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Health and safety clothing is the responsibility of the employer or employee? Can an employee refuse to perform the commissioned work if the work clothes have not been provided with appropriate safety clothing by the employer? Moreover, can I be fired by my employer by refusing to work? These are the questions that bother many employers who start their work in production plants or warehouses. At the outset, two concepts should be clearly distinguished: protective clothing and workwear.

Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, they mean something completely different in practice. It is also worth getting acquainted with the regulations regarding the possibility of using your own clothes at work and the equivalent you are entitled to. Before starting work, be sure to read the provisions of the company’s internal regulations and the Labor Code.

Workwear and protective clothing – differences

Under the term ‘health and safety clothing’, most people indicate protective clothing and workwear. The two terms differ significantly in their meanings. The term “protective clothing” means clothing that covers or replaces the worker’s personal clothing and protects him against mechanical, chemical, thermal and weather hazards that may be present in his work environment. On the other hand, the term “work clothing” is clothing intended for work, in which there is a strong risk of contamination of the clothing with substances harmless to health, but causing faster deterioration of the clothing. This also applies to those factors which require the use of special cleaning products to be washed off. We can also find a difference in the Polish law. These definitions are included in the provisions of the Labor Code.

The Labor Code, and more specifically Art. 2377 § 1, regulates the obligation to provide employees with work clothing and footwear that meet the requirements of Polish Standards. This applies to situations where:

  • the employee’s own clothing may be damaged,
  • can become very dirty,
  • due to technological, sanitary or occupational health and safety requirements.

As you can see, the above regulations do not indicate specific positions or types of work to which these provisions of the Labor Code apply. However, the most important are the conditions under which it is performed. The employer is obliged to define the rules of assigning working clothes and footwear to employees in the internal regulations. Moreover, the employer should, in consultation with the employees, define workplaces in the plant or enterprise where it is allowed to use their own work clothes and footwear. Of course, such health and safety clothing must also meet the requirements of occupational health and safety.

The above-mentioned provisions of the Labor Code also indicate situations in which own clothing is prohibited. It is impossible on:

  • positions where work related to the direct operation of machinery and technical devices is performed
  • the performance of work causes intense soiling or contamination of work clothes and footwear with chemicals or biologically infectious materials.

These differences are evident from the difference in the meaning of workwear and protective clothing.

Work clothes or an employee’s equivalent for using his own clothes

The Labor Code, despite the fact that it allows the employee to use his own clothing and footwear, at the same time imposes an obligation on the employer to pay the employee an equivalent for damaged clothing. This provision releases him from the obligation to provide the employee with workwear in kind, and provides the employee with additional funds for using his clothes at the time and place of work. However, in order for this provision to be implemented in practice, two conditions must be met:

      1. The employer clearly defined in the internal regulations the rules of assigning work clothing and footwear to employees, specifically indicating workplaces where employees may use their own work clothes and footwear.
      2. The employee interested in such a solution agrees to use his own work clothes and footwear in exchange for a specific cash equivalent.

Only after fulfilling these two obligations, the employee may use his own clothes while performing the work. The employer is then released from the obligation to purchase health and safety clothing, and at the same time undertakes to pay an equivalent.

By answering a question asked at the beginning of the text. Can an employee refuse to perform the commissioned work if the work clothes have not been provided with appropriate safety clothing by the employer? The employer should either provide work clothes or pay an equivalent for using their own clothes. In no event may the refusal to perform such work be a reason for dismissal because the employer did not fulfill the obligations imposed on him. However, it is worth getting acquainted with the internal regulations specified by the employer, which should define the rules for assigning health and safety clothing to employees or possible payment of an equivalent for using their own clothes.