The reason for the termination of the employment contract

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Termination of an employment contract may have significant consequences for the parties to the employment relationship - especially for an employee who is forced to find a new source of income. The provisions of the Labor Code provide for mechanisms to protect employees against hasty dismissal. One of them is the obligation to inform you about the reason for the termination of the employment contract.

Termination of the employment contract with notice

The Labor Code lists the following types of employment contracts:

  • for a trial period,
  • for an indefinite period,
  • for a limited period.

Each of these agreements may be terminated, inter alia, by a declaration of one of its parties - the employer or the employee - with the notice period (termination of the employment contract with notice).

The statement of each party on the termination (as well as on the termination of the employment contract without notice) should be made in writing.

The specificity of the termination of an employment contract in the discussed procedure consists in the fact that between the submission of the statement on its termination and the occurrence of the effect in the form of termination of the employment relationship, a certain period of time elapses, known as the notice period. The period of notice for an employment contract concluded for a trial period is:

  • 3 working days if the trial period does not exceed 2 weeks;
  • 1 week, if the trial period is longer than 2 weeks;
  • 2 weeks if the trial period is 3 months.

The notice period for an employment contract concluded for an indefinite and definite period depends on the period of employment with a given employer and amounts to:

  • 2 weeks, if the employee has been employed for less than 6 months;
  • 1 month, if the employee has been employed for at least 6 months;
  • 3 months, if the employee has been employed for at least 3 years.

The notice period for a week or a month or a multiple thereof ends on Saturday or on the last day of the month, respectively.

Example 1.

Joanna has been employed by the employer for over five years. On March 9, 2021, her employer terminated her employment contract. Therefore, it will be terminated after a 3-month notice period, on June 30, 2021.

The institution of the notice period serves to protect the employee against sudden loss of livelihood (therefore the termination of the employment contract with immediate effect is provided for in the Labor Code for exceptional cases, such as a serious breach of basic duties by the party to the employment contract or the employee's long-term absence due to illness, with no expectation of returning). for work). On the other hand, from the point of view of the employer's interest, the notice period is a useful solution, giving time to properly organize work in a situation where the employee terminates the employment contract.

Termination of an employment contract - as indicated above - is made by one of the parties to the employment relationship. The latter is usually more or less surprised and often perceives it as an unfavorable event. The notice period allows you to mitigate the negative consequences of contract termination affecting the party whose contract was terminated.

Another solution to protect the interests of the party receiving the termination is the obligation to justify it - providing the reason for the termination.

Justification for the termination of the employment contract

Pursuant to Art. 30 § 4 of the Labor Code, the employer's written declaration on the termination of an employment contract concluded for an indefinite period should be indicated (the same should be done when terminating an employment contract without notice). As it results from the above-mentioned provision, the obligation to state the reason for termination rests solely with the employer and only in relation to the contract for an indefinite period (there is no need to justify the termination of contracts concluded for a trial period and for a definite period). Therefore, we are dealing here with a mechanism that protects only one of the parties to the employment relationship - the employee. The discussed regulation was based on the assumption that the termination of an employment contract by the employer, taking into account the effects it brings for the employee, must be based on sufficient grounds - its reasons should not be trivial.

Judgment of the Supreme Court - Administrative, Labor and Social Insurance Chamber of 5 May 1999, I PKN 670/98

The condition of giving the employee the reason for the termination of the employment contract (Article 30 § 4 of the Labor Code) cannot be replaced by the employer's assessment that the reason - although it was not indicated - was known to the employee.

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Reason for termination - how to define it?

The reason for terminating the employment contract with notice should be formulated in such a way that the employee knows and understands the reason for terminating the employment relationship. It should be true (not apparent) and be sufficiently substantiated, although it does not need to be described in detail.

In particular, it is not sufficient to say that the employee "performs the work carelessly" or "does not follow the orders of his superiors". It should be clarified what the employee's carelessness in a given case consists of or what orders he does not follow. It is also not enough to indicate that the employee does not meet the employer's expectations in the position he holds. You have to state what specific expectations you are talking about. Similarly, it is not sufficient to make a blanket statement that an employee is not properly performing his or her duties.

Judgment of the Supreme Court - Administrative, Labor and Social Insurance Chamber of April 7, 1999, I PKN 645/98

In violation of Art. 30 § 4 of the Labor Code is both failure to indicate the reason for terminating the employment contract or presenting it in a too vague manner, as well as providing a reason other than justifying the termination of the employment contract, and thus indicating an "unforeseen" reason.

Example 2.

In the termination of the employment contract, the employer indicated the lack of performance of employee duties as the reason, which consisted in the failure of the employee to submit to the supervisor on January 29, February 15 and March 1, 2021 without justification, draft contracts that were to be concluded with the company's main contractors. The reason formulated in this way can be considered sufficiently specific, as it specifies the time of breach of employee obligations and indicates what exactly was the subject of these breaches, and their significance was significant (contracts were to be concluded with major contractors).

The reasons for termination are twofold

The reason for terminating an employment contract with notice does not have to lie with the employee. It may also be decided by circumstances beyond his control. In this case, the provisions of the Act of March 13, 2003 on special rules for terminating employment relationships with employees for reasons not related to employees, commonly known as the Act on collective redundancies, which define the detailed procedure for making such dismissals, apply.

The reasons covered by the aforementioned act can be divided into:

  • organizational (e.g. liquidation of the workplace where the employee is employed);
  • economic (e.g. the need to introduce a recovery program and reduce employment costs);
  • technological (e.g. implementation of a new technology involving the need to dismiss employees who do not have adequate qualifications).

In the case of dismissals for reasons not related to employees, the employer must pay them severance pays in the amount of:

  1. one-month salary, if the employee has been employed by a given employer for less than 2 years;

  2. two-month salary, if the employee has been employed by a given employer for 2 to 8 years;

  3. three-month salary, if the employee has been employed by a given employer for over 8 years.

Consequences of failure to provide a reason for termination

According to Art. 45 § 1 of the Labor Code, if it is determined that the termination of an employment contract concluded for an indefinite period is unjustified or violates the provisions on the termination of employment contracts, the labor court - according to the employee's request - rules on the ineffectiveness of the termination, and if the contract has already been terminated - on reinstating the employee on the previous terms or for compensation. It is worth noting that the basis for questioning the correctness of the termination by the court is not only the violation of the law, but also the unjustified termination, i.e. failure to provide the reason for the termination of the employment contract, or defective determination of the reason (e.g. not specifically enough, giving a reason of insignificant importance). or an apparent cause that does not correspond to reality).

Correctly determining the reason for terminating an employment contract is often not easy. The Labor Code does not provide a catalog of such reasons, but only requires that they sufficiently justify the decision to dismiss an employee. This is one of the reasons why some employers - fearing a loss in the labor court - avoid concluding contracts for an indefinite period (for the termination of employment contracts for a trial period and for a fixed period, it is not necessary to provide the reason for termination of employment).