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Fundamental rights concerning the labour market in the European Union

The principle of free movement of people is one of the fundamentals of the European Union. Thanks to it, after Poland’s access to the European Community (including transition in some states), Poles gained the right to free access to the labour market of Member States on the same basis as citizens of these countries. All employees – citizens of the European Union Member States – have a guarantee of fair treatment. Therefore, employment and working conditions shall be the same both for local (British, French, German) as well as foreign employees. This principle is applied universally, i.e. both in the private sector (enterprises, companies) as well as public one (universities, hospitals, public service, research centres). The exception is only the right for member states to reserve certain jobs exclusively for their own citizens. This regards particularly national and local administration.

Although the right to free migration and to take up work in the EU has a very wide meaning, there are certain limitations in this respect. The member states have a right not to admit into their territory people who might pose a threat to the public order, safety or health (in case of e.g. epidemiological threat). Moreover, the right to perform specific jobs is limited, e.g. qualifications should meet the requirements of the country in which the work is performed, not the country of origin. Of course employers can require from candidates, e.g. fluency in their local language or realities − and it is truly legal.

Contract of employment

Employer has a duty to submit written information about the key terms of employment to an employee. Such information can be included in the very contract of employment or in a separate document. It concerns every employee hired under the contract of employment. However, in some countries persons whose total employment does not exceed one month or work less than 8 hours a week or do casual work, may not be subjected to this provision.

Every agreement should contain at least the following elements:

  • description of the parties (who is the employer, and who the employee);
  • specification of the workplace;
  • description of the placement – job title;
  • starting date and duration of employment;
  • working time;
  • paid leave duration;
  • notice period;
  • remuneration basis and list of the remuneration components;
  • salary date and frequency.

Moreover, in case of workers assigned to work abroad (i.e. employed in Poland but performing their duties temporarily outside the country), the contract of employment should additionally include:

  • working time abroad;
  • amount of cash expenses to be paid during the period the job is performed;
  • currency of salary;
  • terms concerning employee’s return from the international assignment.

Bear in mind that in many European Union countries not only qualifications but also a substantiated education are important when signing employment contract or negotiating its terms and conditions. Diplomas and certificates can be essential, therefore one should hold them. Recognition of the acquired qualifications in a given state can be an additional difficulty – this one often requires the documents to be formally recognised.

Social insurance

The scope of benefits covered by social insurance in particular member states is diversified. However EU general rules include:

  • health care – related to both direct benefits (medical appointments, health centres, hospitals, medication) and cash benefits (sick benefit) − depending on law in a given country;
  • welfare benefits – their amount depends on the contribution made by employee or employer to the local insurance fund;
  • social security – terms of granting it are determined by the regulations of the country of residence,
  • pension – depending on the system in a given state, it is paid from special funds of the state institutions or in connection with other pension funds.

Social security contributions should be paid in the country in which the work is performed.

Health insurance during job search

European Union Member States accept health insurance bought by the EU citizens in their mother countries. It is worthwhile purchasing the European Health Insurance Card already in Poland before the travel to work. It gives right to use health care services until one takes up a job or start a business activity outside Poland. The card is issued by the National Health Fund. One should submit the application in the competent branch with jurisdiction over the place of residence.


Provisions concerning taxes are not standard for all EU Member States. That means they are subjected exclusively to the internal decisions of Member States. The states conclude mutual agreements on avoiding double taxation. The agreement specifies the rules of selection of the state in which tax is to be paid. One can search for specific information at Internal Revenue Service and the Ministry of Finance.

Return to Poland

People coming back to their country after a longer stay abroad should care for bringing necessary documents. In particular, one should remember to: 

  • make sure whether you need some certificates from the social insurance system;
  • collect all documents and certificates from the local pension scheme;
  • care for employment record and other certificates and letters of recommendation related to international career;
  • collect the patient summary form from the doctor;
  • hold all certificates of paid taxes.

Sławomir Krenczyk