Russia: legal requirements for home office work
Due to the spread of COVID-19 the Russian Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and the Mayor of Moscow recommended all employers to switch to home office work where it is possible.
Furthermore, based on the recent order of the Mayor of Moscow persons aged over 65 shall stay at home while the employers shall support them in self-isolation; upon their consent these persons are to be transferred to a home office or shall be provided with paid vacation.
Unfortunately, the Russian employment law is not flexible enough and currently does not provide for legally safe options of mandatory transfer of employees to a home office or transformation of a regular employment agreement into a distant work employment agreement.
Note: A distant work employment agreement - introduced into Russian law in 2013 - provides for performance of job functions by an employee outside of the employer’s premises and allows avoiding the employer’s tax registration at the location of the employee. This agreement implies the use of the Internet and other communication means for concluding/terminating the agreement as well as performance of work. This type of agreement is rather beneficial for the employers; in particular, it may provide for additional (i.e. contractual) grounds for employment termination at the employer’s initiative and provides less work safety obligations.
In order to apply the available options, e.g. to change the employee’s place of work, the employer has to comply with a relatively complicated process on the change of essential terms and conditions of employment if the employee is not cooperative. This option requires a two-month notice and still remains rather questionable from a legal point of view.
Given this legal uncertainty the Russian Ministry of Labor and Social Protection published on 23 March 2020 on its webpage the recommendations for the employers on the option to arrange for a smooth transfer to a home office.
The recommendations and the best practice, inter alia, include:
1. Adoption of the list of employees to be switched to the home office (taking into account operational capacities);
2. Development of the internal policy on the remote work covering inter alia,
- the procedure for the exchange of data, documents, assignments and results of work, for provision of equipment to the employees (pc, stationary, etc.) or compensation to an employee for the use of personal equipment for work purposes,
- the employer's rules and forms of control over the employees for the duration of remote work (e.g. regular participation in conference calls, mandatory availability during business hours via mobile phone and e-mail, etc.).
3. Issuance of the employer’s internal order on the remote work and arrangement for acknowledgment of the concerned employees with this document;
4. Conclusion of an additional agreement on the remote work with the employees.
Please note that on 25 March 2020 the Russian President announced the next week from 30 March until 3 April to be a non-working week with an obligation for the employers to pay salary.
In response to the new work environment, it is widely discussed in mass media that the Russian State Duma will introduce changes to the Russian Labor Code soon that will allow a mix of office and remote work. We monitor regularly the upcoming legislative changes due to COVID-19 and will keep you updated.