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Quarantine and the employer’s and employee’s responsibilities

Quarantine is one of the most common words in recent days. No wonder – according to the Ministry of Health, as at 23 March 2020, the number of people quarantined was 55 301.

In the Act of 5 December 2008 on the Prevention and Control of Infections and Infectious Diseases in Human Beings, quarantine is defined as the isolation of a healthy person who was exposed to the infection in order to prevent the spread of particularly dangerous and highly contagious diseases.

Pursuant to Article 33(1) of the above mentioned Act, the State District Health Inspector or the State Border Health Inspector may, by decision, impose an obligation to submit to quarantine a person:

  • infected or suffering from a contagious disease, or
  • suspected of being infected or of having a contagious disease, or
  • who has been in contact with the source of the biological pathogen.

A clarification of the above provision can be found in art. 34 section 1 of the Act, according to which healthy persons who were in contact with persons suffering from infectious diseases are subject to mandatory quarantine or epidemiological supervision, if the sanitary inspection authorities so decide, for a period not exceeding 21 days from the last day of contact. Importantly, mandatory quarantine may be applied to the same person more than once until it is established that there is no risk to human health or life.

The decision of the health inspector is the basis for the payment of sickness benefits under general rules. Thus, during a period of absence from work due to quarantine, you are entitled to sick pay or sickness benefit paid by the contribution payer or the Social Insurance Institution [ZUS]. For employees, these rules are as follows:

  • For the first 33 days (14 days for employees over 50) of inability to work in a given calendar year, the employer shall be obliged to pay them sick pay.
  • After that time, the employee shall be entitled to sickness benefit financed by the Social Insurance Institution.

The decision can be delivered to the employer or to the Social Insurance Institution after the period of quarantine or isolation.

Apart from the case described above, the Law on the Prevention and Control of Infections and Infectious Diseases in Human Beings provides that in the case of suspicion or diagnosis of a disease of a particularly dangerous and highly contagious disease, a doctor receiving a person who is admitted to hospital, isolation or quarantine facility, on the basis of his/her own assessment of the degree of risk to public health, subjects the person suspected of being ill, suffering from a particularly dangerous and highly contagious disease, or a person exposed to infection, to hospitalisation, isolation or quarantine and to examinations, also in the absence of a decision of the state district health inspector or state border health inspector. If the doctor considers that during hospitalisation, isolation or quarantine, due to the health condition, a certificate of temporary inability to work due to illness is justified and confirms this by issuing the medical certificate, the insured may apply for sickness benefits under the general rules. It is up to the doctor to assess whether the state of health justifies the issue of a medical certificate.

On the basis of the Ordinance of the Minister of Health of 20 March 2020 on declaring the state of a compulsory epidemic on the territory of the Republic of Poland, all persons returning to Poland from abroad are also subject to quarantine for 14 days. The 14-day period shall run from the day following the day of crossing the border. In the case of the above persons, the health inspection body shall not issue a decision on the obligation to quarantine the person concerned. The quarantined person is obliged to inform his or her employer about the absence. In order to receive sick pay, a person in quarantine shall, within 3 days of the end of quarantine, submit a written statement to his or her employer confirming that s/he has undergone mandatory quarantine. The employer, in turn, may request the State Sanitary Inspectorate body to verify the data contained in the above statement.

A specimen statement is available on the Social Insurance Institution’s website: https://www.zus.pl/o-zus/aktualnosci/-/publisher/aktualnosc/1/swiadczenia-chorobowe-dla-osob-objetych-obowiazkowa-kwarantanna-po-przekroczeniu-granicy/3232315

The regulations introduced in the Ordinance on the introduction of the state of epidemics supplement the gaps which have arisen as a result of the Ordinance of the Minister of Health of 13 March 2020 on declaring the state of epidemic hazard in the territory of the Republic of Poland. Namely, the regulation did not regulate at all the issue of making statements by quarantined persons and, consequently, there was no basis for paying sick pay to the employee.

If the State Health Inspector decides to shorten or release a person who is in quarantine, the person should inform the sickness benefit provider (e.g. the employer).

Employee in quarantine is treated as unfit for work even if s/he is not ill. During this time, the employer should not order remote working.

 

Marta Strzecha-Bociąga, attorney-at-law

 

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