Case Study: Care-related supports – Warsaw City Hall, Poland
Company / organisation name
Warsaw City Hall
Employee Social Benefit Fund for supporting working carers
About the company / organisation
Warsaw is the capital city of Poland and its biggest city, numbering 1.72 million inhabitants. The scope of activity of the City Hall covers all public matters of local importance and is not restricted by legislation that affects other administration units. Warsaw City Hall is an organisational unit with public responsibilities. At present the City Hall employs about 7,600 persons, of whom 72% are women, and 36% are aged 50 years and over.
Warsaw City Hall’s social objectives are accomplished through the Employee Social Benefit Fund, (from now on referred to as the fund). Through this, funding is allocated, among other things, to the following:
- non-repayable material aid, provided in financial form (known as an ‘allowance’) or non-cash form, to eligible individuals;
- one-time non-repayable financial aid to employees (granted once a year);
- repayable aid in the form of a loan for housing purposes granted to eligible individuals to satisfy their own housing needs;
- co-financing of various forms of leisure for employees and members of their families.
The Employee Social Benefit Fund is managed by the human resources and training section and in particular by its internal organisational unit, the social affairs team. This is done in collaboration with the four labour unions which operate within the City Hall. The unions give a positive or negative response to each funding application. In the case of applications for an allowance, a response is also made by the social committee. This committee consists of some City Hall employees appointed by the fund administrator and some appointed by the internal union organisations. Every year an income and expenditure plan is agreed for the fund regarding each individual social objective.
The forms of support outlined in the (internal) conditions of the fund are of a material nature.They are intended for and dedicated to individuals in a difficult living, familial or material situation. All employees, as well as other eligible persons who fulfil the criteria specified in the rules, can apply for them. The main criterion is related to household income.
Applications are made by interested parties themselves for financial support. In the case of non-repayable material aid, it can be made by the employer, a group of employees or an internal union organisation. Applicants submit an appropriate application, along with other required documents.
Information on this support and eligibility is widely available. Newly hired employees and individuals serving on a preparatory basis are informed about it. The rules and the supplements thereto (certificate, applications, tables) are available on the intranet (PortUM) and in the pages of the public information bulletin of the City Hall.
The initiative is formalised because it is implemented on the basis of the applicable national law. Furthermore, it is formally provided for in the procedures and internal regulations of the City Hall.
In 2006, the City Hall took the decision to broaden eligibility for the fund. It was decided to extend eligibility to employees who have child(ren) with a disability regardless of their age, but with the following caveat:
‘provided that they have not entered the state of matrimony nor receive income due to being employed or due to running a business, with the exclusion of alimony and family allowance’.
This ensured that these individuals were still dependent on their carers. This is important; previously, employees whose children did not have a certificate of disability (which is difficult to obtain in Poland) were only eligible if their child was aged 19 years or younger.
Among the forms mentioned above, two deserve particular attention: co-financing for leisure and repayable aid for housing purposes:
Co-financing for leisure: this form of support pertains to leisure opportunities for employees and members of their families, including disabled children irrespective of their age. Individual applications can be made once a year. The amount of co-funding provided depends on the applicant’s income per capita and is specified in a co-financing chart. There is an upper limit of 8,000 zlotys, which is the average monthly gross income per capita in the household, for the period specified in the rules. If this limit is exceeded, it renders the applicant ineligible for the support.
Repayable aid for housing purposes: this form of support covers costs such as adapting a home to meet the needs of a family member with a disability. Conditions to obtaining this loan include the submission of ‘a medical confirmation of the physical impairment or medical certificate of a degree of disability as well as a declaration of the scope and the estimated cost of the work planned’. The amount allocated to this purpose is 15,000 zlotys per beneficiary.
The amount granted to each successful applicant is agreed by the employer, the fund administrator and the internal unions. However, it is worth mentioning that support for the adaptation of a dwelling to the needs of a person with a disability is treated as a priority It is even possible for funds to be redirected from other cases to this purpose, if necessary.
City Hall supports employees through other means, such as allowing flexible working arrangements. Here, case-by-case solutions are organised, so there is no detailed information available on this topic. It is also difficult to assess how many of those cases involve working carers. This is partly due to the fact that this information is of a confidential nature and is therefore not accessible to the public.
Rationale and background of the initiative
The fund operates on the basis of the applicable national legislation, as follows:
- the act of 4th March 1994 concerning employee social benefit fund (O.J. from 1996 No. 70, item 335 with later amendments);
- The act of 23rd May 1991 concerning labour unions (O.J. No. 55, item 234 with later amendments);
- the Order of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 9th March 2009 concerning the method to establish the mean number of employees for the purpose of calculating deductions for the employee social benefit fund (O.J. No. 43, item 349).
The detailed provisions specified in the rules, however, are the result of internal agreements of the City Hall.
In 2006, during the course of negotiations between the employer and the internal unions, management personnel of the human resources and training section made a suggestion. This was to extend eligibility for the fund to employees whose child(ren) had a disability, without specifying an age limit. It was rightly assumed that these individuals would be unable to function independently in terms of economic activity, and would therefore be still dependent on their parents. The idea was accepted by the parties involved and has been part of the rules ever since.
The City Hall seems to be interested in equality-related initiatives. Example include a recent initiative to tackle the issue of mobbing and the planned pilot project aimed at promoting equal opportunities, which addresses the employees of the City Hall. So far, as outlined above, work-related initiatives that aim to address the needs of working carers have focused on providing financial support.
Results and assessment
Information is not available on the proportion of employees accessing support through the fund who are working carers. However, evidence suggests that the fund is popular among employees; 97% of its total budget was used in 2010. According to the available data, it can be concluded that in 2010 the most commonly accessed form of support was the co-funding of leisure activities; about 7,300 individuals comprising employees of the City Hall and their children, availed themselves of this form of subsidy. One-time support grants were also commonly accessed; 88% of employees received this grant. The housing loan was made use of by 7% (the value of the loans paid, however, exceeds 50% of the Fund’s budgeted expenditures for the respective year). Finally, only 0.5% accessed the allowance.
So far, no evaluation of the initiative has been performed with regard to the fund being used by working carers. No analysis of costs and benefits has been carried out, either. However, some evaluative activities have been performed with regard to the fund. One was a survey conducted among the employees in 2010, in order to determine demand for individual forms of support and to evaluate proposed changes. The employees were also given an opportunity to submit their own proposals. A similar survey is planned for 2011.
Issues, challenges and lessons learned
The management personnel holds the view that experience to date suggests good reasons to continue extending eligibility to children with a disability, regardless of their age. It is not planned to introduce any changes to the definition of persons eligible for the fund and forms of support. This is because an analysis of the available data (e.g. survey results) has not indicated any need for such measures.
It appears that City Hall’s eligibility criteria for fund-related support could be successfully implemented by other employers who are obliged to maintain an employee social benefit fund. This includes all employers with 20 or more staff, with the exception of organisations operating in the form of ‘budgetary units’ or ‘self-government budgetary enterprises’; no lower limit is given for these bodies. Doing this would result in a somewhat better position for the carers of children with a disability who apply for the financial support. It would also contribute to raising awareness among the public about the specific needs of carers of adult family members suffering from a long-standing illness or disability.
Case study authors:
- Katarzyna Świeżawska-Ambroziak
- Dominika Stelmachowicz-Pawyza.
- Karolina Malczyk-Rokicińska, plenipotentiary of the Mayor of the City of Warsaw for equal treatment, head of the advisors’ section of the Office of the Mayor of the City of Warsaw
- Agnieszka Szpotańska, deputy director of the human resources and training section of Warsaw City Hall
- Ewa Ulejczyk, head of social affairs team in the human resources and training section of Warsaw City Hall
- The Rules and Regulations of the Employee Social Benefit Fund in the Warsaw City Hall (uniform text) incl. supplements – Regulamin Zakładowego Funduszu Świadczeń Socjalnych w Urzędzie m.st. Warszawy (tekst ujednolicony) z załącznikami. Supplement No. 8 to the Order No. 4383/2010 of the Mayor of the City of Warsaw, 29 March 2010 [accessed at: http://bip.warszawa.pl/Menu_podmiotowe/Biura_Urzedu/KS/Wydzialy/Zespol_ds_socjalnych/default.htm]