Unpaid time off – what is worth knowing?

Unpaid time off – what is worth knowing?
Marek Cieślak

Marek Cieślak

CEO CGO Finance

Do you need time off but don’t have any more leave? Ask your employer about unpaid time off. How and when can you take it? What does it involve? We answer in the article below.

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unpaid time off

What is unpaid time off?

The Labor Code defines unpaid leave as a temporary break from work where both parties to a contract are exempt from mutual obligations. Case law indicates that this kind of leave suspends mutual obligations and rights in the employment relationship. What is crucial, the legal connection remains valid (Supreme Court judgment, Jan. 6, 2009, ref. no. II PK 111/0).

What is the purpose of taking unpaid time off?

 It can be used for various purposes, e.g. for:

  • childcare,
  • personal matters,
  • going on a vacation financed by personal funds,
  • education or skills improvement.

Who is entitled to unpaid time off?

All workers under employment contracts have the right to unpaid leave, regardless of:

  • working time – both full-time and part-time employees have the right to this kind of leave,
  • the type of contract – such a leave concerns workers with both fixed-term and indefinite-term contracts.

This means that every employee can request such leave when it is necessary.

What are the rules of leave for individuals with a managerial contract? Find out from this article.

Conditions for granting unpaid time off

The employer may grant unpaid leave to the employee only upon his written request. The employee does not have to indicate the justification for the request. Still, proper justification may help the employer make a decision. The right to such a leave arises when the employer agrees to it.

The parties should determine:

  • the start date of the unpaid leave,
  • the period for which it is granted.

For such a leave exceeding 3 months, parties may agree on the option to recall the employee from it for valid reasons.

The situation of an employee during unpaid time off

Workers during unpaid leave retain the status of an employee but do not perform work. At the same time:

  • they do not receive remuneration,
  • they lose the right to employee benefits, e.g. bonuses, holiday leave, financial compensation for unused leave,
  • its period is not included in the period of employment, on which employee entitlements depend. This affects e.g. length of service, which determines notice periods and annual leave entitlements. However, special provisions may contain different solutions on this matter.
  • they are not subject to social security and health insurance contributions due to employment status. They may voluntarily join pension, disability, and health insurance.
  • they are subject to special protection against termination of employment. It results from Article 41 of the Labor Code.

Employer’s situation during an employee’s unpaid time off

When an employee is on such a leave, the employer:

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unpaid time off

Obligations of the parties regarding the end of unpaid time off

After the end of such a leave:

  • the employee is obliged to return to work,
  • the employer is obliged to admit the employee to work at the previous position.

If after the end of such a leave an employee reports readiness to work but the employer does not admit him to work, the employee has the guaranteed right to remuneration resulting from his job grade. It is determined by an hourly or monthly rate. If such a remuneration component has not been specified- it amounts to up to 60% of the remuneration.

Key information concerning unpaid time off

When thinking about optional unpaid leave, it is worth considering several key issues:

  • The employer is not obliged to grant this kind of leave. He does not have to justify the refusal, although there are certain exceptions.
  • Such a leave is independent of other leaves. This means that it can be taken even when there is still paid leave available,
  • During this kind of leave, the employment contract cannot be terminated.
  • The duration of such a leave is not legally defined. It means that it can last for example a week, a month, or a year; the term is determined by the employee and the employer.
  • The employee and the employer may, by agreement, shorten or extend this kind of leave.
  • If an employee took such a leave to recover his health, but is still unable to work after the end of the leave, he has a right to sickness benefit,
  • Using unpaid leave is voluntary – the employee can exercise this right, but does not have to.
Advantages of time offDisadvantages of time off
Possibility of a longer break from work without losing the jobLack of remuneration for the duration of leave
Its period is not included in the notice periodLack of contributions to social security and health insurance
Possibility of returning to work at the previous positionIt is not included in the length of service
Loss of insurance protection
Possibility of losing professional qualifications
Difficulty in returning to the work rhythm
Advantages and disadvantages of unpaid time off presented in the table

Unpaid time off – summary

This kind of leave can be a good solution in many situations when we need a longer break from work. However, it comes with certain consequences such as no remuneration or insurance. Before making a decision on such a leave, it is worth considering all pros and cons.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, contact our office. Our experts will support you with comprehensive legal advice!

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about: Unpaid time off

Who can use unpaid time off?

It can be taken by any employee, regardless of the length of service or position held.

How long can unpaid time off last?

The duration of such a leave is not limited and can range from several days to several years. The maximum duration of leave is determined by agreement with the employer.

How to submit a request for unpaid time off?

A request for unpaid leave must be submitted in writing. The request should specify:
– the start date
– the expected duration of the leave
– the reason for requesting the leave

Can the employer refuse to grant unpaid time off?

Yes, the employer can refuse to grant it, but he must provide a valid reason for the refusal.

What are the advantages of unpaid time off?

The advantages of such a leave include:
– possibility of a longer break from work without losing the job
– its period is not counted when establishing the notice period
– possibility of returning to work at the previous position

What are the disadvantages of unpaid time off?

Disadvantages of this kind of leave include:
– lack of compensation for the duration of the leave
– lack of contributions to social security and health insurance
– it is not included in the length of service

What impact does unpaid time off have on insurance?

During unpaid leave, the employee is not covered by social security or health insurance. However, he can choose to pay health insurance premiums by himself.

What impact does unpaid time off have on employee benefits?

Unpaid leave does not affect entitlement to benefits such as sickness benefit or maternity leave.

Can I shorten unpaid time off?

Yes, both employee and employer can shorten it at any time upon consent of both parties.

What should I do if the employer refuses to grant me unpaid time off?

If an employer refuses to grant unpaid leave without a reason, an employee can appeal to the labour court.

Featured expert

Marek Cieślak

CEO CGO Finance