Europe week: Poland and temporary agency workers
Since joining the European Union, Poland’s employment market and its workers have been in the spotlight regularly – although mainly due to Poles moving out of the county to find work.
Poland’s current levels of unemployment is at a five-year high, at 13% and the Eurozone crisis has led to a slow-down in growth – despite strong export demands from neighbouring Germany.
According to a recent report in The Economist: “More reform would help. The labour-participation rate is low. Big firms suffer a workplace curse: it is normal to call in sick on Monday and come back on Friday because of a slight cold. Fraudulent incapacity claims are endemic. Doctors are complicit. Small businesses waste thousands of hours completing forms, visiting state offices and paying expensive lawyers and accountants.”
A survey at the start of 2012 revealed that 70% of companies in Poland are planning to increase their headcount over the next year. Encouragingly many said they would be looking to employ temporary agency workers, contractors and the self -employed, rather than permanent staff. This gives Polish businesses much greater flexibility to deal with peaks and troughs in the European economy.
However, it’s a different story for those looking for agency work outside the country. Last month a Dutch news agency, NOS, claimed that Polish temporary agency workers lured to the Netherlands often work much less than their recruitment firms promise. According to the report they are known as ‘stand-by Polish’ as they are drawn into the country on assurance of regular work but are often only employed for a few hours a week.
Although strong, the temporary workforce market in the country is not without controversy; in January strikes took place over alleged ‘shady practices’ by a pharmaceutical company. Workers were angry that they are hired on fixed, long-term contracts instead of permanently so that the company could avoid the associated benefits.