Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the requirement to update employee qualifications required by the regulations has been temporarily suspended. Thus, the validity of the documents that prove their possession has also been extended.
From the employer’s perspective, we find three main elements here: (1) health & safety qualifications and entitlements, (2) motor vehicle driving documents and (3) other entitlements.
Occupational health & safety authorisations and qualifications
They are covered by Article 31m1 of the Act of 2 March 2020 on Special Solutions Related to the Prevention, Counteraction and Eradication of COVID-19, Other Infectious Diseases and Crisis Situations Caused Thereby (Journal of Laws, item 374, as amended – “the Act”).
According to the contents of this Article, documents confirming the possession of certain entitlements or qualifications issued on the basis of executive regulations implementing the Labour Code (“LC”), the validity of which expired after 7 March 2020, shall remain valid but no longer than until the 60th day after the date of cancellation of the state of epidemiological emergency or the state of epidemics. The above provision will therefore only apply to documents issued before 7 March 2020 whose ‘validity has expired’ after that date, i.e. not before 8 March 2020. This means that it will not cover any documents that expired before the aforementioned date or exactly on 7 March 2020, as well as those that expired for reasons other than the expiry of the period for which they were issued.
Given the construction of the above-mentioned article of the Labour Code, it is necessary to consider the two types of executive regulations issued on its basis, i.e. the cross-sectoral regulation (Article 23715 § 1 of the Labour Code) and the sectoral regulation (Article 23715 § 2 of the Labour Code).
The cross-sectoral regulation refers to 6 legal acts, including the Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 26 September 1997 on general workplace health & safety rules, the Ordinance of the Minister of Economy and Labour of 5 August 2005 on workplace health & safety in the case of work involving exposure to noise or mechanical vibration, and the Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 14 March 2000 on workplace health & safety in manual transportation work and other work involving physical effort.
The second ordinance, because of its reference to specific branches of the industry, regulates health & safety in the performance of particular types of work, including:
- Qualification certificates for the operation of forklift trucks (§ 4 (1) of the Ordinance of the Minister of Development and Finance of 15 December 2017 on workplace health & safety in the use of power-driven forklifts);
- Qualifications of a boiler stoker (§ 22 of the Ordinance of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of 23 December 2004 on workplace health & safety in establishments of the alcoholic-beverage production industry);
- Qualifications as an operator or
driver of power construction machinery
(§ 66 of the Ordinance of the Minister of Infrastructure of 6 February 2003 on occupational health & safety during construction work).
Documents related to driving motor vehicles
This type of document applies not only to employees but to all drivers.
As explicitly indicated in Section 15zzzw of the Act, where the validity of, inter alia:
- a driver’s licence;
- a tramway operating permit;
- an entitlement to drive vehicles; or
- an authorisation to drive an emergency vehicle or a blended vehicle transporting valuables;
expires during the state of epidemiological emergency or the state of epidemics, the validity of those documents, entitlements and registrations shall be extended until the expiry of 60 days after the date of the cancellation of the state of epidemiological emergency or the state of epidemics, whichever is later.
The above privilege will only apply to documents whose validity has expired as of 14 March 2020, i.e. the day of declaring the state of epidemiological emergency or the state of epidemics on the entire territory of Poland, until the day of cancelling the state of epidemiological emergency or the state of epidemics.
In addition to the entitlements listed above, the Act also refers explicitly to other types of entitlements whose validity is extended during the period in question. These concern, among others, paramedics and first-aid training (Article 15zzzzzi of the Act) and entitlements of employees connected with railway transport as well as railway security guards (Article 15zzzz of the Act).
Calculation of the periods of validity of entitlements and documents
In respect of all the above-mentioned documents, the Act extends the period of their validity by 60, 90 or 180 days from the date of cancellation of, respectively, the state of epidemiological emergency or the state of epidemics.
Firstly, it should be noted that the Act of 5 December 2008 on Preventing and Combating Infections and Infectious Diseases in Humans does not regulate the minimum or maximum duration of the above-mentioned states. Therefore, the aforementioned 14 March 2020 should be regarded as the initial day on which the state of epidemiological emergency or the state of epidemics was declared on the territory of the Republic of Poland pursuant to the Ordinance of the Minister of Health of 13 March 2020 on the declaration of the state of epidemiological emergency. The day of cancellation shall be the day on which the legal act which introduced such state is repealed.
Secondly, the methodology of calculating the expiry of each of the above deadlines has not been directly regulated in the Act. Contrary to the views presented in the public discussion about the proper application of the provisions of the Code of Administrative Procedure or the Civil Code, Article 6 of the Act of 20 July 2000 on the publication of normative acts and certain legal acts applies here.
This article refers to the date of entry into force of the legal act – a decree under which the state of an epidemiological emergency or the state of epidemics has been established. Consequently, the time limits referred to above must be understood as the calendar days that will elapse from the date of its cancellation or from the date of entry into force of the regulation under which the state in question will be cancelled with immediate effect.
Given how broadly the Act applies – equally to employers and to anyone else who holds the entitlements in question – before taking any steps to renew one’s entitlement, one should carefully check whether it is still valid, bearing in mind the costs and time involved in the renewal procedure.