In The Debrief, our Practice Leaders across CEE share updates on recent and upcoming legislation, consider the impact of recent court decisions, showcase landmark projects, and stay up to date with the latest developments impacting their respective practice areas.
This House – Implemented Legislation
As of March 2023, there have been notable legislative developments in the labor sector in Poland, according to Wolf Theiss Associate Oliwia Pecht. “On March 21, new regulations on employee records came into effect,” Pecht says. “Employers are required to introduce a new part to employee personnel files – Part E – where documentation related to employee sobriety checks will be stored.”
“March 2023 also brought the first so-called auto-enrolment in employee capital plans (PPK),” Pecht continues. “PPK is a pension scheme for collecting pension savings. The employees can voluntarily unsubscribe from the scheme by submitting a declaration. The employer is required to ‘re-enroll’ people into the program every four years (counting from April 1, 2019), unless they opt out.”
Additionally, Pecht notes that the new remote work regulations are set to take effect on April 7, 2023: “the Ministry of Family and Social Policy has published the first answers to questions arising about the interpretation of these regulations. The ministry has confirmed that an employer does not need to provide an employee working remotely with a desk or a chair. Moreover, the employer is not obligated to cover any part of the costs of water consumption, utilities, and use of the employee’s apartment or home space, if not otherwise agreed, for example, in the remote working policy.”
This House – Reached an Accord
NGL Legal Junior Associate Paulina Roslon-Horosz draws attention to the recently signed new Polish act on clinical trials. “On March 21, 2023, the long-awaited act on clinical trials of medicinal products for human use was signed by the President of the Republic of Poland,” she notes. “The act is a completely new regulation for clinical trials of medicinal products in Poland. It is currently awaiting announcement in the Journal of Laws and will enter into force 14 days after the announcement.”
“The new provisions are aimed at ensuring the application of Regulation (EU) 536/2014 on clinical trials in Poland,” she continues. “Among others, the act includes provisions on compensation for damages to study participants, which will be paid from the Clinical Trial Compensation Fund, and procedures for granting permission for a clinical trial, as well as a system of obligatory civil liability insurance for investigators and sponsors.”
Separately, Pecht notes that Poland’s president also signed the new amendments to the Labor Code on March 23. “These amendments implement two directives: the so-called Work-Life Balance Directive and the Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions in the EU,” she says. “A variety of new solutions will be introduced through the amendments. These include, among others, caregiver leave of five days per calendar year to provide personal care to a relative, and time off work – either two days or sixteen hours per calendar year – due to force majeure in urgent family matters. Both solutions have been thus far unknown to Polish regulations. In addition, an employee who has been employed for at least six months will have the right to change the contract type to an open-ended contract or a contract for more predictable and safer working conditions. And an employer will also be required to justify the termination of a fixed-term contract and to notify the trade union organization of this justification.” According to Pecht, the amending act will come into force twenty-one days after its promulgation.
Pecht also says that, on March 21, the president signed an amendment to the Act on Foreigners. “The act aims to bring Polish legislation in line with EU changes to the Schengen Information System, which took effect on March 7,” she says. “The changes included improving the process of returning third-country nationals illegally residing in the Schengen area to their countries of origin and improving border checks. In addition, the law introduces certain simplifications in the procedure for obtaining a Polish travel document.”
OPL gunnercooke Head of Employment and Labor Zsofia Olah highlights the CJEU judgment of March 2, 2022, in Case C‑477/21, where a train driver employed by Hungarian national railway company MAV-START challenged the company’s refusal to grant them a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours.
According to Olah, the CJEU “held that daily and weekly rest are autonomous concepts,” and that “the weekly rest period cannot begin to run until the worker has benefitted from daily rest.” In practice, according to her, it means that “for example, if an employee works under a general schedule – Monday to Friday, eight scheduled hours a day – and therefore has Saturday and Sunday as his two scheduled weekly rest days, his 11-hour daily rest must precede these rest days. This means that they should stop working at 1 p.m. on Friday.”
Olah highlights that “this judgment is highly likely to lead to the modification of the Hungarian Labor Code and, once it is modified, several employers will need to rethink their working schedules,” adding that it could potentially also influence the national employment laws in the region.
Radovanovic Stojanovic & Partners Partner Sasa Stojanovic puts some recent M&A deals in Serbia under the spotlight. “In terms of notable transactions, the banking industry in Serbia has seen a significant increase in consolidation through M&A deals,” he notes. “A prime example is the recent agreement between AIK Banka and Greek Eurobank regarding the acquisition of Eurobank’s Serbian subsidiary – Eurobank Direktna – by AIK Banka, which was signed in early March. Upon the completion of this transaction, and the respective merger which can be expected approximately one year later, this will bring the total number of banks in the Serbian market to 20, compared to the previous 24 in December 2021.” According to him, this demonstrates a clear trend toward consolidation in the Serbian banking sector, which is set to continue.
Stojanovic further highlights a growing trend in Serbia’s energy sector, indirectly influencing the country’s M&A market. “Renewable energy is gaining more ground in Serbia, as evidenced by the recent long-term power purchase agreement for renewable energy signed in February,” he notes. “This marks the first agreement of its kind in Serbia, between Serbian MK Group and Slovenian ALFI Green Energy Fund co-owned Ivicom Energy doo Zagubica and the Swiss Axpo Group. The successful implementation of this practice is expected to lead to increased activity in M&A transactions in the respective industry in Serbia.”
Regulators Weigh In
Finally, Roslon-Horosz highlights that in February, the Polish Chief Pharmaceutical Inspectorate announced that, “given the import and production restrictions outlined in Article 21 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, import licenses for the intra-Community acquisition of hemp herb other than fibrous, the issuance of which would lead to exceeding the limit specified in the estimate (including exports), will not be issued.” According to her, “the use of the procedure for increasing the import limit for hemp herb other than fibrous is possible only in a situation where the authority obtains objective data on the actual demand for this substance. Therefore, the basis for increasing the volume of the estimate will be data on the use of hemp herb other than fibrous as a pharmaceutical raw material intended for magistral formula preparation.”
- Oliwia Pecht, Associate, Wolf Theiss
- Paulina Roslon-Horosz, Junior Associate, NGL Legal
- Sasa Stojanovic, Partner, Radovanovic Stojanovic & Partners
- Zsofia Olah, Head of Employment and Labor, OPL gunnercooke