COVID-19: Q&A on Russian employment law issues
1. What prevention obligations arise for employers?
Based on the Order of the Mayor of the city of Moscow dated 5 March 2020 (which is regularly amended), the employers have to
Arrange for temperature measurement of all employees and suspend from work in case of high temperature.
Prohibit access to place of work of the employees who (i) arrived to Russia from China, all EU countries, the UK, the USA, Korea, Iran, etc. (the “Infected Areas”). However, based on the Order of the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor) dated 18 March 2020 all persons (Russian or foreign nationals) returning to Russia are subject to self-isolation for 14 days.
Assist employees in observing a self-isolation regime.
Provide information to state authorities upon request regarding all business contacts of a person having COVID-19 and arrange for disinfection of the premises which were visited by this person.
2. Do employers have to provide employees with protective masks, disinfectants and similar items?
No, but employers are recommended to disinfect office furniture daily, arrange for air disinfection in offices, arrange for a stock of antiseptic agents for office cleaning, limit business trips, use audio and video conferences instead of meetings in person.
3. Do employers have to send an employee home if he or she is suspected of having a corona-related illness? Do the employees who were in contact with the sick employee have to be sent home as well? Does the employer have to report suspected cases or actual cases to the authorities?
Employers are obliged to send home all employees with symptoms of viral respiratory infections and help them to observe self-isolation for a period of 14 days.
There is no obligation to send home the employees who were in contact with the sick employee, while the employees who live together with the person who returned from the Infected Areas must observe the self-isolation for a period applied to the person who returned from the Infected Areas.
The employers must inform state authorities on all employees who have returned from the Infected Areas while all persons who have returned to Russia from any country are subject to self-reporting to the hotline as well.
4. Are employees entitled to be given garden leave or to work from home if they are afraid that there is a high risk of infection for them?
The current situation is not regulated by law and thus home office or a garden leave requires consent of an employer except for the cases listed above.
5. Are there state benefits if business operations have to be restricted due to a risk of infection, such as benefits for short-time working? If so, can employers order short-time work?
No, there are no state benefits for the employers if business operations have to be restricted due to a risk of infection, such for short-time working.
6. Do employers have a right to know what illness an employee is suffering from or whether cases of sickness exist in the employee's family?
No, since employees are protected by medical privacy. There are so far no exceptions from this rule for COVID-2019.
7. Is the employer entitled to order or take medical examinations/rapid tests or thermal scans or thermal images?
The employers are obliged to ensure screening of employees’ temperature only. Other listed measures require consent of the employee.
8. Do employers have to continue paying wages when the authorities have officially ordered quarantine?
All employees under quarantine restriction are considered as sick persons. Subject to receiving a sick leave certificate, employees are entitled to a sick leave compensation paid by the employer which is then reimbursed by the State Social Security Fund. Since the amount of the sick leave compensation is not high some employers undertake to compensate to employees the difference between the sick leave compensation and their salary amount. The Russian Government by the Order No. 294 dated 18 March 2020 approved the interim simplified rules for issuance of online sick leave certificates for those persons who have returned to Russia from abroad and who shall observe 14 days quarantine.
9. Do employers have to continue paying their employees even if the business is temporarily closed by official order? If yes, can employers request a reimbursement from the authorities?
So far there are no special rules and regulations on payments to employees in connection with a temporary close of business due to pandemic like in case of COVID-19.
However, one may argue that general Russian labor law provisions on idle time may apply. Idle time due to the reasons, which do not depend on the employer and the employee, is paid in the amount of not less than two-thirds of the base salary. Salary costs in this case are not subject to reimbursement by the authorities.
10. Is an employee obliged to work if nurseries or schools are closed due to the coronavirus and children have to be cared for?
Yes, the employees are obliged to work.
11. Are employers allowed to order employees to use up holiday or overtime/accumulate minus hours if they send them home due to a risk of infection?
12. Are employers allowed to still send employees on business trips in risk areas? Can the employees refuse to go on such business trips?
Generally yes. It is recommended to employers not to send employees on business trips outside of Russia. At the same time legally the employee cannot refuse to go on the business trips if the employer demands it. However, the vast majority of companies (especially state owned) adopt internal regulations which ban all foreign and restrict domestic business trips.
13. How to deal with private travel by employees: Does an employer have the right to know where an employee is travelling to? Is the employer allowed to dictate/recommend whether the employee travels or not? What are the employment-law consequences for employees if they travel to a risk area and have an infection when they return?
No, the employers have no right to check or influence private travel.
However, all persons that returned to Russia from abroad are subject to self-reporting to the hotline organized by the authorities. All employees who travelled outside of Russia - even if they do not have symptoms of the virus – upon return to Russia have to observe self-isolation for a period of 14 days (excluding a contact with relatives). If they have symptoms of viral respiratory infections, they must apply for medical assistance without visiting a hospital.