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How to register at the labour exchange and receive unemployment benefit in Poland?

Achieving stable and well-paid employment, as well as maintaining it for a prolonged period, is a cherished goal of many labor migrants. However, reality often presents unexpected surprises, sometimes significantly different from expectations. Possible scenarios include job loss, unmet expectations, or even employer bankruptcy.

In such situations, the question arises: should one stop working and return to their home country, or continue searching for new employment? And what if the search for new employment is unsuccessful? In Poland, there is a measure of support in the form of unemployment benefits, available also for foreign citizens. In this article, we will explore this topic in detail.

What is Zasiłek dla bezrobotnych?

Zasiłek dla bezrobotnych is a state benefit for the unemployed, widely mentioned in official documents and laws. In colloquial Polish, this benefit is sometimes called kuroniówka.

Unemployment Benefit Standards in 2024

The amount of kuroniówka benefit is determined annually and depends on many factors, including the economic situation in the labor market and the specifics of the regional economy. For example, the duration of benefit payments can be 3, 6, or 12 months, depending on the region.

The amount of the unemployment benefit is determined based on the confirmed work experience of the unemployed:

100% (standard rate) - intended for individuals with a work experience of 5 to 20 years.
80% - for those with less than 5 years of experience.
120% - for workers with more than 20 years of experience.
In the first three months, the full amount of the benefit is paid, after which it decreases. For example, as of 01.06.2023, the following standards for Zasiłek dla bezrobotnych were established.

To receive the benefit, one must register at the local employment center and meet a number of criteria, which we will discuss further.

The Impact of the Method of Dismissal on the Benefit.

Usually, the method of dismissal - whether at the initiative of the employee, by mutual agreement, or by the employer's decision - does not affect the right to receive the benefit or its amount. However, it affects the start date of payments and the duration of the period for which it will be accrued.

The employment service analyzes all terminated contracts for the last 6 months before registration, which may include not only the last place of work.

Termination of the Contract by the Employer

If the contract is terminated at the initiative of the employer, the benefit, if assigned, begins to be paid from the moment of registration and continues for the entire established period.

This is considered the most advantageous option for receiving benefits, unlike others, which have their limitations.

Termination of the Contract at the Initiative of the Employee

When resigning at one's own will, the benefit starts to be accrued after 90 days (if entitled to it), and the duration of its payment is reduced. For example, if the unemployed person is entitled to benefits for 6 months and terminates the contract themselves, the accrual of benefits will start after 90 days and continue for 3 months.

An exception is made for resignations due to relocation or serious violations of duties towards the employee. In these cases, the benefit is accrued from the date of registration.

Agreement Between the Parties

If an employee, being out of work, meets the requirements for receiving benefits, and an agreement is reached between the parties, the accrual of payments will be carried out after 90 days, and their issuance period is reduced.

It is important to note that the agreement of the parties can be understood as resignation by mutual consent, without fulfilling the obligation to work out a notice period, as agreed upon in advance. If the proposal for resignation comes from the employer, it is necessary to carefully consider whether to accept it.

There are also exceptions by law. If the dismissal occurred due to the bankruptcy of the company, its liquidation, or the reduction of jobs due to reasons related to working conditions or change of residence, then in case of granting benefits, its accrual will be made from the moment of registration.

Disciplinary Dismissal.

In the event of dismissal in a disciplinary manner within 6 months before registration in the employment service, due to actions or inactions of the employee that led to the termination of the employment relationship without notice, the benefit will be accrued after 180 days from the date of registration.

This means that for individuals with a 6-month benefit, payments will not be made at all, and for those with a 12-month benefit, it will be accrued only after half a year and paid over the subsequent 6 months.

Who can register as unemployed or job-seeking?

The difference between the concepts of unemployed and job-seeking is as follows:

Unemployed - a person who does not have a job and meets certain criteria, registered at the labor exchange with the right to receive benefits.
Job seeker - this is a broader category. A person registered at the local employment center has access to vacancies and consultations and may have income (for example, from renting real estate or a job they want to change).
The main focus in this discussion will be on the unemployed.

Can foreigners receive unemployment benefits?

Foreigners can receive unemployment benefits in Poland in several cases, not touching on EU/EEA citizens and Poles.

Foreigners can claim benefits if:

They have a residence permit or long-term resident EU status.
They are refugees, have received protection, or are in other humanitarian circumstances.
They are part of families of EU citizens or Poles, having a temporary residence permit or awaiting it.
They have a Blue Card or a residence permit for scientific activities, as well as EU resident cards issued in other countries but wishing to work in Poland.
Foreigners from CIS countries can claim benefits provided they have continuously worked in Poland for at least 6 months prior to registration at the labor exchange.

This applies to:

Holders of a temporary residence permit for work.
Members of boards of directors without shares or stakes in legal entities.
Holders of work visas.
These categories can claim benefits provided they have continuously worked for at least six months prior to registration at the labor exchange.

Other Conditions for Receiving Benefits

Additional requirements include:

- The absence of a suitable vacancy at the employment center.
- Earning a wage or income of at least the minimum wage for 12 months out of the last 18 months, with full payment of taxes and contributions.
- The type of employment contract does not matter, periods of leave for child care, incapacity for work, and military service can be considered.

How to Register with the Employment Office in Poland?

The process of registering with the state employment service in Poland is a key condition for claiming unemployment benefits, known as Zasiłek dla bezrobotnych. To do this, it is necessary to submit documents to the employment service located at the address of permanent or temporary residence. In the absence of registration, any convenient center can be chosen, but this should be indicated when submitting the application.

Let's consider the registration procedure at the employment service using the example of Warsaw. 

Step 1: Preparation of Necessary Documents for Presentation to the Employment Service
For registration, the following documents are required:

- A valid passport with a visa or residence card.
- Educational documents, and if nostrification was carried out, information about it.
- Originals of all employment contracts, certificates from work, income confirmations, and others, confirming work experience for determining the size of the benefit.
- Information about family members (spouses, children).
- PESEL number, if available.
- Medical conclusions confirming the presence or absence of restrictions (disability, special permits for certain types of work).
- A completed application form for registration as unemployed.
- Signed consent for the processing of personal data.
- Confirmation of acquaintance with rights and obligations.

It is important to consider that each employment department may request additional documents. Also, depending on the potential employer, additional information may be required.

Confirmation of Work Experience

For foreigners, one of the difficulties in registering at the employment office is confirming work experience. It's important to know that the criteria for accounting for work experience may differ, depending on bilateral agreements and local norms.

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