How to apply the social criterion, i.e. the Company Social Benefits Fund in practice
The guiding principle related to the distribution of funds accumulated on the company’s social benefits fund is that the granting of concessionary services and benefits as well as the amount of subsidies from the Fund depend on the life, family and material situation of the person entitled to use the Fund. What does this mean in practice? The point is for people in the most difficult social situation to receive the highest benefits, and for people whose social situation is most favourable to receive the lowest amount of benefits. Therefore, this provision emphasizes the achievement of a certain goal, i.e. achieving a situation in which the benefits awarded reflect the social situation of individual employee – the higher the benefit, the worse the social situation of the employee. It should be noted that the Act imposes on the employer only the goal to be achieved in the course of administering the fund’s resources without specifying how the employer has achieved this goal, which boils down to the fact that the Act does not specify how the employer should examine the situation social rights of entitled persons, in particular the living, family or material situation.
In practice, most employers use the so-called income criterion by examining the income attributable to each member of the employee’s family. On the other hand, analyzing only the financial situation of employees may not be sufficient to implement the idea of social benefits. By way of example, we can indicate a situation in which the employer organizes a Christmas party and on this occasion decides to hand parcels to children of employees. Examining only the financial situation of employees would mean that the employer would not know who to give the package to – without analyzing the family situation, it would not be possible to determine which employees have children. On the other hand, analyzing the family and material situation and differentiating parcels based on employees’ income would distort the essence of the idea of social activity – distributing different parcels (more and less well-equipped) would certainly be badly picked up by children. In such a situation, it seems most appropriate to examine only the family status. In addition, however, it may be justified to examine the life situation of employees – if, for example, one of the employees lost a significant part of their belongings in a fire, adding holiday vouchers, e.g. vouchers for the purchase of children’s clothing, would fulfil the statutory objective.
Finally, it is worth recalling here an interesting judgment of the Court of Appeal in Szczecin of June 8, 2017 (III AUa 616/16), which was issued in connection with the Social Security Office’s questioning of not including the basis of the assessment of social security contributions provided to employees of holiday packages and gift vouchers due to the fact that in the assessment of the disability pension authority, the employer did not carry out an analysis of the material, family and life situation of employees, and thus the benefits granted cannot be considered as social assistance. In this case, the court took the employer’s side, indicating in the justification of the judgment that: „In small workplaces, in particular those operating in local communities, both the employer and employees know each other’s family, material and financial situations. If account is taken of the amounts known to employers of the employees’ income from employment and information resulting from the employees’ written statements about the family situation and income of other family members, there is no doubt that the family and material situation of the entitled persons was sufficiently well known to those operating at the employer’s social commission and, consequently, the employer. Therefore, taking into account the cited circumstances, it should be considered that the benefits granted by the employer from the Company Social Benefit Fund were dependent on the family and material situation of the person known to him and with the maintenance of a social purpose. „