The earliest young people have to deal with apprenticeships is in high school. They are regulated by the Ministry of Education’s Regulation on Practical Vocational Training of February 22, 2019[1]. According to the regulation, practical classes can take place at employers, under the principles of a dual system of education. Two forms of contracts are envisaged as the basis for vocational training. The first is an employment contract for the purpose of professional preparation, concluded between the juvenile employee and the employer, and the second form is a contract for practical vocational training, concluded between the school principal and the employer receiving the students. The legislator has stipulated a maximum daily working time for students under 16 years of age not exceeding 6 hours, and for students over 16 years of age at 8 hours, with the possibility of extension to 12 hours due to particularly justified cases.

Young workers are entitled to wages ranging from 4% to 6% of the average monthly wage in the national economy in the previous quarter during their apprenticeship period[2]. Students are also entitled to reimbursement of the cost of public transportation to an establishment located outside their place of residence and the seat of the school, and, if daily commuting is not possible, also free accommodation and a lump sum for food in an amount not lower than 40% of the per diem to which an employee employed in a state or local government unit of the budgetary sphere is entitled for business travel within the country[3].

Professional student practice

In the next stage of education, a young person faces professional student practice. The Law on Higher Education and Science of July 20, 2018[4], in Article 67, paragraph 5, stipulates that the program of studies with a practical profile provides for professional practice of at least 6 months – in the case of first-cycle studies and uniform master’s studies, and at least 3 months in the case of second-cycle studies. This provision does not apply to medical, teaching and architectural studies[5]. At the statutory level, there is no broader regulation or even definition of student internships. Regulations for internships are set by individual universities. In doing so, they may be guided by the Model Rules of Professional Practice[6]. The formal basis for internships is a contract between the university and the employer. As a rule, the student is not entitled to remuneration for it[7], and since professional student practice counts as part of the teaching period, there is no possibility of graduation without credit for it.

Graduate practice

A creature provided for young people who have completed at least junior high school or eight years of elementary school and are under 30 years of age on the date the internship begins is the graduate internship. Its sparse framework is set forth in the two-page Law of July 17, 2009 on Graduate Practice[8]. The law’s definition specifies that the internship is intended to help graduates gain experience and acquire the practical skills necessary for their jobs[9]. This definition resembles the definition of an internship, in that both forms are intended to prepare graduates for the practice of a profession, rather than being part of the teaching process as apprenticeships are. This introduces confusion in nomenclature and causes confusion between internships and apprenticeships.

The law applies selected provisions from the Labor Code regarding equal treatment, working hours, rest and night work. The basis of a graduate internship is a written contract between the intern and the host for the internship. The apprentice’s salary depends on the goodwill of the host, but cannot be more than twice the minimum wage[10]. The maximum duration for which a contract can be concluded is 3 months. At the request of the apprentice, the host entity shall issue a certificate specifying the type and duration of work performed, as well as the skills acquired.


Volunteering is also being promoted among young people as an interesting item on a resume. Volunteering is “An individual who voluntarily and without compensation devotes time to provide services or produce goods for the benefit of organizations, institutions or individuals, the wider community or the environment[11].” Volunteering is regulated in Section III of the Law of April 24, 2003 on Public Benefit Activity and Volunteerism[12].


Internship is regulated in the Law on Employment Promotion and Labor Market Institutions of April 20, 2004[13]. According to the statutory definition, contained in Article 2, paragraph 1, item 34, an internship is the acquisition by an unemployed person of practical skills to perform work by performing tasks in the workplace without establishing an employment relationship with the employer. In the case of unemployed persons under 30 years of age, a starost may refer an unemployed person to an internship lasting a maximum of 12 months[14]. The relationship between the parties is regulated by contract, and the training program should be adapted to the education, professional qualifications and psycho-physical predispositions of the intern. Very significantly, the intern is entitled to a stipend of 120% of the benefit amount, which is paid by the starost[15]. The intern is also entitled to 2 days off for every 30 calendar days of the internship[16].

Civil law contracts

A contract of mandate as well as a contract for work is also used as a legal form of internship. A contract for work must be paid, unlike a contract of mandate, which allows for no remuneration[17]. A person performing work under a contract of mandate is subject to pension, disability and accident insurance, and sickness insurance is elective[18]. In the case of a work contract, the contractor is not covered unless he enters into an agreement with the employer[19]. Working hours are not regulated in any way in these contracts, and the apprentice is not entitled to a guaranteed rest period or notice period. The apprentice is a much weaker party to the legal relationship making his ability to negotiate terms negligible.

Employment contract

An employment contract is also applicable as a legal form used for the apprenticeship period. This form of apprenticeship is usually offered by large corporations, which can afford the higher cost of acquiring a new employee due to the full tax levy. The employment contract has many advantages for the apprentice, such as insurance protection, regulated working hours, vacation entitlement and notice period[20]. The disadvantage highlighted by some apprentices is the rigidity of working hours, which can make this form difficult to reconcile with continuing education.

Internships from a statistical research perspective

According to a report issued by Eurobarometer on behalf of the European Commission, less than half of apprentices in Poland received any remuneration[21]. Only one-third of those surveyed said that the salary they received was enough to meet their basic needs[22].

According to a survey conducted by the European Law Students’ Association, “Law Students in Poland 2020” 2020[23], the commission contract was the most popular form of internship. It was indicated as a form of cooperation by 31% of respondents. It was followed by a graduate practice contract of 22%, a volunteer contract of 9% and an employment contract of 6%. The least popular form of cooperation was a work contract, indicated by only 4% of respondents. As many as 28% of respondents did not have any of the mentioned forms of contract, and 62% of respondents had an unpaid internship.

Feast on the experience

Unpaid internships, which are part of a young person’s education and preparation for a profession, are not very controversial. High school students are supported by their parents, as part of their school apprenticeships they acquire real practical skills that improve their ability to find paid work right after graduation, and they already receive a modest salary during their apprenticeship. The situation isn’t so bad either for internships from the labor office, which offer the unemployed at least a minimal means of subsistence, which is more than an allowance.

Unfortunately, student interns usually don’t even have pocket money. A 6-month internship during the course of study, without receiving any compensation, is a challenge for many students who are forced to support themselves. Often, the number of classes during the academic year does not allow for a job, and the only time when one can earn money for the rest of the year is during the summer vacation. Some universities, in order to make their courses more practical, increase the number of mandatory internships. This usually does not translate into an increase in the quality of teaching, but only provides an even greater supply of forced, free labor, which directly reduces the quality of internships.

Low-quality apprenticeships are still common, where apprentices perform the simplest cleaning or restorative work for free, which does not realistically improve their skills[24]. Some companies serially recruit apprentices for three months for free promising the prospect of employment after which they repeat the whole process. The situation is no better among those who already have some qualifications, especially in the medical or legal industries, where free labor is often used for years for the promise of qualifications[25].

A particular pathology, which unfortunately still occurs, is paid internships and apprenticeships. Not only does the apprentice, does not get reimbursed, he also pays out of his own pocket for this dubious pleasure of carrying out work orders.

It happens that under the guise of an apprenticeship under a civil law contract there is real work[26]. According to the law, in such a case, remuneration cannot be waived. Such cases should be dealt with by the State Labor Inspectorate, but usually interns and apprentices are afraid to take action to recognize an employment relationship or have difficulty collecting evidence, and the apprenticeship contract provides a convenient launching pad for violations.

Consequences of the current state

The prevalence of unpaid internships discourages young people from attempting practical vocational training. Free, forced apprenticeships of low quality exacerbate this situation. This phenomenon results in the underutilization of the potential of the worker and the postponement of taking up a permanent, salaried job. The lack of comprehensive regulations adapted to the prevailing reality results in uncertainty of rights and obligations, resulting violations and the ever frequent informalization of the cooperation undertaken.


In recent years, grassroots initiatives aimed at setting higher standards for the implementation of internships and apprenticeships have become increasingly prominent. One of them is the Polish Internship and Apprenticeship Quality Framework Program[27], aimed at realizing high quality of such undertakings in Polish companies, developed with the participation of dozens of organizations affiliated with the Polish Human Resources Management Association. The mission of the Program is to increase the number of employers offering high-quality internships and apprenticeships and the students taking advantage of them, to reduce the skills gap in enterprises and to implement effective cooperation between the business and education sectors. The realization of the program’s goals is made possible, among other things, by a substantive debate among the academic community, the government side and business representatives, or the awarding of a quality label to internship and apprenticeship programs that meet the highest standards.

Such grassroots initiatives, while not insignificant, cannot replace comprehensive statutory regulations. Proposals are presented below as a starting point for further discussion.

What to do about unpaid internships and apprenticeships?

  • Ban unpaid internships for the benefit of the host entity. This is a highly socially harmful phenomenon and should be banned at the statutory level.
  • Prohibition of unpaid internships. In addition to learning, an apprentice performs assigned duties for the benefit of the host entity. Work and remuneration for it is a constitutionally protected good and no one should be involuntarily deprived of this right. Even prisoners in Poland are entitled to wages. Violators of the right to wages should be held accountable by the State Labor Inspectorate.
  • Introduce a minimum and eliminate the maximum wage for apprenticeships. The work performed by an apprentice should be sufficient to at least cover basic living expenses. Maintaining a limit on the maximum wage for apprenticeships is not justified when the apprentice performs work with significant market value.
  • Introduce a deadline for the issuance of an apprenticeship certificate. The current regulation lacks a specific deadline. It should be the same as the provisions of the Labor Code and not exceed 7 days from the date of completion of the apprenticeship.
  • Introduction of a notice period and the right to leave. The notice period protects both parties to the contract from abrupt changes and allows for adjustment to the newly created situation. The period should depend on the duration of the contract. Vacation is necessary not only for leisure reasons, but also for important personal matters or fortuitous events. Therefore, the possibility of taking paid or unpaid leave should be introduced.
  • Include the internship period in seniority. An internship is the performance of work. For this reason, this period should be counted as part of seniority affecting the right to pension, vacation or maximum period of work under a fixed-term contract.
  • Introduce the possibility of choosing the working time system. This is important for those continuing their education at the same time as their apprenticeship. Such a change resulting from mutual consent will allow greater flexibility and reconciliation of duties.

[1] Regulation of the Minister of National Education of February 22, 2019 on practical vocational training (Journal of Laws 2019, item 391).

[2] Decree of the Council of Ministers of May 28, 1996 on the professional preparation of young people and their remuneration. (Dz.U. 1996 no. 60 item 278), § 19.

[3] Ordinance of the Minister of National Education of February 22, 2019 on practical vocational training (Dz.U. 2019 item 391), § 8.

[4] Law of July 20, 2018. – Law on higher education and science (Journal of Laws 2018 item 1668).

[5] Idem, Article 67, para. 6.

[6] Model regulations of professional practice for studies with practical profile, Warsaw August 2020, (28.10.2022).

[7] Wojna M., Student and Graduate Internship Agreement, (28.10.2022).

[8] Law of July 17, 2009 on Graduate Internships (Journal of Laws 2009 No. 127 item 1052).

[9] Idem, art. 1, para. 2.

[10] Idem, article 3.

[11] Concepts used in public statistics,,pojecie.html (28.10.2022).

[12] Law of April 24, 2003 on Public Benefit Activity and Volunteerism (Journal of Laws 2003 No. 96, item 873).

[13] Law of April 20, 2004 on employment promotion and labor market institutions (Dz.U. 2004 no. 99 item 1001).

[14] idem, art. 40, para. 4.

[15] idem, art. 53, para. 6.

[16] idem, Article 53, paragraph 7a.

[17] Remuneration from a work contract,,Wynagrodzenie-z-umowy-o-dzielo.html (28.10.2022).

[18] Principles of being subject to social insurance and health insurance and determining the basis for the assessment of contributions of persons performing work on the basis of civil law contracts, Social Insurance Institution 2017, (28.10.2022).

[19] Contract of mandate and contract of work in social insurance, (28.10.2022).

[20] Advantages and disadvantages of an employment, assignment or work contract,,Zalety-i-wady-umowy-o-prace-zlecenia-lub-o-dzielo.html, (28.10.2022).

[21] Drzewiecki P., Analysis of the regulatory possibilities of internships, “Partycypacja społeczna młodego pokolenia.Selection of analytical content,” Institute for the Development of Legal Education and Civil Society, Warsaw 2022, p. 56.

[22] idem.

[23] Study “Law Students in Poland”. 2020, European Law Students’ Association, (28.10.2022).

[24] Kuć K., Every third internship in the EU is of low quality,,138833.html (28.10.2022).

[25] Guza Ł., The best employee? Free. More and more people agree to work without pay,,najlepszy-pracownik-darmowy-coraz-wiecej-osob-godzi-sie-na-prace-bez-wynagrodzenia.html (28.10.2022).

[26] Latos-Milkowska M., Employment contract vs. civil law contracts. Deprivation of employee status or making employment more flexible,,267506.html (28.10.2022).

[27] Polish Internship and Apprenticeship Quality Framework, Polish Human Resources Management Association, (28.10.2022).