Provisions on remote work added in the Russian Labor Code
On December 8, the President signed Federal Law No. 407-FZ which amends the Russian Labor Code. These amendments will become effective on January 1, 2021. We have described them in this article as well as how employers should prepare for these changes.
The new law defines remote work as “the performance of work outside the location of the employer (its branch, representative office, other separate subdivision) as well as outside a stationary workplace, site, or facility directly or indirectly under the employer’s control. “The use of information and telecommunication networks for work performance and for interaction between the employer and the employee on matters related to work performance, including the internet and public communication networks, will be considered a necessary condition for remote work.”
Any employee working under an employment contract/additional agreement providing for remote work, or any employee temporarily switched to remote work by his/her employee under internal regulations in one of the cases provided by Article 312.9 of the Russian Labor Code (temporary switch of employee to remote work by employer in exceptional cases) is deemed a remote worker.
Remote work valid formats
Remote work is possible on an ongoing basis or as follows:
- Ongoing remote work for a maximum of 6 months;
- Combining remote work with office work.
Provisions on remote work must be included in employment contracts or additional agreements to employment contracts.
How to conclude an employment contract/additional agreement for remote work, exchange of documents
Employment contracts and additional agreements may be concluded by exchanging electronic documents.
In some cases, employers must use an enhanced qualified digital signature, while employees are to use an enhanced qualified digital signature or enhanced non-qualified digital signature. These digital signatures are necessary to conclude, amend, or terminate the following documents electronically:
- Employment contract;
- Additional agreement to employment contract;
- Agreement for material liability;
- Apprenticeship contract.
Other parties will be able to interact in any way that allows recording the receipt of electronic documents. How this is done must be specified in employment contracts, for example.
Now the parties must use enhanced qualified digital signatures when exchanging any electronic documents.
To get an employment contract/additional agreement on paper, employees will need to submit an application to their employer. If employers receive such applications, they will have to send a copy of the employment contract/additional agreement on paper within three working days of application receipt.
The documents related to the conclusion of employment contracts/additional agreements specified in Article 65 of the Russian Labor Code may be exchanged electronically. Employers are entitled to request notarized copies of hard copy documents.
It is allowed to conduct the review of internal documents of companies which must be done in accordance with Article 68 of the Russian Labor Code by exchanging electronic documents. At employees’ discretion, employment record books may be sent to employers by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt.
Interaction between remote worker and employer
It is now possible to exchange all documents required by Russian law in electronic form. Paper documents will be exchange only as and when necessary based on applications submitted by employees. We recommend employers to draw up internal regulations providing for the formats acceptable for exchange of the most important documents with employees.
It will be possible to provide for the main work conditions in employment contracts, additional agreements, collective agreements, or internal regulations adopted with due consideration to the opinion of the primary trade union (if any). The following will be among these work conditions:
- Working hours;
- Procedure for employees to transfer work and report on it at the request of their employer;
- Conditions and procedure to call a temporary remote worker to the office;
- Procedure for granting leave to a permanent remote worker (temporary remote workers take their vacation as per the general rules).
Remote workers’ interaction time with their employer must be included in working hours. If no collective agreements and internal regulations on the working hours of remote workers are available, and if no provisions on working hours are in their employment contracts and additional agreements to employment contracts, working hours will set at the remote workers’ own discretion.
Background information: Employees are entitled to time off from work. Any interaction between employees and employers during employees’ time off is included in working hours. Employers may interact with employees during their time off without employees’ prior written consent in the following cases:
1) to prevent disasters, industrial accidents or eliminate the consequences of disasters, industrial accidents, or natural disasters;
2) to prevent accidents, destruction of damage to the employer’s property, state or municipal property;
3) to perform work necessary due to the introduction of extraordinary or martial law as well as urgent work for emergencies, i.e. in case of disaster or threat of disaster (fire, flood, famine, earthquake, epidemics, or epizootic disease outbreak) and other cases threatening the life or normal living conditions of the entire or part of the population;
4) in cases provided in Article 312.4(5) of the Russian Labor Code;
In other cases, employers may interact with employees during employees’ time off with employees’ prior written consent.
Work organization for remote workers
Employers must provide remote workers with equipment, software, information security, and other tools necessary to perform their work.
Remote workers are entitled “to use with the consent or knowledge of their employer and in the employer’s interests their own or rented equipment, software, or other tools. In such case, employers must compensate remote employees for the use of equipment, software, and other tools that they own or rent, as well as cover the expenses associated with their use.
We recommend employers to adopt internal regulations providing for a procedure for use of equipment, software, and other tools, as well as a procedure for compensation of costs for them.
If an employer sends a remote employee on a business trip, then Articles 166-168 of the Russian Labor Code will apply to this employee.
Health and safety
Employers must ensure health and safety for their remote workers while they work remotely as follows (Article 1 Federal Law N 407-FZ dated December 8, 2020):
- Investigate and keep records of work-related accidents and occupational diseases as prescribed by law (Article 212(2(17) Russian Labor Code);
- Comply with the orders issued by Russian labor authorities, other federal authorities exercising industry-related state control and consider what is submitted by inspection authorities by the deadlines set out by the Russian Labor Code and other federal laws (Article 212(2(20)) Russian Labor Code);
- Provide compulsory social insurance against work-related accidents and occupational diseases (Article 212(2(21)) Russian Labor Code);
- Familiarize employees with health and safety requirements when working with equipment and tools recommended or provided by the employer.
Employers are not required to comply with other obligations to ensure safe working conditions and health and safety unless otherwise provided in collective agreements, internal regulations adopted with due consideration to the opinion of the elected primary trade union, employment contracts/additional agreements to employment contracts.
Employers must also familiarize their remote employees with “health and safety requirements when using equipment and tools recommended or provided by employers.” Other obligations for employers to ensure health and safety for remote workers do not apply but may be provided for in other documents by agreement of the parties.
Grounds for dismissal
In addition to the effective grounds for employers to dismiss employees, the following conditions have been added so that employers may dismiss employees working remotely:
- When employees have not been in touch with no valid reason and do not respond to requests for two consecutive working days from their receipt date (if this is not foreseen by the Labor Code, work contract, local company policy or other documents);
- When permanent remote workers move if, as a result of the relocation, they are unable to fulfill their work duties as set out in their employment contract.
If an employer decides to dismiss a remote worker, then the remote worker may be familiarized with the dismissal order remotely. It will be then necessary to send by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt a hard copy of the dismissal order within three working days of its issuance. The right to provide for dismissal grounds in employment contracts has been revoked.
Transfer of employees to remote work
Employers are entitled to transfer their employees to remote work temporarily in two cases:
- When an appropriate decision has been adopted by state or local authorities;
- When the life or normal living conditions of the entire or part of the population are under threat (e.g. in case of an epidemic).
In such cases, it will be necessary to adopt internal regulations with due consideration to the opinion of the primary trade union. This document must specify the reason for the transfer to remote work, its duration as well as a list of remote workers, and the circumstance for the transfer to remote work, the procedure and deadlines for submission of reports together with other provisions related to the transfer to remote work.
There is no need to obtain consent for transfer to remote work and amend employment contracts.
If the nature of the work does not allow switching to remote work, then the hours not worked by employees must be paid as idle time for reasons beyond the control of the parties at a rate of at least two-thirds of usual wages (salary).
Employees may be switched to remote work only for the duration of the circumstance that has prompted the transfer to remote work.
Each employee transferred to remote work must be familiarized with the internal regulations on remote work “in a way allowing to reliably confirm that the employee has received the regulations.” We recommend employers to ensure that a hard copy of these regulations has been signed and sent by registered mail, or that these regulations have been signed with an electronic digital signature.
There is no need to amend employment contracts and enter into additional agreements for transfer to remote work when the switch to remote work is done on the above grounds. When the remote work regulations expire, employees must return to work and perform their duties on the same terms as previously.