What the duration of annual leave is
Every person employed under an employment contract is entitled to annual leave. The duration of the leave depends on the length of service of a worker. The period of education is also counted towards the length of service.
The duration of the leave is as follows:
- 20 days per calendar year for workers with a length of service of less than 10 years
- 26 days per calendar year for workers with a length of service of at least 10 years.
Important Leave at request forms part of annual leave. Workers may use up to 4 days of leave at request in a calendar year.
You must count periods of education provided for in the curriculum of a school or university, for which a worker has received a relevant certificate or diploma, towards the length of service. You do not add up the periods of attendance to individual schools. You must take into account the school with the highest number of years that can be counted towards the length of service.
If a worker has finished:
- a basic vocational school or an equivalent school – you must count no more than 3 years towards the length of service
- a secondary vocational school – you must count no more than 5 years towards the length of service
- a secondary vocational school for graduates of basic (equivalent) vocational schools – you must count 5 years towards the length of service
- a secondary comprehensive school – you must count 4 years towards the length of service
- a post-secondary school – you must count 6 years towards the length of service
- a tertiary education institution – you must count 8 years towards the length of service.
If a worker is pursuing or pursued education while being employed, you must count either the period of employment or the period of education, whichever is more favourable, towards the length of service on which the duration of annual leave depends.
Mr Rafał has finished a post-secondary school and uniform master’s degree studies. On 1 January 2020, he started his first job at a construction company. The employer informed him that the duration of annual leave is 20 days. The employer counted 8 years towards the length of service as Mr Rafał has graduated from a tertiary education institution.
Mr Daniel has been working at a restaurant since 2016. He is also attending a general secondary school. As Mr Daniel has not completed his education yet, the duration of his leave is 20 days, taking into account only his length of service of 4 years.
Please note Only the basic duration of annual leave is provided for in the Labour Code. Employment contracts or collective agreements may provide for a more favourable length of leave due to specific conditions in the workplace or the characteristics of a specific job.
What information obligations employers have
As an employer, you must inform workers, within 7 days from the date of conclusion of an employment contract, about their conditions of employment, including the duration of annual leave to which they are entitled.
You may do so by means of a notice on workers’ rights or a separate written notice in which:
- you specify the duration of annual leave, or
- you indicate the relevant labour laws governing issues relating to the duration of annual leave – such a notice should be personalised, for example if the duration of leave is 20 days – Article 154(1)(1) of the Labour Code.
You must also inform workers of any changes in the duration of annual leave. You may do so by giving a worker another notice stating the new duration of annual leave after that person acquires the right to this leave.
The notice must be in written form and must be signed by the worker. You must also include in it information about the daily or weekly working time standards or the length of the notice period. The notice is added to that worker’s personal file.
How to calculate the duration of annual leave
The duration of leave to which your workers are entitled depends on their periods of employment and education.
Workers employed under the first employment contract
Workers who start the first job under an employment contract:
- acquire the right to annual leave with each calendar month worked
- for each month worked, acquire the right to 1/12 of the leave they would be entitled to after one year
- in subsequent years, acquire the right to full annual leave on every anniversary of the start of the job.
Workers acquire the right to subsequent leave in each successive calendar year (in advance).
On 1 January 2020, Ms Karolina started her first job under an employment contract. The duration of her annual leave in 2020 is 20 days. She wants to take 3 days of annual leave in April. She will be granted the leave as by April she will have worked 3 full months (January to March) and will, therefore, be entitled to 3/12 of the entire annual leave, i.e. 5 days.
Workers employed by more than one employer
When determining the right to annual leave for a worker employed in several places at the same time, you must include the period of employment preceding the conclusion of the employment contract with your company.
Jan Kowalski started working for EXCO on 1 January 2020. At the same time, he has been employed at ABC since 1 January 2018. When determining the right to annual leave and its duration, EXCO takes into account the period of employment at ABC from 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2019. As Jan Kowalski has completed master’s degree studies, he will be entitled to 26 days of annual leave.
Workers employed on a part-time basis
When determining the right to annual leave of workers employed on a part-time basis, you must apply the general rule that education and length of service must be taken into account, and the final duration of the leave must be proportionate to the working time.
Ms Marzena, who would be entitled to 20 days of annual leave in 2020 if she worked on a full time basis, works on a quarter-time basis as a secretary. In 2020, she is entitled to 5 days of leave, i.e. 1/4 of the leave assessment basis of 20 days.
If workers wish to switch from employment on a full-time basis to employment on a part-time basis, then you must grant them the leave they did not use before switching on the terms applicable before that change. You must take into account the duration of annual leave to which the workers were entitled while being employed on a full-time basis and, if necessary, the amount of remuneration they received at that time (if payments in lieu of leave not taken are necessary). In this case, you must round up an incomplete day of leave to a full day when calculating the duration of annual leave.
Ms Anna worked at ISA on a full-time basis until the end of April 2020 and switched to employment on a part-time basis on 1 May. As she has not used the annual leave to which she is entitled in 2020, the employer will grant her 9 days of leave for the period until the end of April (the annual leave assessment basis is 26 days), and then 9 days for the remaining part of the year worked on a part-time basis.
Employment of workers during a year
The way in which your new worker left the previous employer does not affect that person’s right to annual leave or its duration. The total duration of annual leave while working for the previous and current employer is equal to the leave to which the worker is entitled in the year concerned.
The worker uses annual leave while working for the previous employer proportionally to the date of termination of the employment relationship. Information about how the worker you employ during a calendar year used annual leave is included in a certificate of employment issued by the previous employer. If no such certificate has been issued, you must ask the worker for a declaration confirming this and a declaration stating what the duration of annual leave was while working for the previous employer and how the leave was used. You must keep the declarations in the worker’s personal file.
Ms Ewelina terminated her contract with the previous employer on 29 February 2020. She signed a contract with the current employer on 1 March 2020. The duration of her annual leave is 26 days. Ms Ewelina used only 5 days of annual leave for 2020 while working for the previous employer. This information was entered into her certificate of employment.
If a worker uses more days of annual leave than that person is entitled to in proportion to the period of employment, i.e. until the date of termination of the employment contract, and starts to work at your company immediately after the termination of the contract, you must take the annual leave used into account. The worker will be entitled to the remaining number of days of annual leave (the annual leave assessment basis will be either 20 or 26 days) until the end of the year. You must inform the worker about the remaining number of days of leave to which that person is entitled in the calendar year concerned and which that person will be able to use.
If you employ a worker during a year for a period shorter than until the end of the calendar year, you must take this into account in the notice on the conditions of employment. The leave to which such a worker is entitled at your company is the duration of annual leave to which the worker is entitled per 1 month of employment, i.e. 20/12 or 26/12, multiplied by the number of months of employment at your company.
Mr Dominik is entitled to 26 days of annual leave a year. He terminated his employment contract on 29 February 2020. He used 5 days of annual leave, in proportion to the period of employment. On 1 March, he begins to work at a courier company under an employment contract for 6 months. He is entitled to 13 days of annual leave (26/12 x 6 = 13).
As workers cannot use more days of annual leave than they are entitled to per year, the last employer in the calendar year concerned may grant fewer days of leave than the period of employment for that employer would indicate.
On 1 March, Mr Dominik began to work at a courier company under a fixed-term employment contract for 6 months. Afterwards, he concluded an open-ended employment contract with that company. As he has been working at the company for 10 months, from March to December, he should be entitled to 22 days of leave (the duration of the leave is 26 days). However, as he has used 5 days of leave while working for the previous employer in the same year, he may use only 21 days at the courier company.
How to grant annual leave
As an employer, you must grant annual leave to workers in the calendar year in which they acquire the right to this leave. Workers must submit written applications indicating when they would like to use the leave.
Leave is granted on days which are working days (on an hourly basis). For workers employed on a full-time basis, 1 day of leave corresponds to 8 hours, i.e. a worker with a length of service of less than 10 years has 160 hours of leave a year (8 hours x 20 days of leave), while a worker with a length of service of at least 10 years has 208 hours (8 hours x 26 days of leave). If workers are employed on a part-time basis, you must calculate the number of hours in proportion to their working time. If workers have the last several hours of leave left, they must use them during 1 working day, even if they indicated otherwise in their applications.
The most important rules to be borne in mind when granting annual leave are as follows:
- 1 day of leave corresponds to 8 working hours
- an incomplete day of leave must be rounded up to a full day, except in the case of workers who have started their first job
- when determining the duration of proportional leave, an incomplete calendar month must be rounded up to a full month, except in the case of workers who have started their first job
- annual leave is paid leave and, as a rule, should be uninterrupted
- annual leave may be divided if a worker submits an application for leave on different dates
- at least one part of leave should last no less than 14 successive calendar days
- workers’ preferences as to the dates of annual leave should be taken into account, but they are not binding on the employer
- the employer is required to grant no more than 4 days of leave at the request of a worker and at the time indicated by that person (leave at request) in each calendar year
- leave that has not been used in the calendar year concerned should be granted to a worker by 30 September of the next calendar year at the latest
- if the duration of leave increases during a calendar year, a worker is entitled to compensatory leave.
Ms Anna completed master’s degree studies in 2017. Since 1 November 2018, she has been employed at POL SKIN under an employment contract. In 2020, she will have worked 2 years at the company, which means that the duration of her annual leave will increase from 20 to 26 days. If in 2020 Ms Anna uses 20 days of leave by 1 November, then she will be entitled to 6 days of compensatory leave from that date.
If unions operate at your company, you must check whether they are interested in drawing up a workers’ leave plan. If so, you must draw up this plan together with these unions. The leave plan for the next year must be drawn up by the end of the year. It should specify how workers will use unused and current leave. You must ask the workers to declare how and when they would like to use this leave. You must draw up the leave plan and consult the union organisations operating at your company about its content. If several trade unions operating at your company cannot come up with a common position within 30 days after the submission of the leave plan, you must adopt the plan on your own, after considering the separate positions of the union organisations.
You may also draw up a leave plan for a shorter period of time, but this entails more frequent consultations with workers, and then with trade unions.
If there are no trade unions at your company or if they operate and have expressed their consent, you do not need to draw up a company leave plan. You must determine leave schedules in consultation with workers. The plan or the schedules do not include the 4 days in a calendar year which may be used as leave at request.
You must announce the leave plan in the manner adopted at your establishment.
When the date of leave may be changed
The date of planned annual leave may be changed:
- at the request of a worker motivated by important reasons, for example, an illness of a family member, a natural disaster at the place where the leave was to be spent or failure by the spouse to obtain leave
- due to the employer’s special needs, if the absence of a worker would seriously disrupt the work, for example due to a failure, a check by external authorities or the postponement of the date of acceptance of a building.
The date of planned annual leave must be changed for reasons justifying absence from work, and in particular due to:
- temporary incapacity for work due to an illness
- isolation due to an infectious disease
- participation in military exercises or military training or participation in territorial military service on a rotational basis for a period of up to 3 months
- maternity leave.
Leave that has not been used by a worker must be granted on another date.
You cannot give your consent to annual leave during a period of incapacity for work, for example due to an illness of a worker. If your worker falls ill while on leave, that person will use sick leave, not leave.
When workers may be called back from leave
You may call workers back from leave only if their presence at the establishment is required by circumstances unforeseen at the time when the leave began.
The request to come back from leave and report to work must be clear, i.e.:
- you must specify the circumstances which led to the decision
- you must inform the workers that they must report to work and when they must do so
- you must submit the request in such a way that the workers are able to familiarise themselves with it, preferably in writing or by phone (a witness should be present).
The costs incurred by a worker as a direct consequence of being called back from leave are borne by the employer. These costs include:
- transport costs incurred by the worker
- accommodation costs for the part of the leave that has not been used
- costs incurred by the entire family if the worker spends leave with his or her family.
Please note You do not have to reimburse workers for other expenses associated with leave, for example for the purchase of sports equipment, or reimburse them for the remuneration they wished to obtain while working at another company during the leave.
When annual leave must be used
Annual leave should be, as a rule, used in full in the calendar year in which workers obtain it.
Leave that has not been used must be granted to workers by 30 September of the next calendar year at the latest. In practice, it is enough that 30 September is the first day of a worker’s unused leave.
Ms Anna has 3 days of unused leave for 2019. The employer requested her to use it by the end of September 2020. Ms Anna submitted an application for leave from 30 September to 2 October 2020.
If workers do not submit applications for unused leave, you may grant them the unused leave even without their consent.
Workers cannot decide by themselves to take unused leave. They also cannot begin leave without your consent after the deadline of 30 September expires, and the sole fact that you are notified of the commencement of leave does not justify or excuse absence from work. Such behaviour may be regarded as job abandonment, which constitutes grounds for terminating a contract without notice due to a serious breach of workers’ basic obligations.
If a worker’s employment contract is terminated with notice, regardless of who decided to terminate it, you may request the worker to use the annual leave to which that person is entitled during the period of notice. If the duration of the leave is greater than the number of days in the period of notice, the worker must receive a payment in lieu of annual leave not taken.
When workers may take leave at request
As leave at request forms part of annual leave, the use of such leave reduces the duration of annual leave. Workers may use up to 4 days of leave at request in a calendar year.
The limit of 4 days of leave at request per calendar year concerns all employers with whom a worker is in successive employment relationships in the year concerned. Information about how a worker used the days of leave at request to which he or she was entitled while working for the previous employer is included in a certificate of employment. Employers are required to grant leave at request at the time indicated by workers.
Workers should submit their requests at the latest on the day on which they wish to use the leave, before the work begins. They may also use 4 days at a time.
The legislation does not specify in what form workers should request this leave. Practices or work rules followed at companies may allow workers to submit applications at a later date.
A worker cannot begin leave at request if the employer does not acknowledge receipt of the application and does not give consent. If the worker does so, the absence will be unjustified and will constitute grounds for terminating the employment contract without notice.
Remuneration and payments in lieu of annual leave
Remuneration for leave
As an employer, you must pay to a worker for annual leave the remuneration which that person would have received for working. Remuneration for leave is paid together with remuneration for work.
If a worker receives fixed remuneration, that person must receive the same remuneration for leave.
Remuneration for leave is calculated in a different way if remuneration for work consists of variable components, for example ones dependent on performance. The variable components of the remuneration must be calculated on the basis of the average remuneration for the last 3 months before the leave. If there are significant fluctuations in the level of these components, you may extend the period for which you will calculate the average remuneration to up to 12 months. You do not take into account incidental components of remuneration, such as:
- payments for periods longer than 1 month (e.g. quarterly bonuses, annual bonuses)
- one-off payments or non-regular payments for the performance of specific tasks
- remuneration for readiness for work and for idle time for reasons not attributable to workers
- length-of-service awards
- remuneration for annual leave or other justified absences
- payments in lieu of annual leave
- remuneration for a period of incapacity for work caused by an illness or isolation due to an infectious disease
- additional remuneration for legal advisers for legal representation
- adjustments to remuneration up to the minimum remuneration
- awards from the company bonus fund
- additional annual remuneration, and amounts due for a share in profits or in balance surplus
- retirement and disability severance payments and other severance payments
- remuneration and compensation due for the termination of employment relationships.
After determining the annual leave assessment basis, you must calculate the remuneration per hour by dividing the assessment basis by the number of hours worked by the worker in the period for which the assessment basis was determined. You must multiply the hourly rate calculated in this manner by the number of hours the worker would have worked if he or she had not been on leave.
A worker working 8 hours a day receives a basic remuneration of PLN 3 000. He also receives a monthly housing allowance of PLN 500 and received various performance bonuses: PLN 500 in January, PLN 300 in February and PLN 200 in March. In January, the employee also received PLN 300 for overtime. He worked 502 hours in total during these three months.
In April, the worker takes leave – 7 working days (7 x 8 h/day = 56 h).
In order to calculate the remuneration for leave, the employer adds up the variable allowances received in addition to the basic remuneration, i.e. without the fixed monthly housing allowance: PLN 500 + PLN 300 + PLN 200 + PLN 300 = PLN 1 300.
The final hourly rate for leave will be the sum of the hourly rate based on the fixed components (3 x PLN 3 000 3 x PLN 500)/502 h and the hourly rate based on the variable components (PLN 1 300)/502 h, i.e. PLN 20.91 + PLN 2.58 = PLN 23.49. The remuneration for leave will be PLN 23.49 x 56 h = PLN 1 315.44
Payments in lieu of annual leave not taken
A worker who has not used annual leave must receive a payment in lieu of the leave not taken when the employment contract expires or is terminated.
You may also request the worker to use the leave that person is entitled to during the period of notice. If the number of days of this leave is greater than the number of days in the period of notice, the worker must receive a payment for this difference.
- If you terminate an employment contract with notice – the worker must receive the payment on the last day of the period of notice.
- If you terminate a contract without notice, the worker must receive the payment on the day on which he or she is handed a notice of dismissal.
- If a worker’s employment contract expires due to that person’s death, the family must receive the payment in lieu of annual leave.
- If you conclude another employment contract with a worker directly after a contract expires or is terminated, the worker does not need to receive the payment in lieu of leave not taken. It is enough to determine that the leave will be used during the new employment relationship.
The payment in lieu of annual leave not taken must be calculated in a similar way as remuneration for leave. Differences in its level depend on the following factors:
- as regards fixed components, for example a special duty allowance or a housing allowance, you must take into account those for the month in which the worker acquires the right to the payment,
- as regards components for periods not exceeding 1 month, for example a monthly bonus, you must take into account their average amounts in the last three months before the acquisition of the right to the payment (if the worker worked throughout this period),
- as regards components for periods longer than 1 month, for example a quarterly bonus or an annual bonus, you must take into account their average amounts in the last twelve months before the acquisition of the right to the payment.