Changes to the bonus regulations

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Savings for the employer, i.e. how to effectively introduce changes to the bonus regulations.

The bonus for the employee is a kind of supplementary remuneration that is due to the employee for fulfilling the indicated indicators and the implementation of adequate plans.

Although the Labor Code does not use the concept of a bonus, however, on the basis of literature and court judgments, a definition has been developed that allows to identify the essence of the bonus.

As a rule, a bonus is not a compulsory benefit, it is the employer who decides whether and under what circumstances to grant bonuses. However, it is essential that the rules for granting bonuses are clear and transparent to all workers in advance to counter allegations of discrimination or unlawful differentiation of workers. The bonus may be a reward, therefore it is considered a motivating factor, but in the context of the global crisis caused, inter alia, by the Covid-19 pandemic, employers looking for savings may look for opportunities to change the bonus regulations and rules.

Bonus rules

The right to claim a bonus arises when the relevant regulations (statutory, contractual, statutory) in force at a given employer provide for specific bonus guidelines in advance, which were then implemented by the employee. The decision on granting the bonus does not depend on the discretion of the employing entity, but on the fulfillment of controllable conditions set out in the regulations (contract, act), concerning both the right to the bonus and its amount1.

The bonus is considered to be part of the remuneration, which means that it is subject to legal protection applicable to the remuneration, even though the circumstances of determining the entitlement to the bonus are different.

The bonus rules can be included in separate regulations, but they can also be "included" in the remuneration regulations. It results directly from the provisions of the Labor Code, pursuant to Art. 772 § 2 of the Labor Code, the employer may also establish other work-related benefits and the rules of their awarding in the remuneration regulations.

The remuneration regulations are established by the employer. If a given employer has a trade union organization, the employer agrees with it the remuneration regulations, the employer who employs at least 50 employees who are not covered by the corporate collective labor agreement or the multi-enterprise collective labor agreement is obliged to establish the remuneration regulations. On the other hand, if there are fewer employees, the employer is in fact not obliged to establish the remuneration regulations, but has the right to introduce such regulations. The remuneration regulations (Article 772 of the Labor Code) are a normative act (Article 9 of the Labor Code), the source of labor law, and therefore apply to all employees.

If the principles of bonuses are included in the remuneration regulations, the criteria must be clear, in this case the methods of interpretation should be used, which explain the content of generally applicable labor law provisions. Quite exceptionally - when the methods of interpreting legal acts fail - to interpret the provisions of the remuneration regulations, the principles of interpreting the declarations of will of the parties to legal actions may be applied as an alternative, although this approach should not be abused.

It is worth pointing out that in the event of unclear determination of the criteria for determining the amount of the bonus or violation of the employee appraisal procedure, the employer must take into account the possibility of an effective questioning of the amount of the bonus by the employee in court. In such a situation, the court is entitled to determine the amount of the claimed benefit, taking into account both the provisions of the remuneration regulations and the general principles of determining remuneration for work resulting from the provisions of labor law, as well as all the facts. This problem would not arise if the rules for granting and determining the amount of bonuses were specified in the remuneration regulations.

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Change of bonus rules as a result of a decision to introduce savings in the enterprise

The decision by the employer to change the rules regarding bonuses requires not only informing employees about it, but most of all maintaining appropriate procedures that allow for their implementation in accordance with the law.

In the first place, the employer with which the trade union operates is obliged to agree with it changes to the remuneration regulations, including changes to the bonus rules, if these regulations were part of the remuneration regulations. On the other hand, if the employer has no trade union organization, the employer may amend the regulations on his own.

Should the employer fail to agree with the company organization on the provisions of the amended regulations, such regulations shall not be binding and may not enter into force. In addition, for the effectiveness of the entry into force of the remuneration regulations (including bonus rules) or its amendments, which make these regulations a source of labor law, it is decisive that the employer maintains the procedure required by Art. 772

§ 6 of the Labor Code, consisting in announcing the regulations to employees in the manner adopted by them. It should be noted, however, that according to Art. 772 § 5 of the Labor Code, Art. 24113 § 2 of the Labor Code, i.e. its provisions less favorable to employees, and such regulations usually aimed at introducing savings, e.g. regarding a change in the amount of a bonus, are introduced by termination of the current terms of an employment contract or other act constituting the basis for establishing an employment relationship.

Such a scheme of action forces the employer to indicate the rules that are subject to termination and indicate what his proposed new rules are. Pursuant to the principles of amending the notice, the employee has the right to make decisions regarding the amending conditions. An employee who does not agree to the new terms within the specified period of expiry of the half of the notice period - the employee's contract, after the lapse of the notice period, will be terminated.

If the amendment to the regulations only included changes in favor of the employee, the above procedure does not have to be followed, because in these circumstances it is enough to announce the changes in a manner customarily adopted by a given employer.

 

Legal basis

Act of June 26, 1974, Labor Code, Journal of Laws 2020.1320, i.e.

Footnotes

1 Judgment of the Supreme Court of 14 April 2015. II PK 144/14, LEX No. 1712812
2 Judgment of the Court of Appeal in Warsaw of 13 December 2016. III APa 65/15, LEX No. 2196143

 

Material prepared by the team of "Tak Prawnik".
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