53 (148) 2022

Corporate social responsibility

Benefits for Ukrainian employees

By Kinga Rozbicka and Michał Bodziony, PCS Paruch Chruściel Schiffter Stępień | Littler Global
Header paruch

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, nearly 3 million refugees have crossed the Polish border. Many of them are now taking their first steps into the Polish labour market, which is open to Ukrainian refugees because of special legislation recently passed in Poland, particularly the Act on Assistance for Ukrainian citizens of 12 March 2022.

Many Ukrainians who have escaped the war will soon be joining the Polish workforce. Their unusual and extremely difficult circumstances mean that employers need to take an unconventional approach, for example, granting them a package of bespoke benefits. It is not only a matter of corporate social responsibility (CSR) but also of human compassion and empathy.

Apart from the standard perks that are expected nowadays, such as private medical care or a Multisport card, employers can offer their Ukrainian employees several other benefits.

Free accommodation for employees and their families

Many Ukrainian refugees are trying to find their feet in the new reality where securing accommodation is a particular struggle. The lingering uncertainty of whether or not they will succeed in finding decent accommodation near their potential workplace can be a stumbling block when deciding on a particular job offer. Therefore, employers can help them by providing accommodation free of charge.

From a tax perspective, providing free employee accommodation will be considered a gratuitous benefit constituting part of the employee's income from the employment relationship. The value of such a benefit should be calculated as the equivalent of the rent payable in a lease agreement for accommodation made available to the employee. However, courts and tax authorities have divergent views on the issue. Therefore, it would be advisable to apply for an individual interpretation at the competent tax authority before introducing such a benefit.

What is undisputed here is that the employer's expenses for the employee’s rent are deductible expenses under tax law.

Help with paperwork

Even though the aim of the specific legislation concerning Ukrainian refugees was to reduce and simplify red tape, the provisions are inconsistent in many places and can lead to confusion. Therefore, employers can organise assistance for Ukrainian employees in dealing with all official matters concerning their immigration status, applying for social benefits, etc. It could be especially useful to organise free legal assistance hours at the workplace, as well as to arrange flexible working hours for Ukrainian employees and allow them to leave the workplace whenever it is necessary to deal with official matters.

Arranging childcare

The admission of Ukrainian children to schools, pre-schools and nurseries requires some paperwork as well. Moreover, not all parents will be able to provide appropriate care to their children while at work. For this purpose, an employer may set up temporary childcare facilities for employees' children by adapting some premises at the workplace and hiring childcare workers. Providing childcare could be connected with teaching the children Polish, which would be an added benefit for Ukrainian families.

Another solution compliant with CSR policies that employers can offer is covering the costs of a babysitter to make it possible for Ukrainian employees to work remotely if the nature of work and employee premises allow it.

Polish lessons and professional courses

Many Ukrainian families may consider staying in Poland even after the war is over. Therefore, financing Polish language courses for employees and their family members could be a particularly valued benefit.

Apart from learning Polish, Ukrainian employees are likely to need additional courses to adjust their professional skills to the specifics of the Polish market. Employers have a range of possibilities here, including financing professional workshops, courses or even postgraduate studies.

Benefits from the company social fund

Employers can also provide help for Ukrainian employees from the company social fund, if it exists. It can include monetary or non-monetary support provided in a difficult life situation resulting from fortuitous events, such as war. According to the law, eligibility for the company social fund benefits and their amount depends on the life, family and financial situation of an individual employee.

In principle, benefits from the company social fund are paid out after examining the life, family and financial situation of employees, which means that the amount of benefit they receive will vary, depending on their circumstances.

Professional psychological support

Refugees from Ukraine who have recently come to Poland have often seen and experienced traumatic events because of war. Any gesture of legal, organisational, or financial support is invaluable but it is crucial not to forget that these people also need support in dealing with the stress and anxiety they are facing. Providing free psychological support to Ukrainian employees and their families may be necessary to help them get their lives back on track.

The current circumstances require some creativity, openness, and empathy to help Ukrainians in as many areas of their new life as possible. This applies also to their employment. Employers can play a significant role in helping Ukrainian employees during this particularly difficult time. Faced with this extraordinary international situation, each benefit granted to a person who has experienced the tragedy of war constitutes a perfect example of CSR.

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