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The Warsaw Voice » Law » September 2, 2011
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Law in brief
September 2, 2011   
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More Rights for Domestic Staff
Under a new set of international standards adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in mid-June, “domestic workers” such as cleaners, cooks and nannies should now have the same basic labor rights as those enjoyed by other workers. These include reasonable working hours, a weekly rest day and clear rules of employment and remuneration. They should also have the right to be members of trade unions.

The new standards are known as the Convention on Domestic Workers and are aimed at improving the working and living conditions of tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide. The ILO says about 53 million people worldwide are domestic workers.

Domestic workers perform a range of tasks for and in other people’s households. They may cook, clean and wash the laundry, and look after children, the elderly or persons with a disability. They may work as gardeners, guardians or family chauffeurs. Most of them are women.

Germany Scolded Over Disabled Workers
The European Court of Justice has ruled against Germany for failing to comply with European Union regulations under which disabled, blind and deaf workers are eligible for social benefits in all EU countries. The European Commission had taken Germany to the court because of provisions that prevented disabled, blind and deaf people from accessing their benefits if they worked in Germany but had their permanent address elsewhere in the EU.

The law in Germany imposed a residence or “habitual stay” clause to these benefits, which put migrant and cross-border workers and their families at a disadvantage. The Commission argued that this requirement discriminated against frontier and migrant workers who paid social security contributions in Germany but were unable to enjoy the same benefits as nationals. The court decided that such benefits fall under EU provisions on coordination of national social security systems. This means that Germany is responsible for the social security coverage of such workers.

Following the ruling by the European Court of Justice, Germany will have to adapt its regulations to EU standards in this area.

Concessions for Foreign Lawyers
Foreign lawyers providing services in Poland will be able to do so in the form of limited joint-stock companies, under new rules approved by the lower house of parliament, the Sejm. The new rules amend a law on legal services provided in Poland by foreign lawyers. The amendment brings the law in line with similar rules regulating the work of Polish lawyers and other professionals providing legal services including legal counselors, patent attorneys and tax advisors.

Help for Soldiers
Military men leaving active service can count on special government assistance in retraining, under new regulations issued by the defense minister and in effect since mid-July. The new rules cover not only professional soldiers ending their service but also the spouses and children of career soldiers who have gone missing in action or been killed in the line of duty. Also eligible are the spouses and children of soldiers who have died within three years after leaving professional military service as a result of an accident or illness related to the performance of their military duties. All those eligible can count on financial assistance from the military in retraining, along with the coverage of related travel and accommodation costs. The Defense Ministry has allocated zl.12 million for this purpose.

EHIC in Braille
Some of the European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) issued by Poland’s National Health Fund (NFZ) will now feature a special sticker in Braille to help blind and visually impaired people. Any blind person will be able to ask their regional NFZ branch for a card with such a sticker. The EHIC allows EU citizens to use health services in another EU member state as part the universal healthcare system. All those insured with Poland’s National Health Fund are eligible for such a card.

Money to Be Safer
Banks investing their assets in shares of companies or other banks will have to be prepared for additional restrictions. These will be introduced by a banking amendment passed by the lower house of parliament. Under the amendment, the sum of receivables and shares either directly or indirectly held by a bank in a given company may not exceed 25 percent of the banks’ equity. A similar restriction applies to financial involvement in another bank or lending institution. Here, however, an additional limit has been introduced—150 million euros. Another important change is exemption from the obligation of professional secrecy for members of supervisory authorities in providing information to the central bank if the bank is a member of the European System of Central Banks. A similar rule applies when providing information to supervisory authorities in EU member states in the event of a threat to the stability of the national financial system.
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