In accordance with provisions of the Act on Prevention of Infections and Contagious Diseases in Humans, “quarantine” means “isolation of a healthy person who was exposed to an infection, to prevent the spread of particularly hazardous and highly contagious diseases”. During the COVID-19 pandemic an increasing number of employees have to undergo quarantine. In this situation, depending on their health condition, employees may choose two paths to follow. The first one, when employees who are unable to work may apply for sick pay or a sick benefit under the so-called Allowance Act (Ustawa zasiłkowa), or the other one when employees may work remotely during quarantine and retain entitlement to a regular salary.
It is important to note that “quarantine” applies to healthy people (as opposed to “isolation” which applies to ill people) and that generally quarantine does not prevent employees working. It is impossible, however, to alternate between working and taking advantage of sick benefits.
In accordance with the position of the Social Security Authority (ZUS), if employees do not apply for the sick benefit and begin to work remotely during quarantine with the employer’s consent, they will be entitled to remuneration for work instead of the sick benefit. This issue is regulated in the new provision of article 4h, which was added by the October 28, 2020 Act to the Act on Special Solutions to Prevent, Counteract and Fight COVID-19, Other Contagious Diseases and Crisis Situations Caused Thereby (the Anti-COVID Act of March 2, 2020). That provision expressly stipulates that employees may work remotely with the employer’s consent also during quarantine and receive remuneration for such work. As regards remote work methods, the general principles set out in article 3 sections 3 through 8 of the Anti-COVID Act continue to apply.
Since it is necessary to obtain the employer’s consent to remote work during quarantine in line with the provision mentioned above, employees should apply for such consent. The provisions of the Act do not specify the form of such an application, but it is advisable for evidentiary purposes to file it at least in electronic format.
Applying for consent to remote work during quarantine does not give rise to any doubt in the case when employees are required to quarantine before they receive an instruction to work remotely. A practical problem may arise in a situation when an employee who already works remotely on the employer’s instruction has to quarantine. Since the employer may be unaware of an employee’s quarantine, it seems that in such situation it is the employee that will decide whether he or she wants to receive sick allowances on account of their inability to work, or work and receive full remuneration.
The issue of remote work looks slightly different in the case of isolation that generally applies to ill people. A decision of sanitary authorities to impose isolation is the basis for payment of sick benefits. Provisions do not prohibit employees to work during isolation, but such solution is not recommended due to the risk of sanitary authorities concluding that leave is misused, which will result in the loss of the benefit entitlement for the entire leave period.
It is important to note that another amendment of the Anti-COVID Act is to provide for solutions addressing remote work during isolation, so the amendment will concern people who are known to have contracted the SARS-COV-2 virus. In accordance with the drafted provisions, remote work during isolation would be permitted and if an employee’s health deteriorated during work performance, the employee would become entitled to sick pay or a cash sickness allowance for the remaining period of isolation.