Sick leave: entitlement to sick pay and sickness benefit

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Just because you are ill, have had an accident or cannot work for other medical reasons does not mean you will be left without money. You are entitled to money for the so-called period of incapacity, provided you have paid your sickness insurance contribution.

Glossary of sick leave related terms

Sick leave (zwolnienie chorobowe) – is a document issued by a doctor that certifies that you cannot work for a specified period. It is sometimes called ‘L-4’, after the name of the form on which the doctor issues the leave. Sick leave is often referred to when referring to a period during which someone is not working for health reasons.

Sick pay (wynagrodzenie chorobowe) is one of two forms of paying money to a person on sick leave. It covers short-term leave – up to a maximum of 33 days per year. It is paid by the employer, for example, when we catch a cold or twist our ankle. As a rule, it amounts to 80% of salary. Employees with an accident at work or on their way to work and pregnant employees get 100% of their salary.

Sickness benefit (zasiłek chorobowy) – This is the second form of payment for a sick person. We are entitled to it when a doctor issues (or extends) our sick leave for more than 33 days in a year. It does not matter whether we have been given several exemptions or the doctor has issued one for over a month.

In this situation, we stop receiving sick pay on the 34th day of sick leave. Still, the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) starts paying us sickness benefits. It is the same as your sick pay – 80 or 100% of your salary.

You are entitled to sickness benefits for the duration of your inability to work, i.e. for as long as the sick leave issued by your doctor remains in force. You can receive it for a maximum of six months (182 days) or 270 days (if you have received sick leave during pregnancy or suffer from tuberculosis). You are entitled to a rehabilitation allowance if you are ill for more than six months.

Please note that if you are an employee over 50, your sick pay turns into benefits after you have been on sick leave for 14 days. However, this changes little from an employee’s perspective; you are simply paid by Social Security, not your employer.

Who is entitled to sick pay and benefits?

The condition for receiving sick pay/benefits is that you have paid sickness contributions. An employee who has just become insured must have a so-called waiting period. If you take sick leave one week after signing your contract, you will receive neither salary nor sickness benefits.

The waiting period is:

  • 30 days – for employees covered by compulsory sickness insurance (i.e. those with an employment contract)
  •  90 days – for those who pay sickness contributions voluntarily (employed on civil law contracts)

The waiting period does not apply:

  • If you have an accident at work or on your way to work. Then, you are entitled to wages/sick pay immediately.
  •  When you change jobs, if you have been unemployed for less than 30 days (so there was a break in the insurance period of less than 30 days)
  •  If you return to work from maternity leave, parental or unpaid leave.
  •  You start work and become insured within 90 days of finishing school or studying.

Remember that if you are working on a contract of employment, sickness insurance is voluntary for you, and the waiting period is higher. Therefore, if you want to be covered by sickness insurance, declare your intention to pay sickness contributions as soon as possible.

If you are working and studying/studying, you are unfortunately not entitled to paid sick leave.

Your employer must pay your contributions! Avoid problems with ZUS.

Paying contributions is an absolute obligation of the employer. It should face the consequences if it is in arrears with payments or has not reported you to the Social Insurance Institution. Arrears in contributions should not directly impact whether you can, for example, go to the doctor at the National Health Service or get benefits. However, they can involve explanations to the ZUS, protracted proceedings and stress.

How to avoid this? If you suspect that your employer is not paying contributions, you can log into your account on the ZUS Electronic Services Portal. In the insured panel, you will find information about your insurance and payers.

If there is something wrong – ask your employer for clarification. You can also apply for monthly RMUA information. In it, your employer should detail all contributions due to Social Security and whether they have been paid.

If your employer refuses to give you the information, or you already know that the contributions are unpaid and the employer does not want to cooperate, you can report the matter to the PIP and ZUS.


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