee stating what part of the maternity leave was used before the childbirth and for how long a maternity allowance was received before the childbirth
  • information about the length of the period for which the maternity leave is to be granted to the father.

The application should be accompanied by the following documents:

  • a copy of the child’s birth certificate
  • a declaration of the mother stating that she intends to cancel part of the leave or that she has ceased to receive a maternity allowance, if the mother is employed under a civil law contract or is self-employed.

Please note! A female employee certified of inability for independent existence may decide to cancel maternity leave already 8 weeks after giving birth, upon submitting a written application and an annex confirming that the remaining part of the leave will be used by the child’s father or another immediate family member.

As an employer, you must grant to an employee maternity leave equal to the part of the leave that has not been used by the mother. The date on which the employee begins the maternity leave should be the day after the mother cancels part of the leave.

Interruption of maternity leave

A female employee may interrupt maternity leave if she is admitted to hospital or another medical centre during the leave and cannot take personal care of the child for health reasons, provided that:

  • she has previously used at least 8 weeks of the maternity leave from the date of childbirth
  • part of the leave is to be transferred to the child’s father or another family member or that person is to take personal care of the child.

An application for maternity leave submitted by the child’s father or another family member when the mother is undergoing treatment should contain:

  • the full name of the father / immediate family member
  • the date from which part of the maternity leave is to be granted (corresponding to the date on which the mother interrupted the leave)
  • a declaration stating what part of the maternity leave was used by the child’s mother before giving birth
  • an undertaking by the father / another immediate family member to notify the employer of the date on which the mother leaves the hospital or the medical centre.

A declaration by the mother stating the date on which the maternity leave was interrupted due to admission to the hospital or another medical centre, a certificate of admission of the mother who is an employee to the hospital or the medical centre and a copy of the child’s birth certificate should be enclosed with the application.

The father who is an employee or another family member begins the maternity leave on the date indicated in the application, which should fall on a day when the mother is already in hospital or is to begin hospital treatment. As an employer, you may request that the employee to whom the leave is transferred notify you as soon as possible of when the mother’s treatment is expected to end. The father / another family member may report to work without prior notice after the end of the maternity leave.
If a mother abandons a child while being on maternity leave or receiving a maternity allowance, the father who is an employee or another immediate family member may use the part of the leave remaining after the date on which the child is abandoned. However, this may happen only after the female employee uses at least 8 weeks of maternity leave after giving birth or after she receives a maternity allowance for 8 weeks while being covered by insurance.

Please note! The mother does not need to be employed under an employment contract in order for the father who is an employee or another immediate family member to be able to use the maternity leave. She may be covered by a social security scheme, for example by virtue of being employed under a civil law contract or being self-employed.

Leave in the case of hospitalisation of a newborn child

If a child requires hospital treatment for a longer period of time immediately after birth, the female employee uses maternity leave during the first 8 weeks after giving birth. Subsequently, she may submit an application for interruption of the maternity leave to the employer. She will be able to use the remaining part of the leave after the child leaves the hospital.

The same rules apply when a child is hospitalised while the parent or another immediate family member is on parental leave or paternity leave. There is no limit on the number of such periods of interruption. Maternity leave, parental leave or paternity leave is extended by each period of interruption during which the child of an employee is hospitalised.

If an employee has submitted an application for interruption of leave, you must, as an employer:

  • allow that person to immediately return to work
  • grant leave again after the child leaves hospital.

Important! While a child is being hospitalised, the parent may take days off work due to an illness of a child under the age of 14.

Parental leave

A mother who is an employee or a father who is an employee has the right to parental leave immediately after he or she has used maternity leave. The parental leave should be used until the end of the calendar year in which the child reaches the age of 6. The leave is granted to both parents and its duration depends on the number of children born at one time. The duration is as follows:

  • up to 32 weeks if one child is born
  • up to 34 weeks if more than one child is born.

Other immediate family members may also use parental leave if:

  • the mother of the child has died
  • the mother has abandoned the child
  • the mother is an employee certified of inability for independent existence
  • the mother who is an employee is in hospital or in another medical centre providing round-the-clock inpatient medical services.

If a male or female employee who took a child in to be raised has used leave on the terms of maternity leave or has received a maternity allowance for a period corresponding to the period of leave on the terms of maternity leave, that person may use parental leave granted after leave on the terms of maternity leave has been used or a maternity allowance for this period has been received. The duration of parental leave depends on the number of children taken in:

  • 32 weeks – if one child has been taken in
  • 34 weeks – if two children or more have been taken in at one time
  • 29 weeks – if a child under the age of 7 (or 10 if a child may begin compulsory education at a later date) has been taken in and the employee has used 9 weeks of leave on the terms of maternity leave.

The parents of a child may use parental leave at the same time. Alternatively, the entitled person who is an employee (has an employment contract) may use the leave, while the other entitled person who is covered by a social security scheme (for example, as a self-employed person) may receive a maternity allowance.

Both entitled persons may split parental leave into no more than four parts, at least 8 weeks long, except for the first part, which must be at least 6 weeks long, unless fewer weeks remain to be used. Parental leave is granted in weeks.

When determining the number of parts of parental leave, you must take into account the number of applications for parental leave or maternity allowance for a period corresponding to the period of parental leave submitted by the mother and father of a child (or another immediate family member). The parts of leave must be used one after another. The exception is a situation in which the entitled persons do not use parental leave in full because they return to work.

Within 21 days after giving birth to a child, a female employee may submit a written application for full parental leave, which will be used immediately after maternity leave. This application should contain:

  • the full name of the female employee
  • the full name and date of birth of the child
  • the date on which the parental leave is to begin.

An abridged copy of the child’s birth certificate should be enclosed with the application.

You must also grant parental leave if an employee decides to use it, in full or in parts, at a later date. In order to be granted this leave, the employee must submit a written application at least 21 days before the planned beginning of the leave. Parental leave must be granted in weeks.

Work during parental leave

During parental leave, a male or female employee cannot work for his or her employer on more than a half-time basis. In such a case, that person receives parental leave for the remaining period of time. Parental leave is proportionally extended up to 64 weeks if one child is born or up to 68 weeks if more children are born.

In order to work during parental leave, a male or female employee submits a written application to the employer at least 21 days in advance. The application must contain the following information:

  • the personal details of the employee
  • the number of working hours the employee wishes to work (on a part-time basis)
  • the period during which the employee wishes to combine parental leave with work\
  • a declaration stating that the employee intends to combine a part of the proportionally extended parental leave with further work on a part-time basis or a declaration stating that the employee does not intend to do so.

As an employer, you should accept such an application. However, you are not required to do so if it is impossible because of the organisation of work at the company or the type of work performed. You must give reasons for the refusal in writing.

Please note! A male or female employee may decide not to use parental leave at any time and, with your consent, return to work. If the other parent does not take over the leave or takes it over and also decides not to use it, a part of the leave will be forfeited.

Employment after returning from parenthood-related leave

After the end of maternity leave and parental leave, you must allow a male or female employee to return to work in the previous position. If you cannot do so due to organisational changes, changes in the company structure or the abolition of the position, you must allow the employee to return to work:

  • in a position equivalent to the one held before the leave
  • in a position which matches the professional qualifications of the male or female employee.

The remuneration must include all increases which the employee would have received if the parenthood-related leave had not been used.

Please note! In accordance with the case-law, you actions as an employer will be contrary to applicable laws if, on the one hand, you offer the guaranteed pay levels but, on the other hand, you refer a male or female employee returning from maternity leave to an equivalent position or another position which matches that employee’s professional qualifications while the previously held position has not been abolished and you have offered it to another person.

Example

Anna notifies the employer that she is returning to work from parental leave. Before the parenthood-related leave began, Anna was employed as an assistant to the marketing director. Grzegorz is currently employed in this position while Anna is absent from work. As Anna has declared her intention to return to work, the employer must offer her the previous position of an assistant to the marketing director, unless the female employee expresses a wish to be employed in another position.

Please note! If a mother, father or another immediate family member who has used maternity leave or parental leave applies for annual leave immediately after the previous leave, that leave must be granted.

See the rules for granting annual leave.

Childcare leave

Childcare leave may last up to 36 months in total and is, as a rule, unpaid. During childcare leave, any benefits, such as a childcare allowance, are granted to low-income employees alone.

Childcare leave is granted to employees who have been employed for at least 6 months, a period which also includes a period of time during which unemployment benefit is received. They may use this leave until the end of the calendar year in which their child reaches the age of 6.

A male or female employee who wishes to take childcare leave must submit a written application at least 21 days before the planned beginning of the leave. As an employer, you must accept the application. The male or female employee may withdraw the application no later than 7 days before the beginning of the leave by submitting a written declaration. During the childcare leave, the male or female employee may decide to cancel the leave at any time, subject to your consent. Without your consent, the employee may return to work 30 days after notifying you of the cancellation of the childcare leave.

Leave may be used by both parents at the same time and split into up to five parts, which are determined on the basis of the number of applications for leave. Each parent has the exclusive right to use 1 month. This right cannot be transferred to the other parent.

A parent or a guardian is entitled to full 36 months if:

  • the child’s other parent is deceased
  • the child’s other parent has been deprived of parental responsibility, or that parent’s parental responsibility has been limited or suspended
  • the child has one guardian.

The applicant must enclose a document confirming that one of these conditions is fulfilled with the application for such a period of leave.

Please note! If a child is certified as having a disability, the period of childcare leave is extended by an additional 36 months and lasts 71 months in total. The additional 36 months may be used until the child reaches the age of 18.

Work during childcare leave

The purpose of childcare leave is to allow a parent or a guardian to take personal care of a child. However, such a person may work during leave as long as this does not interfere with the care for the child. During childcare leave, an employee may work at your company or at another company, study, participate in training courses or engage in other activities, such as business activities, as long as they remain able to take personal care of the child. In practice, employees usually work on a part-time basis during childcare leave.

Important! If, as an employer, you find that a parent has permanently ceased to take care of a child, you may instruct that person to report back to work not earlier than 3 days after the date of notification and not later than 30 days after the date on which you become aware of this fact. This may happen if, for example, the parent has gone abroad and the child has remained in Poland and is being taken care of by another person.

Paternity leave

Paternity leave may be used only by a father who is an employee until the child reaches the age of 2. Paternity leave lasts 2 weeks and may be split into two parts lasting 1 week or used at one time.

An employee who has adopted a child may use paternity leave within 24 months from the date on which the decision on the adoption of the child becomes final and until the child reaches the age of 7. If a child may begin compulsory education at a later date, the father may use paternity leave until the child reaches the age of 10.

In order to be granted leave, an employee must submit a written application no later than 7 calendar days before the beginning of the leave.

The application should contain:

  • the full name of the employee
  • the date of the paternity leave applied for or of its part.

The employee should enclose a copy of the child’s birth certificate and a declaration stating that paternity leave has been used with the application. An employee who has adopted a child should also enclose a copy of the final court decision on the adoption of the child. As an employer, you must accept the employee’s application. The employee is entitled to a maternity allowance for the period of the leave.

Protection of employment relationships

An employer cannot terminate an employment contract during pregnancy and during maternity leave, leave on the terms of maternity leave, parental leave and paternity leave (unless there are reasons justifying the termination of the contract without notice due to the fault of a male/female employee and the trade union organisation representing the male/female employee has agreed to the termination of the contract). Contracts may be terminated in exceptional cases specified in labour laws (e.g. if an employer is declared bankrupt or goes into liquidation).

This also applies to fathers who are employees raising a child or to other immediate family members who are employees during the period of maternity leave, leave on the terms of maternity leave and parental leave.

In the case of a fixed-term employment contract or an employment contract for a probationary period of more than 1 month, which would be terminated after the third month of pregnancy, the contract is extended until the date of childbirth. However, a fixed-term employment contract concluded for the purpose of replacing an employee during that person’s justified absence from work cannot be extended in this manner.

Protection of employees using childcare leave

An employer cannot terminate an employment contract from the date on which an employee entitled to childcare leave submits an application for:

  • childcare leave – until the end of this leave
  • reduction of working time – until the date on which non-reduced working time applies again, but for no longer than 12 months in total.

The contract may be terminated by the employer only if that employer is declared bankrupt or goes into liquidation and if there are reasons justifying the termination of the employment contract without notice due to the fault of the employee.

After the employee returns from the childcare leave, the employer must allow that person to return to work in the previous position. If this is not possible, the employer must allow that employee to return to work in a position equivalent to that held before the leave or in another position which matches that person’s professional qualifications. In addition, that employee’s remuneration cannot be lower than the remuneration to which that person was entitled on the date on which he or she took up the position held before that leave.

Benefits related to giving birth to and raising children

Maternity allowance

A maternity allowance is a benefit paid under a social security scheme to employees who are on maternity leave, leave on the terms of maternity leave, parental leave and paternity leave. The allowance is payable to employees and other insured persons covered by sickness insurance under a social security scheme, for example contractors or self-employed persons.

The amount of the maternity allowance depends on declarations submitted by an employee about how and for how long they intend to exercise parenthood-related rights.

If, within 21 days after giving birth, a female employee (or – this applies to a male or female employee – after taking a child in to be raised and filing a petition for adoption or for taking a child in to be raised in a foster family with a court) submits a written application for full parental leave to be granted after maternity leave or leave on the terms of maternity leave, then the maternity allowance (paid for one year) will amount to 80% of the assessment basis calculated in the same way as a sickness benefit.

If the employee does not submit the application for parental leave within 21 days, the maternity allowance for the duration of maternity leave and leave on the terms of maternity leave will amount to 100% of the remuneration forming the contribution assessment basis.

During the parental leave, the employee will be entitled to 100% of the remuneration only for 6 weeks if one child was born or taken in to be raised (8 weeks for more children) or 3 weeks if, after taking a child in to be raised, the employee uses the minimum maternity leave of 9 weeks. For the remaining period of the parental leave, the employee will receive 60% of the maternity allowance assessment basis.

The total amount of the maternity allowance will be the same (80%), but it depends on the employee whether he or she will receive an allowance at the level of 80% throughout the period of maternity leave and parental leave, or 100% at the beginning and then 60%.

A maternity allowance of the period of paternity leave amounts to 100% of the remuneration forming the contribution assessment basis.

Please note! If you employ more than 20 insured persons (employees and contractors under a contract of mandate) whom you register for a social security scheme, then it is you who must physically pay maternity allowances to the employees, and the Social Insurance Institution (Zakład Ubezpieczeń Społecznych - ZUS) must refund the amounts you have paid.

If you employ fewer insured persons, allowances will be paid by the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) – you must enclose your contribution payer’s certificate with the employees’ applications. For employees, you must submit a Z-3 certificate. For persons employed under a contract of mandate, you must submit a Z-3a certificate.

Care allowance

A care allowance is payable to only one parent or guardian and only if no other family member is able to take care of a sick child. An employee will be exempt from the obligation to perform work if he or she is taking care of another family member: a spouse, a parent, the other parent of his or her child, a stepfather, a stepmother, parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and children who have reached the age of 14, provided that they live in the same household while being taken care of. An employee’s children will also include the spouse’s biological children, adopted children and children taken in to be raised.

A care allowance is a cash benefit payable to an employee who is exempt from the obligation to perform work because he or she is taking personal care of:

  • a sick child under the age of 14 (up to 60 days in a calendar year),
  • a sick child under the age of 18 certified as having a severe disability (up to 30 days in a calendar year),
  • a sick child under the age of 18 certified as having a disability and needing permanent care of another person and that person’s assistance in treatment, rehabilitation or education (up to 30 days in a calendar year),
  • a sick child under the age of 18 certified as having a severe disability or needing permanent care of another person and that person’s assistance in treatment, rehabilitation or education – if the employee’s spouse or the child’s parent who takes permanent care of the child cannot do so due to an illness or childbirth or is in hospital or a round-the-clock medical centre (up to 30 days in a calendar year),
  • another sick family member (up to 14 days in a calendar year),
  • a child under the age of 8 due to the closure of crèches, children’s clubs, nursery schools or schools (up to 60 days in a calendar year),
  • a child under the age of 8 due to an illness of a nanny with whom the employee has concluded a formal nanny agreement or of a day carer who takes care of the employee’s child (up to 60 days in a calendar year),
  • a child under the age of 8 if the employee’s spouse or the child’s parent who takes permanent care of the child cannot do so due to an illness or childbirth or is in hospital or a round-the-clock medical centre (up to 60 days in a calendar year).

The care allowance is paid at the rate of 80% of the assessment basis (i.e., as a rule, the employee’s remuneration calculated in the same way as a sickness benefit). The employee receives the allowance for every day, including non-working days.

Please note! If you employ more than 20 insured persons (employees and contractors under a contract of mandate) whom you register for a social security scheme, then it is you who must pay the care allowance to the employees, for which you will be refunded by the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS). If you employ fewer persons, ZUS (the Social Insurance Institution) must pay the allowance on the basis of the following applications:

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