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27 May 2020
Exemption from social security contributions
Downtime relief payment
Reduced working time
Time of work
Loans to microentrepreneurs under Shield 2.0
Financial assistance under Shield 2.0
Sunday trading ban
Suspension of periodic medical check-ups
Extended validity of medical check-ups
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced a package of measures – the so-called 'anti-crisis shield'. This article summarises the employment-related measures offered under the different versions of the anti-crisis shield relief packages – so-called 'Shield 1.0' and 'Shield 2.0'.
The anti-crisis shield originally included an exemption from the obligation to pay social security contributions for:
Shield 2.0 has expanded the group eligible for the three-month exemption from social security contributions payable for the period from 1 March 2020 to 31 May 2020 by including employers which had between 10 and 49 employees registered for the purposes of social security as at 29 February 2020. The exemption covers 50% of the aggregate amount of unpaid contributions reported in the social security statement filed for the relevant month.
The exemption constitutes state aid to remedy serious disturbances in the economy pursuant to the EU Commission Communication – Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to Support the Economy in the Current COVID-19 Outbreak (2020/C 91 I/01). It enables entrepreneurs to apply for state aid on such grounds up to €800,000.
In the event of economic downtime due to COVID-19, employers can – on the conclusion of an agreement with the trade unions or employee representatives – reduce employees' wages or salaries. Wages or salaries may be reduced by up to 50% but cannot be lower than the minimum wage, taking into account the working time. The Guaranteed Employee Benefits Fund (GEBF) may subsidise up to 50% of the minimum wage taking into account the working time. Employees whose pay in the month preceding the submission of the subsidy application was higher than 300% of the country's average monthly salary for the previous quarter, as published by the president of the Central Statistical Office, effective on the application submission date, are not eligible for the subsidy.
Under Shield 2.0, employers must keep the subsidised employees employed only over the period for which the GEBF subsidy has been received (ie, up to three months).
Under Shield 2.0, entrepreneurs and contract workers can apply three times for a downtime relief payment. The downtime relief payment can be reapplied for in the month following the month in which it was received for the first time, providing that the applicant's statement confirms that their financial standing has seen no improvement.
Contract workers (ie, those engaged under service contracts) may apply for a downtime relief payment if their service contract had been concluded prior to 1 April 2020 (before the amendment, it had to have been concluded prior to 1 February 2020).
Further, Shield 2.0 has removed the revenue-based eligibility cut-off point (which was previously 300% of the country's average monthly salary for the previous quarter, as published by the president of the Central Statistical Office) that enables sole traders (ie, self-employed individuals) and those who suspended their business operations after 31 January 2020 to apply for downtime relief. The revenue-base eligibility cut-off point has been retained for contract workers applying for a downtime relief payment.
If an employer's turnover drops by at least 15% as a result of COVID-19, they can – having concluded an agreement with the trade unions or employee representatives – reduce employees' working time by up to 20% but no more than 50% of the full-time equivalent. The GEBF may subsidise up to 50% of the wages or salaries of employees affected by the working time reduction, providing that the subsidy does not exceed 40% of the country's average monthly salary for the previous quarter, as published by the president of the Central Statistical Office. Employees whose pay in the month preceding the submission of the subsidy application was higher than 300% of the country's average monthly salary for the previous quarter, as published by the president of the Central Statistical Office, effective on the application submission date, are not eligible for the subsidy.
Under Shield 2.0, employers must keep the subsidised employees employed only over the period for which the GEBF subsidy has been received (ie, up to 3 months).
The anti-crisis shield loosened the rules for establishing the system and the distribution of working time and daily and weekly rest periods for certain employers, on conclusion of an agreement with the trade unions or employee representatives. In addition, the parties may conclude an agreement regarding terms of employment that are less advantageous than as stipulated in the employee's employment contract.
Shield 2.0 has extended the group of microentrepreneurs eligible for a loan by including entities with no employees, having removed the requirement for microentrepreneurs to maintain a headcount as of 29 February 2020. To qualify for loan forgiveness, microentrepreneurs must continue their operations for three months after the date on which the loan is granted.
Shield 2.0 allows CEOs of small and medium-sized enterprises as well as self-employed individuals operating as sole traders who have no employees to apply for financial relief from the Labour Fund, starting from the month in which the application has been filed (prior to the amendment, the subsidy was granted from the day of the application). Entities that apply for Labour Fund relief must keep the subsidised employees employed (sole traders with no employees must continue their business operations) only over the period in which the subsidy is received.
The anti-crisis shield loosened the ban on performing certain tasks associated with retail trading on Sundays – namely, with regard to unloading, receiving and displaying necessities.
The anti-crisis shield suspended the obligation to undergo periodic medical check-ups requested by employers as the 'state of epidemic threat' or the 'state of epidemic 'continues.
The medical certificates issued as part of the preliminary, periodic and follow-up medical check-ups expiring after 7 March 2020 continue to be valid until the expiry of 60 days from the lifting of the 'state of epidemic threat' or the 'state of epidemic'.
For further information on this topic please contact Agnieszka Fedor at Soltysiński Kawecki & Szlęzak by telephone (+48 22 608 7000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Sołtysiński Kawecki & Szlęzak website can be accessed at www.skslegal.pl.
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