Employment & labor law /

Planned changes in maternity, care and sickness benefits in 2020

In 2020, it is planned to introduce a waiting period for the care and maternity allowance. The changes will also affect the sickness benefit – it will be payable if the employee works for at least 90 days.

In the current state of law, in accordance with the content of Article 4 § 4 The following are the provisions of the Act of June 25, 1999 on cash benefits from social insurance in case of sickness and maternity (i. e. Dz.U. of March 15, 2019, Dz. U. of 2019, item. 645) the insured person acquires the right to sickness benefit:

  • after 30 days of continuous sickness insurance – if it is obligatorily subject to this insurance;
  • after 90 days of continuous sickness insurance – if he is insured voluntarily.

It follows from the above that receiving the sickness benefit depends on being insured for a certain period of time, which is called the waiting period. In addition, it should be indicated that this period must be uninterrupted. If a person has had a break in employment or has not paid contributions before, he/she will not receive sickness benefit for the time of inability to work in the first month of employment.

How long can we claim sickness benefit?

In accordance with Article In accordance with Article 8 of the Act on Social Insurance Money Benefits in Case of Sickness and Maternity, a sickness benefit is granted for the duration of inability to work due to illness or inability to perform work – however, not longer than for 182 days, and if the inability to work was caused by tuberculosis or occurs during pregnancy – not longer than for 270 days.

How do you calculate the benefit period?

The method of calculating the allowance period is set out in Article 9 above. the law. According to this provision, all periods of continuous inability to work are included in the benefit period. In addition, the benefit period includes periods of previous inability to work, caused by the same disease, if the interval between the cessation of the previous inability to work and the re-inability to work did not exceed 60 days.

The situation is different for maternity and guardianship benefits, which are also covered by the changes foreseen in the convergence programme update. In contrast to the employee’s sickness benefit described above, it is not necessary to have a 30-day insurance period (waiting period) in order to receive maternity or guardianship benefit.

Planned changes in 2020

From the response of the Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Finance, Leszek Skiba, of October 15, 2019 to Joanna Mucha parliamentary question No. 33300 on sealing the system of social security contributions, in accordance with the update of the Convergence Programme, the following proposals for changes arise:

  • introduction of the so-called waiting period for care and maternity benefits and setting the waiting period for benefits (90 days for the obligatorily insured, 180 days for the voluntarily insured);
  • introduction of a rule according to which the right to a new benefit period will arise only if the new disease occurs after 90 days from the end of the previous inability to work, regardless of whether the new disease is caused by the same or different cause of inability to work.

Changes in sickness benefit

The above mentioned planned changes of the Ministry assume that the waiting period will be extended to 90 days for the mandatory insured (currently 30 days) and 180 days for the voluntary insured (currently 90 days). The new provisions therefore do not imply a change of assumption, but an extension of the waiting period.

Changes in the calculation of the benefit period

Here too, the government is preparing changes. The planned changes assume that the reason for inability to work will no longer be differentiated, and the employee will not be entitled to another benefit until 90 days after the end of the inability to work (currently 60 days, assuming that the reason for inability to work is constant).

Changes in the care and maternity allowance

The Ministry also wants to introduce a waiting period for care and maternity benefits. However, its length has not yet been determined. As mentioned earlier, until now, the right to receive maternity or guardianship benefits did not require a 30-day waiting period. The changes in maternity and guardianship benefits are to change this principle. It is therefore to be expected that the upcoming changes will also introduce an insurance period for future mothers.

Consequences of the changes

For employers, the changes that are being prepared bring some kind of comfort, as they effectively eliminate frequent sick leaves. They will therefore protect employers from workers for whom the cold is often a sufficient reason for absence from work. However, the changes seem worrying for people whose health condition may be fragile when they return to work, e. g. as a result of cancer treatment. It is hard to imagine that such people would also have a 3-month waiting period after the end of their inability to work. It seems that certain provisions should be clarified, with a particular distinction between disease classification. Otherwise, there may be a situation in which people who are seriously ill for several dozen days may be left without a livelihood.

Pregnancy sickness benefit is a slightly different kind of benefit. However, the changes announced are controversial. Everything seems to indicate that a mother whose medical prescriptions actually prohibit her from working will also have to wait for the benefit.

Summarizing the planned changes of the Ministry in the scope of maternity, care and sickness benefits, it seems that instead of statutorily prolonging the waiting period, ZUS should rather intensify checks on the dismissals themselves and verify their legitimacy.

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