Analysis

Providing a driver with accommodation in the sleeper cab does not release employers from the obligation to pay a lump sum amount for the costs of accommodation

Statement of reasons to the resolution of the Supreme Court 

Legal alert (11/2014)

The Supreme Court published the statement of reasons to the resolution of 12 June 2014 concerning the doubts related to drivers’ stays overnight in the driver’s cabs. After the publication of the statement of reasons to the resolution it is possible to view the analysis made by the Court.

The alert titled “Lump sum payment for accommodation in the sleeper cab — ruling of the Supreme Court” pointed to an important resolution of the Seven Judges of the Supreme Court of 12 June 2014 in case No. II PZP 1/14. After the Supreme Court published the statement of reasons to the resolution it is possible to view the analysis made by the Court.

The Supreme Court examined the doubts related to accommodation in sleeper cabs and the need to make a lump sum payment for such accommodation, if it is considered that the employer did not provide the driver with free accommodation during a business trip. Considering the discrepancies in court rulings (see alert: “Supreme Court to resolve doubts concerning drivers sleeping in sleeper cabs”), the Supreme Court decided that: Providing an employee-lorry driver with an appropriate sleeping facility in the cab during international road transport is not provision of free accommodation as understood by § 9.4 of the Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 19 December 2002 on the amount and terms and conditions of determining payments due to an employee hired by a state or local public sector unit for business trips outside the country (Journal of Laws No. 236, item 1991 as amended.)”.

In the statement of reasons to the resolution, the adjudicating panel pointed to the need to differentiate between a “sleeping facility” and “free accommodation”. The former was also used in international law (European Agreement concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles Engaged in International Road Transport (AETR), European law (Regulation No 561/2006 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport) and Polish law (Act on the working time of drivers). However, the Supreme Court decided that “a sleeping facility” has significance only during examination whether a driver has been ensured the right to a daily rest guaranteed in the above legislation.

”Free accommodation” provided for in the Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 19 December 2002 (presently: Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 29 January 2013) is a broader term and generally refers to a hotel service, which apart from providing a sleeping facility satisfies other social needs. This is the reason why the Supreme Court decided that a “sleeping facility” is not “free accommodation”.

In view of the above, drivers are entitled to reimbursement of the costs of accommodation and if they fail to present bills for accommodation — to a lump-sum payment for the accommodation, even if the cabs were provided with a sleeping facility.

The statement of reasons to the resolution basically dispels all doubts and opens the way for drivers to pursue claims for a lump-sum payment for sleeping in the cabs in the case when the employer fails to provide free accommodation.

In consequence of recognizing such claims as arising from the employment relation between the driver and the employer, the period of prescription should be computed pursuant to the general rules (as in the case of claims resulting from work performance) — such claims are prescribed after a period of three years.

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