Up to now employees sought better qualifications mainly in order to keep their present job. The Polish Supreme Court has this week confirmed that from now they also need to be planning their formal training carefully as an attempt to improve their qualifications may justifiably lead to their dismissal.
The case concerned a former judicial Assistant of the General Administrative Court who was dismissed after she decided to start Bar training in Warsaw. One of the reasons the employer gave for terminating her employment was loss of trust in the employee and her “disloyal” behaviour towards it in seeking to obtain that qualification. What led the employer to that conclusion? The employee informed the employer that she had enlisted for Bar training only after she had completed all the entry procedures and had applied to be registered as a Bar trainee. Why was a moment of great personal accomplishment for the employee considered by the employer the most undesirable fait accompli?
The employee wanted to proceed with her Bar training to become a legal advisor. Under Polish law any employer of a Bar trainee has to guarantee that employee periodic leave of absence to attend classes throughout the 3 year training period. The Administrative Court pointed out that as a result the employee’s training leave would disrupt her work for it and that her attaining those professional qualifications would not be of any benefit to it (the skills obtained during Bar training would not be applicable while working as Assistant to the Judge). Also, there was an alleged conflict of interest mentioned as the trainee’s mentor was a practicing attorney whom she might encounter in her work for the Court.
The Supreme Court stated that termination of the employment agreement in those circumstances would be justified.
What lessons should employees learn from this? Employers do not like surprises. An employee who wishes to develop professional qualifications in a field not directly connected with his responsibilities at work is free to do so. At the same time he must be prepared for termination of the employment agreement if the qualifications he is seeking do not match the employer’s expectations and needs and especially if he keeps his intentions hidden in circumstances where pursuing the new qualifications will have an adverse impact on his work for his current employer.