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Favourable changes for social cooperatives

17-01-2018

Easier functioning for social cooperatives due to new instruments of aid under the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons and the Labour Fund – these are only a few of the changes under the Act amending the Act on social cooperatives and certain other acts signed by the President of the Republic of Poland.

 

In 2018, social cooperatives will face great changes due to the fact that the Parliament has passed the amendment to the Act on social cooperatives, Act on occupational and social rehabilitation and employment of disabled persons, Act on Personal Income Tax, Act on promotion of employment and job market institutions, and Act on government administration sections.

 

Disabled persons in social cooperatives 

 

To make functioning easier for social cooperatives, new instruments of aid under the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons. This refers to:

-       aid for disabled persons for starting business activity as part of a social cooperative, and

-       aid for creating a workplace at a social cooperative and aid for covering cost of remuneration for disabled persons referred for employment at a social cooperative by the District Job Centre who are at the same time unemployed persons or job seekers.

 

Apprenticeship at a social cooperatives for participants in Occupational Therapy Workshops

 

New regulations also provide for unpaid apprenticeship at an employer, including a social cooperative, for an disabled person pursuing an individual occupational rehabilitation programme as part of Occupational Therapy Workshops. The apprenticeship may last up to 15 hours a week for three months, with the option to prolong it to 6 months. It the case of apprenticeship served by a participant in a workshop, the cost of a disabled person’s participation in the workshop will still be fully funded.

 

Disabled persons in social cooperatives

 

Due to the amendment to the existing regulations, new aid instruments under the Labour Fund have also been introduced. Their target group consists of unemployed persons, job seekers who are not employed and without any other job and guardians of disabled persons being jobseekers, not employed and without any other job. In practice, this refers to:

 -       aid in the form of the option to award a grant for creation of a workplace at a social cooperative, and

-       aid in the form of the option to award a grant for finance the cost of remuneration.

 

Easier establishment of social cooperatives

 

The new amendment allowed the catalogue of persons who may establish and join a social cooperative as a member or as a person working for the social cooperative to be extended. Now, this catalogue includes also:

-       guardians of disabled persons being job seekers not employed or without any other job referred to in the Act on promotion of employment and job market institutions;

-       job seekers who are not employed and without other job (this category was added during the work on the Act in the Sejm);

-       persons being made independent upon leaving foster care (this category was added during the work on the Act in the Sejm).

 

Due to the fact that new categories of persons at risk of social exclusion who may establish or join a social cooperative have been added, the catalogue of documents enclosed to an application for the registration of a social cooperative in the National Court Register has been extended by adding the certificate of compliance with the requirement of being a job seeker who is not employed and without any other job from the job district centre or declaration of the status of a person being made independent.

 

Reinforcement of the role of employees of a social cooperative not being its members

 

A very important change is related to the reinforcement of the role of employees of a social cooperative not being its members. This goal will be pursued e.g. through inclusion of this category of employees in the process of social and occupational reintegration and inclusion in the decision-making and consulting processes within the social cooperative. What is more, it will be allowed to reimburse social insurance contributions and part of the employer’s cost also in the case of employees of a social cooperative who are at the same time persons at risk of social exclusion.

 

Easier establishment of a social cooperative

 

The Act provides for conditional reduction in the number of founding members from 5 to 3 with the obligation to supplement the founding member team of 5 within 12 months.

 

Furthermore, employment limits have been changed in the case where the social cooperative is established by persons with severe or mild disability and where the social cooperative provides services of social utility listed in the Act.

 

The Act also lays down the form of employment for social cooperative board members.

 

Obligations related to the first vetting

 

According to the new regulations, social cooperatives whose establishment was co-financed from the public budget are obliged to undergo the first vetting within six months from the date when the financial statement is approved.

 

More flexible division of financial surplus

 

Due to the amendment to the regulations, the obligation to allocate the financial surplus to the investment fund has been abolished. At least 20% of the financial surplus will be allocated by the social cooperative to increase the current reserves, and at least 30% will  be allocated to the specific goal of the social cooperative in the form of social and occupational reintegration of members and employees. Moreover, the regulations also provide for allocating the financial surplus to the mutual fund, which is created by the social cooperative if it establishes or joins a consortium of cooperatives.

 

The option to establish a “consortium of cooperatives”

 

In the light of the amended regulations, social cooperatives have gained the option to establish a consortium of cooperatives under an agreement. This is important from the perspective of increase in the economic potential of a social cooperative, joint organisation of production, trade and service network, organisation of joint promotion of cooperative activities, and joint bids related to public contracts.  

 

During the parliamentary work, the Senate passed the resolution amending the draft act in order to allow non-governmental organisations or the so-called “ecclesiastical entities” managing units whose goal is social and occupational reintegration of persons at risk of social exclusion – this refers to occupational therapy workshops, occupational activity facilities and social integration centres and clubs – to join the cooperative consortium agreement.

 

Derogation from contributions to the National Cooperative Council

 

Another change consists in derogation from contributions to the National Cooperative Council for social cooperatives that belong to a competent auditing association and pay analogous membership fees. This amendment came into force on 1st January this year.

 

6 months for amending a social cooperative's articles of association

 

The Act imposes an obligation on social cooperatives to adjust their articles of association to the statutory requirements within 6 months from the date the Act comes into force.

 

Coming into force

 

The Act comes into force on 31st March 2018, except the regulation governing the derogation from the contributions to the National Cooperative Council for social cooperatives, which came into force on 1st January this year.

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