Poland’s development ministry wants employees to have the possibility of taking unpaid “startup leave” of up to six months in order to create their own businesses. If the endeavour fails, they would be able to return to their previous job.
Poland needs a new business culture that “accepts risks, teaches how to think outside the box, and how to make creative use out of failures”, explains the ministry, as reported by Gazeta Wyborcza. The aim is to tap in to “dormant layers of entrepreneurship” and give “those with a potential an incentive to fulfil their dreams”.
But employers’ associations have criticised the plan, warning that it will create additional costs and complications for businesses.
The leave would be available for employees of any type of company, and not limited only to tech or IT firms. There would also be no limitations on what type of company would be allowed to set up during the leave.
If his newly established company failed, the employee would have the right to go back to his previous firm, and the employer would have to take him back.
This would, however, place significant costs on the employer, who would have to recruit and train temporary replacement workers, warns Antoni Kołek of Pracodawcy RP, an employers’ association.
If a worker on leave was allowed to set up a business in the same industry as the firm she was leaving, says Kołek, this would further disadvantage the employer, who would later be obliged to “rehire an employee who took away his orders but now decided to return” when her business failed.
According to a 2018 study by Euler Hermes, a credit insurance company, 30% of small and medium sized enterprises in Poland go bankrupt in the first year of their activity, and 70% fail during the first five years.
Jeremi Mordasewicz of Konfederacja Lewiatan, another employers’ association, was also critical, saying that such an idea “could only have been dreamed up by politicians who have never run their own business”. A system of startup leave “would disrupt Polish workplaces”, he warned.
The ministry does, however, plan to consult the proposal with employers and trade unions at the Social Dialogue Council, a forum established in 2015 to bring together representatives of the government, workers and employers.
According to the European Commission, Poland is one of the least innovative countries in the EU. In a report published in February 2019, the commission wrote that:
Poland lags on innovation (…). Despite past efforts to improve the R&D framework and significant support from EU funds, Poland’s innovation performance remains modest. Innovative activities by companies are hindered by a number of obstacles. Overall, the country’s innovation potential is hampered by underdeveloped science-business links.
Monika Prończuk is the deputy editor of Notes from Poland. She was previously the Nico Colchester fellow at the Financial Times, acting FT Poland correspondent, and journalist at OKO.press, an independent fact-checking media outlet. Her articles have appeared in Quartz, Financial Times, Politico, Gazeta Wyborcza and Tygodnik Powszechny.