Giving workers start-up breaks breeds controversy

An idea to provide up to six months of unpaid leave to employees who want to start their own business but need a fall-back option of returning to work if it fails is being drafted in the Development Ministry. Yet it will need to be consulted with businesses.

The idea is to encourage Poles, who have traditionally been more cautious about entering into commerce on their own account to take the plunge, which would give the economy an extra kicker of innovation.

The employer would be able to refuse to grant the leave if it would cause too much disruption.

The initial reaction of employers associations was skeptical, according to an article in Gazeta Wyborcza. “Freezing a job place for six months and then having to take back the employee could be expensive and ineffective,” Antoni Kolek of Employers of the Republic of Poland said.

The scheme is one which “only a politician who had never had any experience of running a business could think up,” is how Jeremi Mordasewicz of another industrialists organisation, Lewiatan described it.

One of the downsides pointed out is that an employee could theoretically set himself up in business in competition with his employee. However, the Development Ministry says that employees often do that anyway. But if they return, such importunate sons and daughters often become very loyal employees.

A similar scheme has been available in Sweden since 1998 and is one of a number of measures the high tax-paying and strong welfare-providing country has brought in to encourage its citizens to take the risk required to go it alone in business.

Sweden, has the highest number of billion-dollar start-ups per head of population, with brands originating there like Spotify and Minecraft now household names globally, a CNBC report on the scheme reported last year. This is despite the country scoring highly in terms of job security. Swedes who lose their jobs are 90 percent likely to be back at work within a year, according to the OECD, compared with 30 percent of French.

The ideas will take three months to be fleshed out by the ministry and will then be discussed by the Social Dialogue Committee - a forum run by parliament to consult legislation with businesses and employee organisations and other stakeholders.