The government approves bonuses for healthcare and social services workers, new programmes to help entrepreneurs

Doctors and other medical staff in facilities providing inpatient care for patients with Covid-19 will receive up to CZK 75,000 in the form of an extraordinary bonus. Bonuses for working during the epidemic will also be awarded to workers in the non-medical professions and social services. At a meeting on 8 March 2021, Andrej Babiš’s government also approved two new support programmes for entrepreneurs affected by the coronavirus crisis in 2021. The allocation for the Antivirus programme will also be increased.

Healthcare workers employed by providers of inpatient care will be paid a bonus of up CZK 75,000 via the subsidy programme of the Ministry of Health, depending on the number of hours actually worked in the period from 1 October 2020 to 28 February 2021 at the provider’s workplace, up to the amount of their agreed workload. Unlike with spring bonuses, this time it will be allowed to report all hours worked up to a workload of 1.0 full-time equivalents also for health-care workers with lower workloads who have been forced to work over their agreed workload to ensure care in hospitals. Non-medical employees in these facilities will receive a bonus of CZK 30,000 if they work full time. The government has set aside CZK 12.2 billion from the State budget for these bonuses, and the employees should receive them with their April wages. For more details, see the press release of the Ministry of Health (in Czech language).

Employees in social services will also receive the bonuses. The amount of their extraordinary remuneration will depend on the workload and the number of hours actually worked and the complexity of the work. Employees of the 1st category founders in direct care and medical staff will be entitled to up to CZK 50,000 if they are working in direct care, and to CZK 30,000 if they are other employees; in the 2nd category for other services, the numbers will be CZK 25,000 for employees in direct care and CZK 15,000 for other employees. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will also announce a subsidy title for bonuses in the amount of CZK 25,000 for social workers of municipal and regional authorities and for employees in the field of social and legal protection of children. In addition to the financial possibilities of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the government released another CZK 5 billion for these bonuses. For more details, see the press release from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (in Czech language).

The government has also approved two new subsidy programmes to help entrepreneurs affected by the government anti-epidemic measures and the coronavirus crisis in general. Both of these are an alternative to current coronavirus programmes with the exception of Antivirus and Covid – Rent. They aim to simplify the current system of support and offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to choose a form of support they deem more advantageous.

The first Covid 2021 programme will be a subsidy for operating costs in the amount of up to CZK 500 per day for each employee in a labour-law relationship, including cooperating persons and executives with a contract to act as an executive. The condition for being granted the support is at least a 50% decrease in sales for the relevant period compared to the comparison period, i.e. for the first call, this is a comparison of the period from 1 January to 28 February 2021 with the same months of 2019 or 2020; there are also other conditions, for example, that the applicant was not a company in difficulty as at 31 December 2019. The government has set aside CZK 6 billion for this programme.

The Covid – Uncovered Costs programme will be an alternative for the entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs for whom the Covid 2021 programme will not be advantageous, or those entities that have not yet been able to obtain adequate support because they do not operate their activities in an establishment on the basis of a lease contracts or because they do not have employees, will be able to apply for assistance through this programme. This programme is also based on the condition of at least a 50% decrease in turnover for the relevant period (January and February 2021) compared to the same period in 2019 and at the same time on the condition that the business entity is in a loss for the relevant period. The subsidy in the amount of 60 percent of uncovered fixed costs, at most CZK 40 million, is to help these entrepreneurs to pay for the costs or expenses that are not covered by revenues or income. Up to CZK 6 billion will be allocated for this programme as well.

The government will add another CZK 8 billion to cover the costs of the targeted employment support programme Antivirus this year. The reason for this increase in allocation is the fact that on 22 February 2021 the government decided to extend the Antivirus programme until 30 April 2021, which was not anticipated by the programme’s original approved budget. Until now, the Antivirus programme had an allocation of CZK 12 billion; after its extension, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs estimated the possible costs at up to CZK 20 billion.

The government has also instructed the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to issue a decision extending the VAT exemption for the sale of filtration half masks and respirators of at least the FFP2 class and other types of respirators without an exhalation valve. So far, the VAT waiver was valid until 3 April 2021; the Minister of Finance will extend it by a General Pardon until 3 June 2021, and it will now also apply to filters and other accessories.

At the same time, the Ministry of Finance will also extend the period for filing a tax return. For taxable persons who are obliged to file a tax return for the 2020 taxable period by 1 April, the deadline without fines and late payment interest is postponed to 3 May 2021; for entities that must file a tax return in the extended period until 3 May, the deadline is postponed to 1 June 2021. For more information, see the press release of the Ministry of Finance (in Czech language).

The government also approved the payment for patient transfers between the Czech Republic and other European countries from the State budget. These are cases where patients with Covid-19 would be transported to a healthcare facility outside the Czech Republic due to capacity problems of Czech hospitals on the basis of an agreement with a foreign party. If, as a result of the applicable legislation of the country to which the patient was transferred, such a Czech patient would be obliged to pay a co-payment, the State will pay for it. The Ministry of Health has been made responsible for the payment of any financial compensation for these cases; it may subsequently apply to the European Commission for a refund of the transport costs.

The government also discussed a plan for the gradual introduction of comprehensive testing of pupils, students and staff in schools and school facilities. The testing should begin as the students of individual years gradually return to full-time education, depending on the epidemic situation. The ministers decided to allocate 7,654,450 test sets suitable for self-testing from State material reserves for testing in schools. The tests will be provided by the Administration of State Material Reserves, by a transfer from the Ministry of the Interior in the amount of 2,654,450 sets and by purchasing the rest in the form of a public contract using all the possibilities of the Public Procurement Act.

The government also agreed to issue two new emergency measures of the Ministry of Health, which respond to the occurrence of new, more dangerous mutations of coronavirus in the Czech territory – the British, Brazilian and South African mutations. If laboratories suspect that a test sample may be one of these mutations, they will be obliged to report this fact to the Infectious Diseases Information System and, at the request of the National Institute of Public Health, send the sample for confirmatory examination at the National Reference Laboratory for Influenza and Non-Influenza Respiratory Viral Diseases. Patients who then become demonstratively infected with a South African mutation or those who had a risk contact with such infected person will have to pass another PCR test with a negative result at the earliest 14 days after the positive test or the last contact.

The government also decided, on the proposal of the Minister of Health, to dismiss MUDr. Jarmila Rážová, Ph.D., from her position of the Chief Public Health Officer, as of 14 March 2021. From 15 March 2021, MUDr. Pavla Svrčinová, Ph.D., will be entrusted to act as the Chief Public Health Officer, until a new Chief Public Health Officer is appointed.