The end of the epidemic emergency in Poland – 10 takeaways for employers

Although the status of the epidemic in Poland has been revoked for more than one year now, an epidemic emergency was still officially in force. However, this has also been revoked as of 1 July 2023. Therefore, the special rules adopted for the period of the epidemic and the period of the epidemic emergency (jointly referred to as the “epidemic period”), to which employers have become accustomed, no longer apply. Below are 10 selected changes to Polish labour law and the rules on hiring foreigners that employers should pay attention to.

1. Periodic medical examinations

The obligation to refer employees for periodic medical examinations, which was suspended for the epidemic period and 180 days thereafter, returns.

Task No. 1 for the employer: Within 180 days of the revocation of the epidemic emergency, i.e., by 28 December 2023, those employees who did not undergo periodic medical examinations during the epidemic period due to the suspension of this obligation, should do so.

2. Initial medical examinations

During the epidemic period, persons employed in administrative and office positions were not subject to initial medical examinations if they have a current certificate stating that there are no contraindications to work in the conditions described in the referral for medical examinations and the employer establishes that the conditions correspond to those of the job. In the case of persons employed in positions other than administrative and office work, excluding those admitted to perform particularly hazardous work, a medical certificate issued within the last 180 days could be relied upon in this respect.

Task No. 2 for the employer: Employers should note that from 1 July 2023, it is no longer possible to rely on the above-mentioned special rules. The exemption from initial medical examinations, as of 1 July 2023, applies to cases of medical certificates issued within the last 30 days provided that the above-mentioned further conditions are met.

3. Medical certificates expiring after 7 March 2020

For the epidemic period and 180 days thereafter, the validity of medical certificates issued within initial, periodic or follow-up medical examinations has been extended.

Task No. 3 for the employer: Verify the validity of the certificates and, for employees whose medical certificates have been extended on this basis, refer them for examination to obtain new medical certificates by 28 December 2023 (180 days after the end of the epidemic period).

4. Initial OHS training sessions

Task No. 4 for the employer: During the epidemic period, it was possible to deliver initial OHS training remotely except for on-site training (PL: instrukta┼╝ stanowiskowy) in certain positions. As of 1 July 2023, the general obligation to provide initial OSH training on site returns. However, an exception still applies permitting online training to administrative and office employees who have agreed with their employer to work remotely when concluding their employment contract (this exception has since been introduced based on the amendment to the Labour Code introducing the rules on remote working).

5. Periodical OHS training sessions

Task No. 5 for the employer: If the deadline for periodical OHS training falls during the epidemic period and 30 days thereafter (i.e., by 31 July 2023), the deadline is extended to 60 days after the end of the epidemic period, i.e., by 30 August 2023. The employer should therefore refer an employee whose periodical training has been postponed on this basis so that the employee completes the training by 30 August 2023. However, an extension of this deadline to 28 December 2023 is under discussion (the Senate has introduced an amendment deleting the provision extending this deadline and whether to accept or reject the Senat’s amendment is now pending before the Sejm).

6. Hiring foreigners

During the epidemic period and for a period of 30 days thereafter (i.e., until 31 July 2023), inter alia, national visas (e.g., PBH visa popular in the IT sector), temporary residence permits, work permits and certain other entitlements allowing employers to employ foreigners were extended by operation of law. Some foreigners (non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals) relied or continue to rely on this for their legal to stay in Poland or work for their employer.

Task No. 6 for the employer: We recommend auditing the documents authorising foreigners to stay or work for the employer and taking measures to guarantee the foreigner's continued right to work. We expect an increased number of applications by employers and foreigners in the near future and longer waiting times for obtaining permits. Employers need to bear in mind that, for example, when a foreigner's visa expires in July 2023, such visa will not be automatically extended until 31 July 2023, as its validity period will expire after the epidemic period.

7. Benefits related to terminating employment

In the case of employers who experienced a decrease in economic turnover or a significant increase in the salary fund, defined in a special way, during the epidemic period, the amount of severance payments, compensation and other monetary benefits paid in connection with the termination of an employment contract (or other relevant civil law contract) was limited to an amount equal to 10 times the minimum salary.

Task No. 7 for the employer (if applicable to the employer): Employers should again make payments in the amounts under general labour law provisions without applying this limitation.

8. Terminating non-competition agreements

During the epidemic period, the employer could terminate a non-compete agreement applicable in the period after termination of employment (or after the termination of the relevant other legal relationship in the case of cooperation under a civil law contract) within a period of seven days. This possibility no longer applies, and the withdrawal or termination of similar agreements is possible in the cases provided for in the agreement.

Task No. 8 for the employer: Employers should verify whether the non-compete agreements applicable in the period after the termination of employment (or the relevant civil law contract) concluded or that are now being concluded allow for withdrawing from or terminating it by the employer.

9. Company Social Benefits Fund ("CSBF")

During the epidemic period employers who experienced a decrease in economic turnover or a significant increase in the salary fund, defined in a special way, were allowed to suspend their obligations to establish or operate a CSBF, to make contributions to the CSBG and to pay holiday allowance. In the case of such an employer the provisions of collective bargaining agreements or remuneration regulations setting a higher CSBF contribution rate and other social and welfare benefits than those set out in the CSBF Act also did not apply during the epidemic period.

Task No. 9 for the employer (if applicable to the employer): Employers must return to performing obligations in this respect under general principles.

10. An end to the problem with documents deemed served by default

During the epidemic period and 14 days thereafter, a rule applied excluding the recognition as delivered of uncollected mail in the event of double notice (PL: awizo). Although it was not entirely clear whether this applied, for example, to the service of a notice of termination by post, doubts in this respect will no longer be relevant from 15 July 2023. 

 

We have presented above only certain selected effects of the end of the epidemic period. Employers should review their situation considering their specific circumstances. For some employers, other consequences of the end of the epidemic period may be relevant - e.g., the resumption of reporting obligations in relation to tax schemes (e.g., relevant in the context of the controversy regarding the reporting of the application of the so-called 50% author’s tax-deductible costs).

 

We remain available for further queries and invite you to contact our Employment and Immigration team. 

 

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