On 7 December, 2023, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a judgment stating that an employer may specify preferences as to age of a job applicant in an advertisement for a job vacancy. The case concerned a job vacancy for an assistant for a person with a disability. In the case, the plaintiff was not hired, and considered this to be discrimination due to age. The CJEU disagreed with this view and found that job applicants may be treated differently due to age where there is justification given the nature of the services provided. This is another in a series of important labor law rulings on the subject of recruitment following the judgment of 28 November, 2023, in which the CJEU stated that where there is a desire to put in place an entirely neutral administrative environment, a public body may prohibit the wearing of any visible sign of philosophical or religious belief in the work place. A rule of this kind is not discriminatory provided that it is applied in a general and undifferentiated way and is limited to what is strictly necessary.
A bill enacted in December will have major social and economic implications, as it amends the Act of 29 November 2023 amending the Act on Restriction of Trading on Sundays and Holidays and Certain other Days. Under the new rules, if Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, the ban on Sunday trading does not apply to the two preceding Sundays, while also, if Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is prohibited to trade on that day.
The government released a binding statement in December, regulating the issue of funding for glasses and contact lenses for persons employed on an employment contract. According to the statement, the choice between glasses and contact lenses is decided by an occupational health physician. An employer is not required to cover the cost of the purchase in full.
On 3 December, 2023, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal issued a ruling stating that § 31 of the Regulation issued by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 11 October, 2011 on Disability Pension and Retirement Pension Payments (Journal of Laws no. 237, item 1412) breaches the second sentence of art. 67(1) of the Polish Constitution, and will cease to be applicable twelve months from publication of the judgment. This ruling affects the right of many people to early retirement, as in accordance with this provision the totals for individual years, months, and days were counted separately for periods in which contributions were and were not paid.This resulted in differential treatment of entitlements of persons who were employed continuously and those who had breaks in employment, regardless of the reason. This procedure was discriminatory, as it was preferential towards persons who were employed continuously, and thus was unconstitutional. There were no grounds for differentiating between two people with the same number of days of contribution and non-contribution periods according to whether or not they were employed continuously.
A bill was passed and enacted in December to amend the E-service Act, modifying the original time line according to which particular provisions in the act would take effect. The changes were made due to the operator designated to operate the public service related to registered e-service and the public hybrid service not being prepared with regard to technical issues. As a result, the dates of the switch to e- service in particular government authorities will not be determined until mid-2024 or towards the end of the year, which is a postponement of the switch to e-service and hybrid forms of service of more than a year.
In addition, under the amendment, the obligation to submit to the Central Business Records and Information Office information needed to create an e-service address for public registered e-service or for qualified registered e-service, and the details needed to register that address in the e-service address database, will not apply to private entities applying to be registered with the Central Business Records and Information Office until 1 January, 2025.
As of 31 December, 2023, legislation came into force that affects everyone, as it amends laws intended to provide support for consumers of electricity, gas, and heat energy to mitigate the effect of increases in prices of those types of fuel from 1 January, 2024, until 30 June, 2024. The support is for those users who are the most vulnerable, such as households, local government authorities, and bodies operating public utilities. This means that the systems currently in place, adapted as necessary, will be retained. Electricity, gas, and heat prices will remain at the level determined according to the business tariffs approved by the President of the Energy Regulatory Office or the level of average prices in approved tariffs of officially designated vendors, should specific circumstances arise in which the tariffs for 2022 are not approved.
On 15 December, 2023, the President of Poland vetoed a bill of 21 December, 2023, on Special Solutions for Implementing the 2024 Budget. The bill dealt with the combined issues of funding for state media and pay increases for teachers and other professions, which are in fact two completely unrelated issues. Despite this, the President stated that the veto was due to his disapproval of public spending on media, that the legal community had legitimate concerns about the lawfulness of changes to the media and the way in which the changes were made, and that there were public concerns, and that these changes were a departure from the declarations that the ruling majority and government originally made in this regard.
Also in December, a bill amending the Act on Public Healthcare Services was passed, providing for public funding for IVF of a minimum of PLN 500 m per year. The act requires the minister responsible for health-related matters to draw up, implement, operate, and finance an infertility treatment scheme applicable to medically assisted reproduction procedures, including IVF, conducted at a fertility clinic. The first infertility treatment scheme is to be devised, implemented and begin operating from 1 June, 2024.