Legislative and policy framework
Under the Constitution adopted in 1997, Poland grants women and men equal rights; Article 33(2) states that ‘Women and men shall have equal rights, in particular regarding education, employment and promotion, and shall have the right to equal compensation for work of similar value, to social security, to hold office and to receive public honours and decorations.’
Poland’s accession to the European Union (EU) and subsequent compliance with EU principles contributed to a general improvement of the legal framework for equality, including significant changes to the Act of June 26 1974 Labour Code. The EU has had a significant influence on gender mainstreaming in Poland due to the need to implement requirements for EU funding.
The fundamental law dedicated to the promotion of gender equality, which also addresses other equality and non-discrimination issues, is the Act of 3 December 2010 on the implementation of certain European Union regulations regarding equal treatment (hereafter the Act of 2010). The Act of 2010 sets general framework conditions for equal treatment policy in Poland. The first Article of the Act of 2010 specifies areas and methods of counteracting violations of equal treatment regarding a person’s sex, race, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, denomination, beliefs, disability, age, or sexual orientation, in addition to setting out the competent authorities with respect thereto.
Prior to this legislation, Poland had first committed to taking action to promote gender equality in 1997 through the adoption of a National Action Plan (NAP) for Women; however, the attempt to implement this plan failed. Since 2003, Poland has launched a number of National Action plans on gender equality and equal treatment. In 2013, the Plenipotentiary published the NAP for 2013-2016 which included a firm commitment to gender mainstreaming. Though no action plan has been in place since 2016, the Council of Ministers adopted a resolution on the establishment of the National Action Programme for Equal Treatment 2022-2030 (Krajowy Program Działań na rzecz Równego Traktowania na lata 2022-2030) in May 2022. This new NAP aims to raise awareness about gender inequalities, implement anti-discrimination measures and enhance cooperation with social partners.
Governmental equality bodies
The Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment (Pełnomocnik Rządu ds. Równego Traktowania) is the governmental body in Poland responsible for the promotion of gender equality. It was established in 2008 and further regulated under the Act of 2010. The body implements government policy on equal treatment, including gender equality, and is appointed and dismissed by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland. The Plenipotentiary has 10 employees who allocate between 25% to 50% of their time to gender equality work.
The Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment Functions
- Implementing government policy on the principle of equal treatment, including combating discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, belief, age, disability, and sexual orientation
- Preparing and reviewing draft legal acts in the field of equal treatment
- Conducting analyses and evaluations of legal solutions in terms of respecting the principle of equal treatment
- Applying to the competent authorities about issuing or amending legal acts in areas under the remit of the Plenipotentiary
- Taking action to eliminate or limit the consequences of infringements of the principle of equal treatment
- Analysing and assessing the legal and social situation in the field of equal treatment
- Initiating, implementing, coordinating, or monitoring measures to ensure equal treatment, protect against discrimination, and initiate actions to limit the impact of violations of the principle of equal treatment
The Plenipotentiary is consulted on policy matters. During the first 11 months of 2021, the Plenipotentiary was consulted on 126 legislative bills. These were submitted by the government, the parliament, the President of the Republic of Poland, and citizens. In addition, it provided opinions on 38 legislative projects of the Ministry of Family and Social Policy.
Article 22 of the Act of 2010 obliges the Plenipotentiary to prepare and submit annual reports to the Council of Ministers, providing information on activities, conclusions and recommendations related to compliance with the principle of equal treatment, together with a report on the implementation of the NAP on Equal Treatment (Article 23 of the Act). The reports for 2019, 2020 and 2021 have been published.
Coordination takes place across ministries on equal treatment but there is no evidence this is also the case for gender mainstreaming. During the period 2013-2016, Equal Treatment Coordinators were appointed in some ministries, in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Central Statistical Office.
Independent equality body
The Act of 2010 designates the Commissioner for Human Rights (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) as the independent body for the promotion of equality and human rights. The Commissioner is responsible for the implementation of the principle of equal treatment under the conditions and in the modalities set out in the Act of 15 July 1987 to the Commissioner for Human Rights.
One of the Commissioner’s key tasks is to act as an independent body assisting with those filing complaints related to discrimination based on different grounds including gender. It also conducts independent research on discrimination and publishes reports that include recommendations on legal changes required. In implementing the principle of equal treatment, the Commissioner may draw on a wide range of procedural rights, including the possibility of demanding the initiation of proceedings in civil cases, as well as taking part in any pending court proceedings or applying to the Constitutional Tribunal for examination of the compliance of legal provisions with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland and ratified international agreements.
The Commissioner is appointed by the lower house - with the consent of the upper house - for five years. It is independent in its operations, distinct from other state bodies and accountable only to the parliament, under the terms set out in the Act of 2010. However, the budget of the Commissioner must be approved by parliament and in the past has caused some tensions.  The Commissioner is obliged to submit an annual report on its actions to the parliament, which is then made public.
The Department of Equal Treatment in the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights is the entity responsible for gender equality. The Department conducts gender-sensitive analyses of policies and legislation, and research on gender equality. It also monitors progress in achieving gender equality through its related reports and may publish and disseminate information related to gender equality. However, the Department is only occasionally consulted by departments of ministries on policies, laws, or programmes. The Department has 13 employees with two part-time employees working exclusively on gender equality issues.
The Polish Parliamentary body responsible for gender equality matters is the Family, Senior and Social Policy Committee. The Committee works on social policy, employment and family-related legislation, and its members are elected by the Senate. According to the Chamber’s rules and regulations, ‘The committees, within the scope of their competence, shall examine bills passed by the Sejm (lower chamber) and present reports thereon to the Senate.’
Plenipotentiaries for Equal Treatment have been appointed to improve the implementation of the principle of equal treatment in all 16 voivodeships (i.e. regions or provinces) in Poland. They are appointed based on Article 18(11) of the Act of 23 January 2009 on the voivode and government administration in the voivodeship. Moreover, the draft National Action Programme for Equal Treatment for 2021-2030 calls for a comprehensive periodic strategy of action in the area of equal treatment at the voivodeship level and recommends regular monitoring of the situation in the voivodeship in the area of equal treatment (based on data obtained from the Central Statistical Office, the Ministry of Justice, Voivodeship Police Headquarters and other sources).
These regional Plenipotentiaries cooperate with the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, as well as with NGOs working on equal treatment and anti-discrimination. They are responsible for undertaking activities to promote the principle of equal treatment in the voivodeship and the office serving the voivode. At the request of the Government Plenipotentiary, they provide information on compliance with the principle of equal treatment in the voivodeship and the office serving the voivode. The scope of their responsibility is the same in every voivodeship in Poland. However, they are independent of the Government Plenipotentiary and may employ their staff as required.
Consultation with civil society
Consultation and engagement with civil society in Poland are limited. Nonetheless, all NGOs can take part in public consultations on draft laws.
Methods and tools
Gender impact assessment and gender budgeting
The integration of a gender perspective in policymaking in Poland is applied through occasional gender impact assessments. When drafting new laws, the legislator must indicate the anticipated effects on the economy and society. The policy drafter should also consult with organisations or institutions that operate in the relevant area. For example, laws on the retirement age for employees should undergo an assessment of their impact on women specifically. Similarly, evaluations undertaken by the Plenipotentiary may relate to a variety of criteria, such as but not limited to, gender, age, nationality, religion, language, citizenship, disability, financial situation, and place of residence.
The use of other gender mainstreaming tools is very limited. Gender budgeting is not used and remains largely unknown.
Training and awareness-raising
Awareness-raising initiatives on gender equality are limited. Similarly, no training on gender equality is available to government employees.
The Central Statistical Office in Poland collects data gathered via population surveys, data obtained through reporting forms from private entities, and administrative data from public entities. Only the population data and other data that is provided to EUROSTAT are disaggregated by sex.
The NAP for Equal Treatment for 2022-2030 indicates the need to develop a system for collecting public data to monitor inequalities in the area of gender; however, there is no legal obligation for the Central Statistical Office to collect data disaggregated by sex beyond this policy commitment. The Act on Public Statistics of 29 June 1995 states that gender data can be collected, though there is no obligation to do so. Publication and dissemination of gender statistics are limited as there is neither a webpage dedicated to gender statistics nor regular publications issued related to the topic.
 Ustawa z dnia 26 czerwca 1974 r. Kodeks pracy (t.j. Dz. U. z 2022 r. poz. 1510 z późn. zm.) https://isap.sejm.gov.pl/isap.nsf/download.xsp/WDU19740240141/U/D19740141Lj.pdf
 National Action Plan for Equal Treatment for 2013-2016 (Krajowy Program działań na rzecz równego traktowania na lata 2013-2016; Pełnomocnik Rząd ds Równego Traktowania) https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2019/11/Poland_National-Action-Program-for-Equal-Treatment-2013-2016.pdf
 Parlamentarny (n.d.) ‘The Government adopted the National Action Programme for Equal Treatment for 2022-2030 https://www.wnp.pl/parlamentarny/wydarzenia/rzad-przyjal-krajowy-program-dzialan-na-rzecz-rownego-traktowania-na-lata-2022-2030,583819.html
 Resolution on the Establishment of the National Action Programme for Equal Treatment for 2022-2030 (2022) Announcement https://www.gov.pl/web/premier/uchwala-w-sprawie-ustanowienia-krajowego-programu-dzialan-na-rzecz-rownego-traktowania-na-lata-20222030#:~:text=24.05.2022%20Rada%20Ministr%C3%B3w%20przyj%C4%99%C5%82a%20uchwa%C5%82%C4%99%20w%20sprawie%20ustanowienia,jest%20wyeliminowanie%20dyskryminacji%20z%20%C5%BCycia%20spo%C5%82ecznego%20w%20Polsce.
 Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment (n.d.) https://www.gov.pl/web/rownetraktowanie
 Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment (n.d.) Discrimination based on sex https://www.gov.pl/web/rownetraktowanie/dyskryminacja-ze-wzgledu-na-plec
 No information is available regarding how often these opinions and recommendations lead to relevant adjustments.
 Act on the implementation of some regulations of the European Union regarding equal treatment (2010), Art. 2 https://bip.brpo.gov.pl/en/content/act-3rd-december-2010-implementation-some-regulations-european-union-regarding-equal
 Report of the activities of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment (2020) https://www.gov.pl/attachment/be67645a-f80d-4cc0-bd2f-ef3d798e24ac
 Report of the activities of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment (2021) https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjx-f2o1-n7AhWAg_0HHY2SCxIQFnoECBAQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gov.pl%2Fattachment%2F2bd26651-b4ac-4ee5-a046-ae09163c0ed9&usg=AOvVaw2wN5ex0YXqnG-033BhbXx8
 Report of the activities of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment (2022) https://www.gov.pl/attachment/434465da-73b4-4df8-bafe-238a8dbf9431
 Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (2016) Storm gathers over the Office of Poland’s Human Rights Commissioner https://www.liberties.eu/en/stories/clouds-gather-over-the-office-of-the-polish-commissioner-for-human-rights/9784
 Annual information of the Commissioner for Human Rights (n.d) https://bip.brpo.gov.pl/pl/kategoria-prawna-i-organizacyjna/informacja-roczna
 Public information bulletin on equal treatment (n.d.) https://bip.brpo.gov.pl/pl/rowne-traktowanie
 Resolution of the Senate of the Republic of Poland (1990), Appendix 8 https://www.senat.gov.pl/en/about-the-senate/regulamin-senatu/
 Ibid. Article 12
 A voivodeship is the highest-level administrative subdivision in Poland; a voivode is a government-appointed governor of the voivodeship.
 Act on the Voivode and Government Administration in the Voivodeship (2009) https://lexlege.pl/ustawa-o-wojewodzie-i-administracji-rzadowej-w-wojewodztwie/
 The full text for the version adopted, which has been adjusted to reflect the dates 2022-2030, is not available. The draft text (n.d.) of the Action Programme for Equal Treatment for 2022-2030 is available, however https://www.gov.pl/web/rownetraktowanie/krajowy-program-dzialan-na-rzecz-rownego-traktowania