Prawa autorskie: Grzegorz Celejewski / Agencja Wyborcza.plGrzegorz Celejewski ...


Powoli wyczerpują się zasoby dobrej woli i możliwości pomocy ukraińskim rodzinom, które ratując się przed rosyjską agresją, próbują w Polsce mieszkać, pracować i uczyć się. Państwo nie wspiera już Polek i Polaków, którzy przyjmują uchodźców. Czas na nowo ułożyć relacje i szukać rozwiązań. Chcemy w OKO.press opisywać historie gości z Ukrainy, usłyszeć je od was. Czekamy też na listy polskich pracodawców, gospodarzy, wszystkich osób, które chcą napisać komentarz lub zgłosić pomysł. Piszcie na adres [email protected].


Поволі вичерпуються ресурси доброї волі та можливості допомоги українським родинам, які, рятуючись від російської агресії, намагаються жити, працювати та навчатися в Польщі. Держава більше не підтримує польок та поляків, які приймають біженців. Настав час заново формувати стосунки та шукати рішення. В OKO.press ми хочемо описати історії гостей з України, почути їх від вас. Також чекаємо на листи від польських роботодавців, господарів та всіх, хто бажає написати коментар чи подати ідею. Пишіть на [email protected].

The Ministry of the Family and Social Policy also wants to eliminate the so-called labour market test (an employer will not need to obtain confirmation from the head of the county that there are no registered unemployed on the local market who could be hired instead of a foreigner).

These are good solutions which will make employment easier and will help protect the rights of, for example, Ukrainian men and women on the labour market. But there are also provisions in the draft amendment to the Act on the employment of foreigners which, despite the government’s announcements, could have the opposite effect.

But one by one.

The goodwill and ability to help Ukrainian families who, having escaped from Russian aggression, are trying to live, work and study in Poland, are slowly running out. The State no longer supports Poles who take in refugees. It is time to re-establish relations and look for solutions. In OKO.press we want to write up the stories of the visitors from Ukraine, to hear them from you. We are also waiting for letters from Polish employers, hosts, anyone who wants to write a comment or submit an idea. Write to [email protected]. See also: https://oko.press/kategoria/jestesmy-tu-razem/.

Work for the same wage as for a Pole

This is true – the electronification of job application procedures and the elimination of the labour market test will relieve the government offices of workload. But instead, the government is proposing a solution that will give them more duties. The Ministry of the Family and Social Policy wants

the employees of the offices to check that the salary offered to a foreigner is not lower than that of an employee who comes from Poland.

What would this look like? In the application for hiring a Ukrainian woman for example, the employer will need to state how much he wants to pay her. The county office will compare this with the Central Database of Job Advertisements, which is supposed to contain data from the local market. If the salary is lower than that from the market data, the head of the county will not agree to such terms of pay.

The idea is good. It shows that the government sees the problem of unequal pay. However, the way it wants to combat it gives rise to doubts.

First, the Labour Code already refers to the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of gender or nationality.

Of course, the government can write equal pay into an amendment to the Act on the Employment of Foreigners a second time. ‘But without an appropriate enforcement mechanism, it will not solve the problem of discrimination. I’m concerned that the government’s proposal will not work,’ Piotr Lewandowski of the Institute for Structural Research tells OKO.press.

Secondly, it will be difficult for county offices to compare the salaries of non-EU workers with the salaries of Poles. Especially now, with the influx of new workers from Ukraine.

We should reiterate that, according to official data, around 420,000 refugees have found employment in Poland since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. More than 6.2 million people have entered Poland. The Polish-Ukrainian border is still being crossed by approximately 20,000 refugees a day. However, the traffic is bidirectional. 4.5 million trips to Ukraine have been counted since 24 February 2022. The balance of the border traffic is therefore 1.7 million. Some of these people went on, to EU countries. Several hundred thousand fewer people are currently staying in Poland.

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‘Strange provision’

‘Imagine that a construction company from Przasnysz sends information to the county office about how much it wants to pay a worker to work on a building site. The company waits for approval of the level of pay before hiring him,’ says Lewandowski. ‘No one is going to do that, especially since numerous immigrants are primarily interested in work.

This is a strange provision and, in practice, will be dead.

In addition, it will generate huge bureaucratic costs and involve resources that the administration does not have. It might also increase the risk that workers will be employed in the underground economy.’

So the government has noticed the problem with discrimination. But it has not proposed a solution to help prevent it.

‘Following this line of thought, we can ask,

why aren’t employers required to report women’s salaries, and why don’t county offices compare them to men’s?

After all, counties are not in a position to check 16 million salaries. Labour market regulations should be reliable. We already have a problem with the State Labour Inspectorate, which has a bogus mechanism for enforcing reporting.’

This is not a task for public institutions

So where has this proposal come from? The government is trying to use it to fill a gap in collective labour relations in Poland.

‘Issues of pay in Western Europe are most frequently regulated autonomously by trade unions and employers’ organizations. Western countries have special provisions, so-called collective bargaining agreements. This is an agreement between the employer and the employees as to what wages and other working conditions will be like at a given plant,’ says Dominik Owczarek, an expert at the Institute of Public Affairs.

This applies to both the minimum wage and salaries for specific positions. ‘This mechanism is almost non-existent in Poland. The agricultural, care and construction sectors, where Ukrainians work, often do not even have trade unions and employers’ organizations that could enter into such agreements,’ says Owczarek.

Meanwhile, the government assumes that the mechanism for setting pay will be regulated by a public institution.

‘This is a highly unique and unprecedented solution in Europe,’ says the expert.

He adds: ‘It seems to me that it would be better to leave the regulation of wages to the autonomy of the employers and trade unions, and to make collective bargaining agreements more widespread – especially at sectoral level. It’s not up to the county offices to control or regulate the level of pay and revoke work permits when an employee is paid less than the market rate.’

Minimum work time

What about the other solutions? The Ministry of the Family and Social Policy proposes that work permits for foreigners should only be issued when

working hours are no less than a quarter of the full work time over a month.

The objective of this would be to curb abuse by employers.

‘In Poland, the mechanism of paying people “under the table” is commonplace. Workers are hired for a minimum wage and not necessarily full time, while the rest of their wages are paid informally. Foreigners, with respect to whom the law is breached, should have the ability and feeling that they can assert their rights. Otherwise, the introduction of such minimums for full-time employment could be fictitious. The introduction of equality regulations has to be followed by a mechanism ensuring that these regulations are respected,’ says Lewandowski.

So the government has good intentions for a second time. But it is proposing a dubious solution.

The government wants to limit contractual freedom

Why? ‘The provision on minimum employment limits the freedom of the employment relationship. This is another unsuccessful, misguided prosthesis,’ says Dominik Owczarek.

It is the State Labour Inspectorate that should check abuses, investigate whether someone is paying a foreigner ‘under the table’. Limited resources mean it is not performing its tasks effectively. And a gap is forming.

‘The government wants to limit contractual freedom under the excuse that it is protecting these workers. In order to achieve this objective, the State Labour Inspectorate needs to be strengthened and inspections must be conducted in sectors where there is a large proportion of migrants from outside the EU.’

We have repeatedly written about the fact that the State Labour Inspectorate is suffering from chronic underfunding and institutional incapacity. Meanwhile, citizens cannot count on help from institutions. All the more so, workers from outside the EU, whose rights on the labour market are generally being breached.

The needed reform

‘Reforms are needed on the labour market to restrict civil law contracts. This also applies to strengthening the enforcement of the law, namely the State Labour Inspectorate. So that it effectively controls the conclusion of contracts, the payment of social insurance contributions and the calculation of work time. This cannot be done with new regulations. Polish law is good; in many places it arises from European legislation. The biggest problem we have on the labour market is with its observance. This is what the greatest emphasis should be placed on.’

The ‘Our Choice’ Foundation is among those that appealed for the reinforcement of an institution that defends the rights of foreign workers. In its report about the situation of Ukrainian migrants from 2021, it appealed precisely for an increase in the powers of the State Labour Inspectorate. So that it has a real influence on the protection of foreigners on the labour market.

The new legal regulations do not assure them of this. This is a fraction of what should happen.

Ukrainian women have been facing violations of rights for years

It is largely women with children and people over the working age who come to Poland from Ukraine. But Ukrainian women were struggling with employment problems, including labour rights violations, even before the war. The ‘Our Choice’ Foundation conducts research into such labour rights violations. In a report prepared in 2018, it mentioned, among other things:

  • employment without an employment contract, in the underground economy, in the ‘grey zone’ and on junk contracts – which makes it difficult for workers to assert their rights and deprives them of the right to health insurance;
  • fictitious part-time employment in the construction sector – instead of the official 4 hours a day, workers work for 10–12 hours at a time, and are paid ‘under the table’ for the extra time;
  • extension of the work time to 14 hours a day or more;
  • lack of payment by both intermediaries and employers and their taking advantage of the fact that the visas of the workers are coming to an end;
  • hiring for an unpaid trial period and then firing;
  • deducting accommodation and other costs from the pay – even though there was no mention of this in the contract.

These are the most pressing issues that the government should address in the first instance.

What about skills?

Women with children and people over the working age are difficult to integrate into the labour market because of their need for care, the fact that they are not of working age or are unable to work. This is a group in which employment rates are usually low. Some women of working age who have fled Ukraine have to take care of children. That is why it is important to ensure that they have access to care services.

Besides, a key problem with hiring foreign workers in Poland is the mismatch between their qualifications and the work they do. We wrote about this among others here.

‘40%–50% of Ukrainian refugee women of working age have degrees, whereas, simultaneously, 60% of refugee women have simple jobs. Even before the Russian invasion, more than 50% of Ukrainian men and women had simple jobs in Poland, although increasingly more people with at least secondary school education were coming to Poland,’ says Lewandowski.

Pay equality is important, of course.

‘But the fundamental extent of inequality related to nationality on the Polish labour market is that it is easy for foreigners to find cleaning, nursing or receptionist jobs, but difficult to find office work, even if they are better qualified. We should make better use of the potential of these people,’ says the expert.



Julia Theus

Dziennikarka, absolwentka Filologii Polskiej na Uniwersytecie im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu, studiowała też nauki humanistyczne i społeczne na Sorbonie IV w Paryżu (Université Paris Sorbonne IV). Wcześniej pisała dla „Gazety Wyborczej” i Wirtualnej Polski.