This is another version of a legal act introducing specific changes to individual laws, which is to translate into the development of mechanisms facilitating the functioning of individual groups in the situation of social and economic changes caused by the covid-19 epidemic. Below we summarize the most important changes that the new version of the anti-crisis shield will bring.
Changes in the area of loans
Shield 4.0 focuses largely on changes to credit agreements. Entrepreneurs will be able to take advantage of the subsidised interest rate on loans - in the case of small and medium-sized enterprises it will be a maximum of 2 percentage points, and in the case of larger companies 1 percentage point respectively. The subsidies will not go directly to borrowers, but to banks. These, on the other hand, will reduce the amount of interest due on individual credit agreements accordingly. Importantly, interest rate subsidies are not to constitute income for the entrepreneur within the meaning of tax regulations.
The new version of the shield will also benefit individual borrowers who have found themselves in a difficult situation as a result of the covid-19 epidemic (e.g. lost their jobs or other main source of income). This group of people will be able to take advantage of the so-called credit holidays, thanks to which, at the borrower's request, the bank will have to suspend the obligation to pay instalments (both the capital and interest part) for a maximum period of 3 months). Credit holidays will concern both consumer loans and mortgages.
Importantly, credit holidays will apply only to credit agreements concluded before 13 March 2020. Borrowers having several loans at the same time will be able to suspend the repayment of only one of them.
New labour law regulations
Shield 4.0 introduces further changes in the relations between employers and employees, which is supposed to make it easier for employers to function during the epidemic and protect them from the need to make redundancies.
It is supposed to be easier for employers to recommend an employee to perform their tasks in the so-called remote form. However, there are no provisions in the shield that directly entitle employees to apply for reimbursement of the costs of using their own resources (e.g. electricity or Internet connection) while working remotely. This issue will therefore largely depend on the individual arrangements of individual employers with their employees.
It will also be easier for employers to plan the absence of their employees. During the period of an emergency or epidemic, the employer will be able to grant an employee, without their consent and without a leave plan, leave of up to 30 days of leave not taken by the employee in previous calendar years.
The provisions of shield 4.0 will also benefit employers who have suffered a decline in economic turnover but have not decided to include their employees in economic downtime (respectively, downtime under Article 81 of the Labour Code) or in working time reduction. Those employers will be able to apply for co-financing of wage costs by the Guaranteed Employee Benefits Fund.
Employers will also be able to take advantage of the provisions introducing the limitation of severance pay, compensation and similar benefits to an amount not exceeding 10 times the minimum wage for work.
Restructuring in a new formula
The court's approval will no longer be necessary for the company to open restructuring proceedings. Shield 4.0 introduces a model of the so-called rapid restructuring, for which it will only be necessary to conclude an agreement with a restructuring advisor and disclose in Monitor Sądowy i Gospodarczy the fact of opening the procedure for the approval of the agreement. Courts will participate in the procedure only in the case of an application for annulment of the effects of the opening of the procedure, which may be submitted by a creditor feeling wronged by the action of its debtor.
In order for the simplified procedure to be effective, the court should receive an application for approval of the arrangement within 4 months from the date of the notice. Importantly, the shield also introduces restrictions on the maximum remuneration of restructuring advisors, which is intended to protect entrepreneurs from excessive costs of proceedings. Simplified restructuring is intended to protect entrepreneurs in a difficult financial situation against enforcement proceedings, also with regard to receivables secured in kind.
For the rest, the 4.0 shield also introduces, among other things.:
- electronic hearings in criminal matters, which are intended to complement the existing possibility of conducting such hearings in civil matters.
- easing the debt burden on local government units.
- amendments to public procurement law, including an obligatory amendment to the contract if the circumstances resulting from the epidemic are deemed to affect the proper and timely performance of the contract by the contractor.