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Self-isolation: the employer’s and employee’s perspective

Julita JANUSIEWICZ
HR & Payroll Assistant at RSM Poland

In the wake of the outbreak, many questions were asked about how employers are supposed to keep the workplace safe. As the number of COVID cases continues to grow, more and more doubts are being raised. What are the rights of the employer, and those of the employee? How can an organisation transform its work rules in order to cope with the new reality? It is a good idea to gain some insight into self-isolation, because I have a feeling that this word is here to stay for a long time.

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation is a way to prevent the spread of the virus. Those who self-isolate may be infected with the virus but show no signs of disease. As of 2 September 2020, the self-isolation period is 10 days. However, if the GP considers is necessary, the duration of self-isolation may be extended. If you fail to self-isolate when told to do so, you may be prosecuted, and if you breach the self-isolation rules, you may be given a fine of up to PLN 30,000.

Who is required by law to self-isolate?

You are told to self-isolate if:

  • you have coronavirus,
  • you are suspected of having coronavirus,
  • you have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19,
  • you have returned from a country that is not a member of the European Union.

Who makes the decision on self-isolation?

A decision on self-isolation is issued by the State District Sanitary Inspector or the GP, upon examining the patient and assessing the risk.

Self-isolation vs. obligations of an employer and employee

The employee must notify the employer about the fact that he or she is self-isolating. What is more, 3 days after finishing self-isolation, the employee should furnish a certificate on the completed self-isolation. This is an excused absence from work, and this document should be handed to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS).

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If the employee receives an isolation note, he or she is entitled to receive a support payment. Thus, during the first 33 days (or 14 days in the case of employees over 50) the employee will receive statutory sick pay, and after that time: a sickness payment from ZUS. The isolation note may be delivered after the self-isolation period is over. Employers who are not payers of sickness payments, must remember to produce the documents to ZUS if self-isolation involves a sickness payment and not the statutory sick pay. This can be done online via ZUS PUE.

Employees, self-employed and collaborators may claim regular pay or self-isolation payment (assuming they have been reported for sickness insurance purposes).

If the entrepreneur has not received a decision note from ZUS or a transfer of the payment to his or her bank account, he or she cannot be sure that the self-isolation payment was indeed granted. The best option in such a case is to pay social insurance contributions, disregarding the right to payment. Once the payment is granted, the entrepreneur can make a DRA adjustment.

If the employee decides to self-isolate on his or her own, abstaining from work without any isolation note from the Sanitary Inspector or a medical certificate, he or she is not entitled to a financial benefit for the period of isolation.

The employer, and ZUS alike, may verify details provided in the employee’s self-certification about their self-isolation via the State Sanitary Inspectorate.

Care for a child or another family member who was told to self-isolate

If you are looking after of a child or another family member who was told to self-isolate, you are entitled to a carer’s allowance in line with the general principles. If the District Sanitary Inspector issues an isolation note for a child, it is treated the same way as a child’s illness.

However, the carer’s allowance is denied if the school or childcare facility the child attends refuses to take the child in due to health concerns or demands the child to be collected early, unless the parent is given a medical certificate that they must take care of the child or an isolation note issued by the Sanitary Inspector.

Self-isolation vs. working from home

In general, people who self-isolate are considered unfit for work. However, self-isolating does not always mean you cannot work. Working from home should be considered on a case by case basis. If the type of work allows it, and there are convenient conditions and tools in place, the employee may start working from home, and thus be entitled to full remuneration. Should the employee develop any symptoms when self-isolating, he or she should contact their GP who will issue a medical certificate that he or she is unfit for work. This certificate will be the basis for any sick payment.

Should you have any doubts about the rights of people who are self-isolating and the obligations of employers in this respect, I encourage you to contact me: ekspert@rsmpoland.pl.

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