The year 2013 will be very favourable for those who intend to take maternity leave, since it is extended to 12 months, however, for the first 6 months women are eligible to 100% of their salary. Women whose expected delivery date falls after 17th March 2013 may take additional parental leave following maternity leave. In 2013 maternity leave amounts to 24 weeks during which a mother receives 100% of her salary. After the end of maternity leave, the mother is eligible to an additional 28 weeks of parental leave. Consequently, in 2013 maternity leave will last in total one year (including parental leave). These additional 4 weeks of maternity leave (prior to 2013 maternity leave amounted 20 weeks) is so-called additional maternity leave for which an employee must file a request with her employer. The employer may not refuse. Maternity leave will subsequently be extended and in 2014 will amount to 6 weeks in the case of the birth of one child and 8 weeks in the case of the birth of more children. The amendments introduced in 2013 apply solely to those women that commenced their maternity leave after 17th March 2013 and at the time of the amendments coming into effect will be in their last week of maternity leave. This means that after calculating the maternity leave period, first-time mothers will take parental leave on 1st September 2013. Moreover, from 2013 starting from the 20th week of maternity leave women have the right to combine maternity allowance (and thereafter parental allowance) with a job. A woman who would like to take up a job during maternity or parental leave may only work part-time, in which case maternity allowance will be proportionately reduced. From 2013 during the course of maternity leave a woman may not be dismissed and after returning to work she must be entitled to the same or equal position or any other position adequate to her professional qualifications. In addition, after returning from maternity leave the woman must receive a salary equal to that of similar positions, and not as is commonly believed salary that the woman earned prior to taking the leave. Prior to 2013 a father was eligible to take part of the woman’s maternity leave in the case of: (i) the death of a mother, (ii) the rejection of a child, (iii) hospital care of the mother (14 weeks following the delivery of a child). In such an event, the father has the same rights as the mother using the maternity leave even though maternity leave is automatically suspended.
Nigh on 2 million people were diagnosed with diabetes in Poland last year. Another half million do not realise they are sick according to the head of the Polish Diabetes Association (PTD), Professor Leszek Czupryniak. At a debate during the European Economic Congress he added that Polish people are still ignorant about the dangers of this disease. Neither are they provided with an adequate education concerning the consequences of obesity and the necessity to exercise. “We should not eat sweets at all, it’s energy that needs to be burned immediately. If we eat five candy bars, we should go to the railway siding and unload a wagon of coal. If we eat them in front of the computer and do nothing about it, our body converts this energy into fat. If obesity develops in the body of a person who is unable to produce enough insulin, then diabetes occurs,” the Professor explains. Professor Czupryniak points out that there is a lack of specialists as there are only 700 practising diabetologists in Poland, however there should be twice that number. Czupryniak confesses that in many cases doctors are able to help their patients only when the doctor knows another specialist and simply asks for his or her help directly. However, this is not the way the National Health Fund (NFZ) should work. Czupryniak also drawe attention to the lack of reimbursement for modern medicine. “We seem to be treating patients with the same drugs that we were using over 20 years and new therapies are not refunded. The Ministry of Health is not eager to solve this problem. It is afraid of refunding the costs of treatment for such a large group of patients. Diabetes does not give any symptoms for a long time. Moreover, even when they do appear they are often easily ignored. This includes thirstiness, some weight loss, increased sleepiness or tiredness. This is exactly why it is often diagnosed only after serious complications appear. These may include kidney failure, or damage to the retina of the eye and peripheral nerves. 85% of cases concern diabetes type 2.
Nearly one quarter of children and teenagers aged between 11 and 17 have been victims of some form of violence. In most cases at the hands of their peers, according to research carried out by the Nobody’s Children Foundation (Fundacja Dzieci Niczyje). More than a thousand children were surveyed and the results were alarming. Up to 71% of children and teenagers admitted that they have experienced at least some form of victimisation. 59% of those surveyed felt victimised by their peers. Boys are more often victims of aggressive behaviour from their peers. The survey paints a gloomy picture of parental relations. One third of children and teenagers stated that they have been victimised by adults, in most cases their parents. Non-physical violence was mentioned as often as physical by the surveyed group. “What is particularly unsettling is the fact that in more than half of the cases of non-physical and physical violence, children are being victimised by their parents. Every third child and teenager refused to reveal who the perpetrator was. There is a great chance that in these cases parents were involved, yet admitting this was too difficult for the child,” says Szymon Wójcik from Nobody’s Children Foundation. Every tenth child has been a victim of 10 different forms of violence. Only one third of those surveyed had not experienced any of the 22 forms of violence researched. What can be done to limit violence? Experts believe that social awareness has to be increased. People should be more aware that hitting children, humiliating them or using any other form of violence against them is harmful and can have an impact on their psyche. “Parents live in great stress nowadays and cannot manage their anger and often direct their aggression at someone who cannot fight back. We are often outraged by cases when a three-year-old is beaten, but not everyone notices that slapping a teenager in the face is also violence. Parents often think that this is a normal punishment if a child is insolent,” says Dr Katarzyna Korpolewska, a psychologist. “I get the feeling that violence is ‘in’ if we look at how people behave on the streets or in the shops. I’m talking about the nasty comments family members use to each other. Aggression is everywhere, even in politics,” adds Dr Korpolewska. She believes that in order to reduce aggressive behaviour, children should be taught how to manage anger when they are young.
PLN 2,000 is enough to buy a newborn in Poland. There is no legal regulation which might prohibit this. “I will give a baby girl away. Urgent!”. Such announcements for mothers-to-be can be found on the internet. Many of them do not beat about the bush and confess that they are looking for “very determined, wealthy people” who could adopt a baby. Journalists came across Karolina from Warsaw who is 19 years old and pregnant with her third child. Together with her husband, son and daughter she lives in a one-room flat in Warsaw. Their home is 8 meters squared and has no windows. She wanted to become a seamstress, but pregnancy ruined her plans. Karolina is five months pregnant and promises to sell her baby for PLN 6,000, paid in four instalments. Earlier she had an offer from a couple who were willing to pay PLN 2,000. There were also some foreigners who showed an interest, and even offered to pay her a salary until she gives birth, but it meant having to leave her family so she refused. When journalists contacted her, she said that if the wannabe parents cannot afford to pay the full amount, she is ready to lower the price. Karolina is not unique. Our journalists have also received offers from other women: ‘M’ is 19 years old, has a difficult situation at home, and is three months pregnant. She is willing to sell her baby, but only if she can name it first. ‘A’ is 25 years old, the due date is in July. She is ready to give her newborn away because of debt. Many similar cases have become public and end up in court. For prosecutors, however, it is difficult to return a guilty verdict on the basis of human trafficking regulations, as the sale of newborns is not in the 2010 amendment to the Penal Code. Only someone who is found guilty of selling or buying another human being in order to use him or her for work, begging, prostitution or pornography can be penalised. The legislation does not include situations in which newborns are bought in order to be raised by a new family. Even if such cases are penalised, they usually concern attempts to forge documents by the biological mother who gives false statements so that the birth certificate can include the names of the wannabe parents.
“Poles do not cheat on each other as often as Britons or Americans. They are also more likely to forgive each other,” says Zbigniew Izdebski, a sexologist and author of Polish Sexuality in the early 21st century report. According to the research, 17% of women and 28% of men are unfaithful. Zbigniew Izdebski claims that, “this is not a large percentage when compared to such countries as Great Britain, France or the US. My report may not completely mirror reality, as some of people will never openly confess to cheating, but the fact is that Poles can be proud of their fidelity. Betrayal is rare as for the majority of Poles it is not only immoral but it also stands in opposition to their religious beliefs”. Professor Izdebski claims that internet users cheat most often. “42% of women and 48% of men who are regular internet users admitted to infidelity. People who surf the web have a liberal attitude toward sex, they are more open and eager to talk about their sexual experiences. Every time I compare the results of the nationwide research with the results of regular internet users, I get the feeling that these are two separate and completely distant worlds. Generally, the survey finds Polish people to be traditional who are often shy or even try to resist sex, while internet users are ready to seek erotic adventures at any cost”.
If they do cheat, Polish people do it often on work integration weekends. These are often people who spend every day at the office and are often extremely stressed. Professor Izdebski says, “when the opportunity pops up, some people simply take advantage of it, even if they are not particular willing to do so. Many women say that even though they had no desire to cheat on their husbands, they were unable to refuse”. However, sometimes women initiate extra-marital sex in order to put pressure on their male colleagues. Ambitious people often betray their partners in order to strengthen their position in the company or get promoted. There has definitely been a change in sexual attitudes. Fewer people live in permanent relationships, more people stay single and frequently change partners. “Affairs, as well as pre-marital sex and teenage pregnancies have begun to be seen in a more liberal way and at the same time from a more rational perspective. In the past infidelity was unforgivable. Now, however, more couples treat it as a transitory period of crisis, which they have to endure and overcome, from which they draw conclusions for the future in order to create an improved relationship. The report finds that 12% of women and 16% of men believed that their relationship was stronger because of an affair”. What is more, after finding about an affair, only 17% of marriages ended in divorce.
In order to celebrate the 3rd May Constitution, authorities organised a run which took place in Warsaw and was even attended by the Prime Minister Donald Tusk. This year’s five-kilometre route was a perfect distance for beginners, so the event had a wide appeal among Warsaw residents. Both amateurs as well as professionals took part in the run and everyone who completed the run was awarded a commemorative medal. An additional attraction was provided for children who could participate in 700-metre run. “Today’s patriotism is all about being able to bring up our children as well as we can. A real patriot should never harm a child. A liberated Poland should primarily be a good home for our children and about that I am truly convinced,” said Donald Tusk. The Prime Minister said that he is not enthusiastic about a number of provisions in the current Constitution, but he believes that it is a Constitution of an independent state and so we should appreciate it and celebrate this fact. Tusk also commented, “Nothing is perfect, neither is our Constitution, however it includes all the most important things. And after all, the 3rd of May is a day to celebrate freedom and independence”. After the race finished, the head of the Polish government also said that he was able to run 5 km in less than 25 minutes, which he considered a very good result. He joked, “I am still alive, so it’s a success”. The run began on Rozbrat street and finished in Agrykola Park. The route covered a distance of 5 kilometres along the streets of Warsaw. According to the organisers, about five thousand people took part.
Today’s kamikazes do not fly planes. They ride the city’s cycle paths. I myself am one of them and there are times I am truly scared of cycling. The day before yesterday, a close encounter with a car ended in a bent wheel and a scratched bumper. There were of course the usual insults because the driver of the Mazda, who impetuously drove into the cycle lane and destroyed my bike, did not even bother to stop. At the end of the day, I was the guilty one as I was riding a cycle path at the precise moment when the driver decided to leave the car park. The fact that I had right of way meant absolutely nothing. In April, Warsaw city authorities announced that cyclists are just as often responsible for road traffic accidents as pedestrians and car drivers. Cycling may be booming at the moment, but Polish people still prefer to walk or use the car. The average Polish pedestrian will often step onto a cycle path without even looking to check if they are about to be hit by a speeding bike. After all, (in Warsaw) the pavement is right next to the cycle lane, so that’s OK. If something happens, the cyclist is the only one to blame. Even though the police can fine pedestrians strolling onto a cycle path, this regulation is not implemented as the police believe it makes no sense to punish anyone for such a petty misdemeanour. Things get even worse when the cycle path or bike lane abruptly ends. According to the law, cyclists can use the road, but they should stick to the right side. If a cyclist attempts to pass a car in a traffic jam and the car suddenly pulls over and causes an accident, the cyclist is to blame, due to the fact it is illegal to overtake on the right. The main problem is that Polish people are not ‘mentally’ ready for the presence of bikes on the roads, also due to the inadequate training of future drivers. Materials distributed during driving courses leave the issue of the priority of bikes unsaid and exam questions, which were in force until January, did not even include a single question concerning bikes on the roads.
According to Newsweek, there may be a chance that this year thousands of Poles will be able to smoke weed legally. What is more, they will be doing it for science. It turns out that Polish law allows the intake of the drug but only if it is part of a scientific experiment. BioInfoBank, a scientific unit active in the fields of innovative computer science and biotechnology, is planning on using this particular loophole in the law. This time the institute is planning on carrying out a number of neuro-psychology experiments on long-term marijuana users. They want to examine how the drug affects cognitive functions, mental abilities and social relations. The initial plan is to examine at least a thousand volunteers, but the institute is counting on as many as 10,000 ‘guinea pigs’. “We would like them to be people over thirty, who have been smoking for many years,” says Jędrzej Sadowski, a lawyer, one of the initiators of the project and a BioInfoBank adviser. He adds that the project has been positively assessed by the Bioethics Commission of the Poznań University of Medical Science. The Pharmaceutical Inspectorates have not questioned the initiative either and their opinion is the key to obtaining permission to conduct experiments. Volunteers wishing to take part in the programme will be able to sign up on a forum on a special website in the following weeks. But before they sacrifice their health for science they will have to be thoroughly examined by a doctor. “Experiments will be carried out in co-operation with addiction specialists,” says Sadowski. This means that the participants will be under medical supervision. Their personal data will also be protected. The first phase of the project will be sponsored by BioInfoBank. Yet, to prevent the institute’s budget from going up in smoke, the experiment will be later financially supported by its participants, who will have to pay for the marijuana they smoke. A gram will cost about PLN 30-35, which is around the same price as on the black market. Cannabis will come from institute plantations. The first will most probably be located in Warsaw. Marijuana will be cultivated by people, who grew it illegally in the past. “Some of them will join us straight from prison,” says Sadowski. The experiment will last several years. Therefore we will have to wait a long time for its results. The initiators hope that the project will change Poles’ attitude towards marijuana.
The Ministry of Health pays pharmaceutical companies the lowest prices for medicine in the whole of the European Union. Patients, however, do not benefit from this. They have to pay extra for medicine, actually the highest prices in Europe, according to Dziennik Polski. The Reimbursement Act requires the negotiation of medicine prices with the manufacturer. If the manufacturer does not agree to lower the price, the pharmaceutical does not make it onto the Reimbursement List. This regulation has turned out to be successful: manufacturers have tended to lower prices. This does not, however, affect patients at all, according to IMS Health, a company monitoring the pharmaceutical market. In the first quarter of the year, Polish patients had to pay 40.3 % more than the original price of the medicine. “This places us at the top of the European league table,” says Michał Pilkiewicz from IMS Health. He adds that, “this regulation allows the treasury and National Health Fund (NFZ) to save money, but patients have to pay increasingly more.” On the 1st of May, when the new Reimbursement List becomes valid, some medicines will become more expensive. According to the announcement made by the Ministry of Health, the price of 510 products will rise, and only 280 products will become cheaper.
The bioethics document presented by the Polish Bishops’ Conference (pol. Konferencja Episkopatu Polski) objects to in vitro, abortion, euthanasia, emergency contraception and regular contraception, arguing that they are a threat to humans. The bishops describe the in vitro method, reminding us that it “begins with masturbation… All doubts in the field of human existence should be resolved in favour of life. We must also stand firmly against all kinds of action that are a threat to humans. Even the loftiest purpose does not justify actions that put human life in danger,” reads the document written by the Bishops’ Bioethics Expert Team (pol. Zespół Ekspertów Episkopatu ds. Bioetycznych). “A Christian must care about the truth. This is why he or she should uncover lies, one of which is the particularly harmful suggestion that in vitro fertilisation is a treatment for infertility. It does not treat anything. Infertile people stay infertile. They entrust the production of children to strangers,” the bishops write. According to the authors of the document, in vitro is the poorly-fulfilled desire of infertile couples, who wish to be parents. The church authorities believe that it gives permission “to sacrifice a few human beings” in order to have a child. This refers to the embryos that are destroyed during in vitro trials. “The sperm is obtained from a father through masturbation, the mother’s body is repeatedly manipulated, meaning that the child becomes a product,” the document reads. “Poland lacks a law, which would regulate the status of an embryo, and what is the value of a human life,” believes Archbishop Henryk Hoster. The Archbishop says that even though we lack the legal regulations in bioethics, we still make specific decisions concerning human life. “Many political leaders in Poland believe that compared to the rest of the world Poland is far behind in the sexual revolution,” said Hoster.