27.03.2024 Business

[Poland] TGC Corporate Lawyers Legal review – March 2024

Newsletter – changes in regulations and interesting decisions – March 2024.

1. PFR requests return of subsidies from the SMEs Financial Shield

The Polish Development Fund (PFR) clears the accounts of subsidies for small and medium-sized enterprises granted in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more often PFR attempts to recover funds spent under the SMEs Financial Shield. Some of the entrepreneurs who benefited from the support under the SMEs Shield have already received notices to return subsidies. It is currently estimated that several thousand entities benefiting from PFR subsidies under the SMEs Financial Shield could receive notices to return them.

The Ombudsman for SMEs stepped in to resolve irregularities in the settlement of subsidies by the PFR. The Ombudsman argues that the PFR should take into account the objectives of the government’s programmes, including the financial stabilisation of enterprises and protection of jobs. The SMEs Ombudsman also stresses that entrepreneurs should not be accused of providing false data when this was due to inaccurate rules or modification of rules when the programmes were in operations.

The problem of calls for the return of subsidies received may concern up to 4,500 companies. Some of them have already received legal claims from the court. Is it possible to effectively protect a company from PFR claims?

If you would like to find out how to proceed if you receive a notice or lawsuit for the return of a subsidy from the PFR, we invite you to watch a recording of a webinar by experts from TGC Corporate Lawyers.

Find out more, watch the webinar recording

PFR requests return of subsidies from the SMEs Financial Shield

2. New draft Act on the Protection of Whistleblowers

The new draft Act on the Protection of Persons Reporting Breaches of Law published on the website of the Government Legislation Centre on 6 March 2024, was given a new name: draft Act on the Protection of Whistleblowers. It implements the measures for the protection of persons reporting breaches of law required by Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019.

The new draft Act, similarly to previous acts, aims to regulate issues relating to the reporting of breaches, the protection of whistleblowers and actions taken as follow-up by legal entities and public authorities.

The Act extends the material scope of the “breach of law” with relation to Directive it implements. Moreover, it stipulates that the Ombudsman will not only provide information and support to whistleblowers, but also receive the external reports (excluding support tasks carried out by other bodies).

In addition, the Act will also cover whistleblowers or persons disclosing breaches of law if they have made a report or disclosure of a breach of law in a work-related context prior to the commencement of an employment or other legal relationship giving rise to the provision of work or services, or the performing a function in or for a legal entity, as well as when such a relationship has already ceased (this also applies to performing service in a legal entity).

Learn more about the proposed changes: New draft Act on the Protection of Whistleblowers

3. Amendments To The Civil Procedure Code– March 2024

In March 2024, another batch of amendments to the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, introduced by the amendment of 7 July 2023, came into force.

The majority of provisions of the amending Act has already entered into force earlier, while a longer vacatio legis was provided for provisions that are extremely important from the point of view of the course of the proceedings concerning:

  1. electronic service of documents via information portal (added provision of Article 1311a CPC);
  2. conducting hearings remotely (Article 150(2) CPC, and Article 151 §§2-9 CPC) and the possibility of taking evidence remotely (Article 235 §2 and 3 CPC, and Article 2351 CPC).

The first part of the changes concerns service. Pursuant to the new provision of Article 1311a CPC, if a document cannot be served via the ICT system, the court will serve the document on an advocate, legal advisor, patent attorney, prosecutor, pension authority or the General Counsel to the Republic of Poland, by downloading them to the information portal in a way that allows the recipient to obtain a document confirming the service. This does not apply to pleadings that are subject to service with copies of the parties’ pleadings or other documents not coming from the court, unless the court has an electronically recorded copy.

The second part of the amendment to the Civil Procedure Code, which comes into force on 14 March 2024, concerns the permanent transfer of the Covid regulations to the procedural ground, allowing for remote hearings.

The court is obliged to indicate in the notice of the date of hearing whether the summoned person is obliged to appear in court in person or whether he or she can take part in the hearing in the manner specified in Article 151 § 2,  that at a distance in the form of a remote hearing.

Read the article and learn more

4. AI Act adopted. Artificial intelligence under EU control

On 13 March 2024, after a long period of work, the European Parliament adopted the Artificial Intelligence Regulation (AI Act). This groundbreaking regulation aims to provide clear requirements and obligations regarding specific uses of AI.

The AI Act defines four levels of risk and this classification is essentially the core of the new regulation. It thus aims to create an acceptable framework for the functioning of AI systems with a higher degree of risk. Of course, unacceptable risk tools will be completely banned.

The AI Act is due to enter into force twenty days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU and will fully apply 24 months after entry into force (with some exceptions). Therefore, it can be expected that the Regulation may enter into force in May or June of this year if the Regulation is swiftly processed by the Council.

Read more: AI Act adopted. Artificial intelligence under EU control

5. Directive on platform workers adopted by EPSCO

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) in Brussels has adopted a directive on improving working conditions through online platforms.

The aim of the introduction of the new regulations is to provide platform workers with better and more predictable employment conditions and to introduce a mechanism for the so-called ‘presumption of employment’. The presumption is to be applied by meeting at least two indicators set out in the directive. In addition, the new Directive is to introduce an information obligation for platform workers regarding the use of algorithms in the place of employment.

This is important for people working on online platforms, as they are often deprived of the rights arising from employment contracts. Meanwhile, according to the data, up to more than 28 million people in the EU work precisely via digital platforms.

Once the directive comes into force, Member States will be obliged to implement its provisions within 2 years.

6. On 14 March, the amended Penal Code came into force, i.e. confiscation of a car for drink-driving

On 14 March 2024, an amendment to the Penal Code took effect, according to which, in the case of driving under the influence of alcohol – above 1.5 ppm of blood alcohol – the car of an intoxicated driver will be impounded even if the driver did not cause a traffic accident.

Once the police have apprehended an intoxicated driver, they will first seize his or her car for up to seven days, and it will then be up to the public prosecutor to secure the car until the court has ruled on the forfeiture of the car. Cars will primarily be forfeited for drivers who have caused an accident with at least 0.5 ppm of alcohol in their blood and in the case of repeat offenders. In other cases, such as those justified by special circumstances, the court may refrain from imposing a car forfeiture.

7. Webinar: Collective redundancies – how to proceed legally?

Join us for a free webinar on the practical aspects of carrying out collective redundancies. Our experts will clarify the most important doubts in this respect and answer your questions. During the event, we will discuss the most important legal regulations concerning this issue, the employer’s obligations and potential risks.

The event will take place online on Thursday 11 April. We will start at 11.00

During the meeting, our experts will answer the following questions:

  • Who can carry out collective redundancies and in what circumstances?
  • Liquidation vs. job reduction
  • Role of trade unions in the collective redundancies process
  • Obligations to inform the state authorities
  • What can a redundant employee receive?

Learn more and register!

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