Justyna Zandberg-Malec

Ombudsman comes to the defence of freelancers

In execution proceedings, debtors who receive pay for their work on the basis of a contract to perform a specific assignment or create a specific work are treated worse than debtors who are paid a salary on the basis of an employment contract. The Ombudsman has asked the Minister of Finance whether the government intends to change that.

Under the Polish Labour Code, a portion of an employee’s wages are exempt from garnishment in an execution proceeding, so that the employee is left with some means to cover basic living expenses. Freelancers, however, who are paid for their work under non-employment civil-law contracts (a contract to perform a specific assignment or create a specific work), do not enjoy similar protection.

In 2010, during work on a bill to amend the Administrative Execution Procedure Act, there were plans to introduce provisions in the act that would provide a comparable exemption from garnishment for individuals who are not employees but depend for their livelihood on work performed under these types of civil-law contracts.

However, in the white paper published by the Ministry of Finance and submitted to the Polish government, entitled “Outline of Bill to Amend the Administrative Execution Procedure Act,” there is no mention of any intention to amend Art. 9 §1 of the act in this respect or to propose a separate section that would protect debtors who earn their livelihood under civil-law contracts.

For this reason, the Ombudsman, the national civil rights advocate, has filed an inquiry with the Minister of Finance to determine whether there is a plan to amend the regulations in this respect.

Because of the situation on the labour market and the increasingly common use of civil-law contracts instead of regular employment, European Union legislation now seeks to put employees and freelancers on a more even footing. In Poland, new regulations have been introduced to require equal treatment of individuals who work under civil-law contracts. The rules for establishing income that may be excluded from the basis for calculating social insurance contributions have also been unified. Equalising the protection of these two groups in execution proceedings would be one more step in that direction.