Poland’s government has announced an economic stimulus package, valued at PLN212 billion, to assist entrepreneurs and employees amid the COVID-19 crisis. The package consists of five pillars:
• Employee safety
• Enterprise financing
• Financial system strengthening
• Healthcare protection
• Public investment
So far, the measures have included:
- Additional, state-financed 14-day benefit for parents of children under eight, whose schools (kindergartens and nurseries) were closed due to the COVID-19 threat – for the initial school closure period between 12 and 25 March. On 20 March, the government extended school closure until 10 April 2020 and informed, during a press conference, that it also intends to extend the state-financed benefits to parents.
- The Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) is accepting applications for deferring social security contribution payments, due for the period between February and April, by three months. The application form was criticized for the level of detail required in order to apply. ZUS is working on simplifying the requirements. Employers expect that these contributions will be abolished rather than deferred, which may be the case for micro-entrepreneurs with fewer than nine employees.
The government announced the first draft of the economic stimulus package on 22 March and, below, we highlight some of the key the measures proposed in the bill, spanning over 100 pages. They may, and likely will, be subject to changes when adopted by the government as a final draft and then when put up for debate in the Parliament. The Parliament is scheduled to convene on 26 – 27 March 2020 and new measures are expected to be in effect by no later than 1 April 2020.
Economic stoppage – An employer may apply to the Fund of Guaranteed Employee Benefits (Fund) for co-financing employee salaries during economic work stoppage or working time reduction applied as result of COVID-19.
- An employer must meet certain conditions, e.g. not be behind with social security and tax payments through the end of Q3 2019, and experience certain reductions in goods or services sales to the extent defined by law.
- During economic stoppage, an employer will be able to reduce salaries by no more than 50%, but in any case not below the national minimum salary. The Fund will contribute up to PLN1,300 to such salary.
- An employer will be able to reduce working time by 20% (to no less than half time) upon payment of salary not lower than the national minimum salary, if an employer has experienced a reduction in goods or services sales to the extent defined by law. Part of employees’ salaries will be co-financed by the Fund.
- The detailed terms of economic stoppage or working time reduction shall be agreed with the trade unions or employee representatives within two days of communicating the intention of economic stoppage/working time reduction.
- State benefits from the Fund will be available to an employer for three months. Employer applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Medical checks – An obligation for employees to undergo periodic medical checks is suspended and employees whose medical checks have expired may be admitted to work. Further, if an OHS physician is unavailable, pre-employment and control medical checks may be performed by a physician other than an OHS specialist.
Benefit for parents of children under eight – The government is authorized to extend the benefit, taking into account the period of school closure.
Employee Pension Plans (PPK) – For employers hiring at least 50 employees as at 30 June 2019, the deadline for entering into employee pension plan agreements is to be extended to September 2020.
Some examples of the measures aimed at entrepreneurs are listed below. The list is by no means exhaustive, but in our opinion representative for many types of businesses.
The application of public procurement rules to services or supplies necessary to counteract COVID-19 is to be suspended, provided this is necessary to counteract the quick and uncontrolled spread of the disease or is required for the sake of public health.
Modification of public procurement contracts is to be allowed. The parties to public procurement contracts shall immediately inform each other on the impact of circumstances related to COVID-19 on the proper performance of such contracts, if such impact has occurred or may occur. Such circumstances could include absence of employees, decisions of the authorities connected with counteracting COVID-19, suspension of product deliveries, product components or materials, difficulties in accessing equipment or providing transportation services, or such circumstances relating to a subcontractor or a further subcontractor. The contracting authority, after determining that the circumstances related to COVID-19 may or do affect the proper performance of the contract, may, having consulted the contractor, amend the contract in question, provided that the price does not rise by more than 50%.
The application of the rules provided for in the Construction Law (Prawo budowlane) and certain zoning rules to construction, renovation, upkeep, modernization or demolition of buildings or structures in connection with counteracting the COVID-19 pandemic has been suspended.
Sunday Trading Ban
For the emergency or epidemic period – and for 30 days following revocation thereof – the ban on Sunday trading imposed in 2018 is to be temporarily lifted with regard to certain trade activities (unpacking, accepting delivery and displaying of the so-called necessities) and employees may be entrusted with these activities.
Reporting and Filing Obligations
In case the state of epidemic threat or state of epidemic is announced, the minister responsible for finance will be authorized to amend the deadlines for filing reports required by certain acts of law (except for tax returns), including also the terms for approval and filing the financial statements of companies and other entrepreneurs.
Also, the deadline for registration with the Central Register of Beneficiaries is to be postponed by three months, until 13 July 2020.
In order to allow companies to operate during limited mobility of corporate authority members, the provisions allowing the management and supervisory boards of all companies to meet and confer via means of direct communication or vote by written ballot through other members of management or supervisory boards are to be introduced, except where the Articles of Association provide otherwise.
Certain Instances of Commercial Rent
If a tenant’s business at a shopping mall, of an area larger than 2,000 sq. m., has been suspended during the state of epidemic threat or state of epidemic, such tenant’s rent is to be reduced by 90%.