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The effects of coronavirus can also affect government employees

Pursuant to the provisions of the Act of 17 April 2020 on special support instruments in connection with the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the so-called Act on the anti-crisis package 2.0), in a situation where the negative economic effects of COVID-19 cause a threat to public finances of the state, the Council of Ministers may, by way of a regulation, decide to introduce solutions for the reduction of personnel remuneration costs in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, ministries, province offices or units subordinate to and supervised by the Prime Minister, the minister in charge of the government administration department or the province governor.

The reduction of personnel costs may consist of the following:

  • reduction of employment, and
  • introduction, for a fixed period not exceeding the end of the financial year in question, of less favourable employment conditions for staff.

In practice, this means both the possibility of dismissing people employed in government administration and the possibility of lowering remuneration.

Possible job or remuneration cuts are to be made taking into account the needs of the state budget, as well as the need to ensure the proper performance of government administration tasks.

The anti-crisis package 2.0 assumes that reduction in employment may occur through the following:

  1. Termination of the employment relationship with the employee, including an employee with an established right to a pension or disability pension;
  2. Not entering into another employment contract with the employee in case of a contract entered into for a trial period, a contract entered into for a fixed period;
  3. Reduction of the employee’s working time with a proportional reduction of remuneration.

Importantly, the provisions of the Act on Special Rules for Termination of Employment Relations with Employees for Reasons not Applicable to Employees will not apply to the reduction of employment.

The reduction in employment is to take place on the basis of the developed criteria. Apart from the basic criteria (e.g. professional qualifications or skills and professional experience, work history and attitude to employee duties, employee’s suitability for work, availability of the employee, in connection with the need to ensure proper functioning of the entity), the Act on the anti-crisis package 2.0 also lists auxiliary criteria for assessing compliance with the principles of social coexistence, including taking into account the personal and family situation of the employee. In addition, the law provides for a procedure for informing the company trade union organisations about the proposed way of carrying out the reduction of employment.

Dismissals may concern not only staff of the offices, but also civil servants.

The dismissed employee will receive a cash payment of one, two or three months’ remuneration (the amount of the severance payment depends on the length of service in the entity).

As regards the introduction of less favourable employment conditions, the Act on the anti-crisis package 2.0 provides for the possibility of suspending the right to additional components of remuneration, awards, bonuses and other benefits of such nature or suspending the rights under other regulations, including the right to additional leave. Importantly, the above-mentioned restrictions may be imposed on all employees of the entity or in groups of employees depending on the basis of the employment relationship. An employee who has received notice of less favourable employment conditions may refuse to agree to them. A statement of disagreement shall be equivalent to a statement of termination of employment by notice.

 

Marta Strzecha-Bociąga, attorney-at-law

 

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