Entrepreneurs, as payers of contributions to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), as well as insured persons, must be prepared for numerous changes that have been provided for by the Polish legislator in the field of social insurance since 1 January 2022. The most important changes are outlined below.
1. Withholding of benefits due to debt.
The amending act introduces a change with respect to untimely payment of social insurance contributions, which may result in withholding of rehabilitation benefit and sickness, maternity and nursing benefits (Art. 4 of the amending act) in the event of occurrence of a debt on account of social insurance contributions in an amount exceeding 1% of the minimum remuneration for work established on the basis of separate regulations on the date the right to benefit arises, until the entire debt is repaid.
So far, in case a person running business activity, a person cooperating with him or her or a clergyman did not pay contributions on time, voluntary sickness insurance ceased. Such a person was not entitled to sickness insurance benefits. On the other hand, from 1 January 2022 the nature of voluntary sickness insurance will change. The insurance will no longer stop as a result of failure to pay contributions on time (amendment to the System Act). Therefore, self-employed persons, persons cooperating with them and clergymen will be able to claim benefits also in case of paying contributions after the deadline.
2. Sick leave at the end of an employment contract for only 91 days.
The previous regulations did not differentiate the situation of sickness benefit assessment depending on the termination of employment. The sickness benefit after the termination of insurance was entitled according to general rules, i.e., it could be paid for the entire benefit period (182 days/270 days). As of January 2022, for a period of incapacity to work falling after the termination of insurance, sickness benefit will be payable for no more than 91 days. Thus, the period of sick leave due to illness at the end of the employment contract was reduced by half.
3. Calculation of the benefit period under the new rules
Under the current law on benefits, the benefit period includes all uninterrupted periods of inability to work, even if the inability to work is due to different reasons. In case of interruptions in inability to work, the period of inability to work which occurred before the interruption shall be included in the benefit period, provided it is caused by the same cause and the interruption does not exceed 60 days. An interruption in incapacity for work and falling ill after an interruption for another reason (lasting even one day) means that the right to a new benefit period arises.
Benefit period irrespective of whether the cause of the incapacity for work prior to the break and after the break is the same. Starting from January 2022, periods of previous inability to work will be included in the benefit period if the interval between the cessation of the previous inability to work and the occurrence of a new inability to work did not exceed 60 days, regardless of the reason. The benefit period will not include periods of inability to work which occurred before the break of no more than 60 days, if after the break inability to work occurred during pregnancy.
4. Hospital stay under new rules and benefit amounts.
Pursuant to Art. 11 sec. 1a of the Act on Benefits, at present the monthly sickness benefit for the period of hospitalization amounts to 70% of the benefit assessment basis, and for the period of hospitalization – from the 15th to the 33rd day of inability to work in a calendar year in the case of an employee over 50 years of age – 80% of the benefit assessment basis. On the other hand, as of January 1, 2022, the monthly sickness benefit for the period of hospitalization will be 80% of the benefit base.
5. Termination of employment as a result of the death of the employer and the right to maternity allowance
In the current legal status, the right to maternity allowance for childbirth after termination of insurance does not apply if the termination of employment contract during pregnancy was due to death of the employer. In this case, you are also not entitled to a maternity allowance. Amendments introduced to the Benefit Act extend the groups of persons entitled to maternity benefit and benefit in the amount of maternity benefit by persons who for reasons beyond their control (i.e., death of the employer) lost the right to sickness insurance and gave birth to a child after the termination of such insurance.
6. Calculation of the benefit base
According to the current regulations of the Benefits Act (Art. 43 of the Benefits Act), the benefit assessment basis of a benefit due to employment with the same employer is not calculated anew if there was no break in receiving remuneration for the period of illness and benefits – regardless of their type – or the break lasted less than 3 calendar months. On the other hand, pursuant to the amendment to the Benefit Act as of January 1, 2022, the benefit assessment basis will be determined anew if there is a break of at least one calendar month between benefit periods. The benefit base will be determined based on the employee’s current salary. The benefits will therefore be close to the amount of current earnings.
7. Time limit for payment of allowances
Planned changes to the timing of benefit payments are intended to align the timing of short- and long-term benefits. The benefits will be paid within 30 days from the date of clarification of the last circumstance necessary to establish the right to the benefit. ZUS pays benefits on an ongoing basis after the entitlement has been established – no later than within 30 days from the date of clarification of the last circumstance necessary to establish the entitlement to the benefit.
In view of the fact that payment of benefits to persons voluntarily covered by sickness insurance is conditional on repayment of debt for social insurance contributions (art. 4 item 1 of the bill – art. 2a of the Benefit Act), the date of payment of the benefit will be conditional on repayment of the debt. It will not be more than 60 days after the debt is paid in full.