Employment management during the holiday season

Employment problems during the holiday season arise from two main aspects, i.e. (1) the global calming of most industries operating in both the Polish and foreign markets and the resulting reduced demand for work performed by employees, and (2) increased employee absences. Achieving a balance between the interests of employees and business requires suitable solutions.

Vacation leave

The first thought of an employer who faces the problem of a periodic reduction in the demand for employees is, as a rule, a vacation leave. Along with the end of the year, the employer can verify the number of vacation days that the employee has not used in the current calendar year. Therefore, in a situation where an employee is still entitled to vacation days from the current year in December, following the principle expressed in Article 161 of the Labor Code, can the employer order the employee to use the remaining vacation days between holidays? Unfortunately, no, the employer has no such power.

The employer may not arbitrarily order an employee to take vacation leave justifying such an order with the fact that it is necessary to take the employee’s vacation leave in the current year. It should be remembered that the provisions of the Labor Code provide the possibility of outstanding vacation leave, which should be used by the employee by September 30 of the following calendar year. On the other hand, the possibility of issuing a binding order to use vacation leave updates only in the situation where the employee remains on a notice period.

Obviously, an employee can take his vacation leave during this period if it is an autonomous decision of the employee and he was not forced to do so by the employer.

Employee downtime

Employers sometimes face a request from employees to implement a so-called production downtime. This institution is provided for in Article 81 of the Labor Code, and applies to situations when an employee was ready to perform work, but suffered obstacles for reasons relating to the employer. Employees often identify the reasons relating to the employer as a reduction in the number of orders, carrying out inventory, etc… They also point out that since there is realistically less demand for work during a period of market stagnation, they should be completely relieved of their duties.

That understanding of the above provision is not correct. Downtime refers to a situation when, for example, it is necessary to shut down machinery on the production line and perform comprehensive cleaning by an external entity. In such a case, employees are not allowed to be on the work site and perform their work despite the fact that they were ready to do so. The occurrence of such an event actualizes the special entitlement of employees to receive remuneration (resulting from his personal classification, determined by an hourly or monthly rate, and if such a component of remuneration has not been singled out when determining the terms and conditions of remuneration – 60% of remuneration) despite the real non-performance of work. Notwithstanding the above, during the period of downtime, the employer may assign employees to perform other suitable work, with remuneration. Thus, even a real reduction in the demand for work is not equivalent to the necessity of releasing employees from the obligation to provide work.

The reasons for applying the so-called ” downtime should be objective and do not depend on the employees’ will. The employer verifies the current situation and decides on his own whether he is able to provide work for his team, and only if he finds that despite the readiness of employees to provide work he is not able to provide them with tasks (for example, for technological reasons) releases them from the obligation to provide work at a certain time. Such a situation is very beneficial for employees, as they obtain both days off and remuneration, while at the same time they do not use their vacation days. However, the occurrence of downtime does not take place at the request of employees, and therefore the demands of employees in this regard are not binding on the employer in any respect.

If there are real reasons for the introduction of downtime at a given workplace (for example, the need for an external entity to clean the plant and machinery), the employer is obliged to pay employees for this period. Employees, on the other hand, should be aware that downtime is not equivalent to additional vacation leave, and therefore they remain at the disposal of the employer.

The question then arises, what is the optimal solution to the problem of reducing workload and employee absenteeism during this special period? The most successful approach is a long-term strategy for optimizing and managing working time. The employer should already at the beginning of a given calendar year analyze the existing (observed in past years) structure of work demand and the level of employee absenteeism during this period. Through the creation of an optimal leave plan and communication with employees, the employer can reconcile the expectations of employees and the business needs of the company to the highest degree.

We can assist you in the analysis of planned solutions, both long-term and ad hoc, and we invite you to contact us.


Dominika Czaplewska   |   11.30.2023

Autor :

Dominika Czaplewska

Dominika Czaplewska

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