Commissioner for Human Rights

Working hours of doctors employed under civil law contracts. Minister of Health has no plans for changes


Doctors employed under civil law contracts work up to two days without a break, according to findings by the Supreme Audit Office. The current rules on working time and on-call duty apply only to contractual employees. The Commissioner supports the SAC's proposal to introduce working time limits for all medical staff.
In its audit, the Supreme Audit Office found irregularities in the excessive working hours of doctors, which could lead to a reduction in the quality of medical care and the risk of errors. It recommended that measures be taken to regulate the working hours of medical staff employed under civil law contracts.
In May 2023, the Commissioner contacted the Minister of Health on this issue, but the Ministry's reply indicated that no such change was being worked on. However, the problem remains, as deputy CHR Stanislaw Trociuk points out. He recommends that the CHR's comments be reconsidered in order to protect both doctors and patients.
In the Commissioner's view, the need to regulate the working time of all doctors follows from the constitutional principle of state supervision of working conditions and, moreover, from the right of every citizen to health protection (Articles 24 and 68(1) of the Constitution). The definition of the minimum uninterrupted rest and the exceptions to this principle - limited only to employees - also raises doubts with regard to the observance of the right to days free from work and annual paid holidays (Article 66(2) of the Constitution).
In its update of 1 March 2024, the Ministry of Health announced that it had no plans to introduce legislative changes regarding the working time of medical staff employed under civil law contracts. The Ministry stressed that current legislation allows doctors to be employed under both employment and civil law contracts. The decision on this matter remains with the parties to the legal relationship in question.