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Coronavirus – Employment law update – Russia

  • Russia
  • Coronavirus - Country overview

20-03-2020

Overview

The spread of COVID-19 has with some delay extended to Russia and is affecting commercial and contractual relationships.

Our previous briefing on this topic (Coronavirus: Implications for Employers) set out the main issues facing employers when dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. In this update, we will look at some of the more common questions raised by employers in Russia.

1. Employer’s duty of care – what does the law in the Russia say?

Russian labour legislation regarding employer’s duty of care covers physical health. Safe working conditions are defined as working conditions which exclude the influence of harmful and/or dangerous industrial factors on employees or, if such factors are present, the level of their influence on employees does not exceed statutory norms. Further, employers are under a statutory duty to ensure occupational health and safety and provide working conditions which comply with laws and regulations at all workplaces.

Employers have a duty to purchase suitable work clothes, boots and other personal protective equipment and provide access to sanitisation. Further, a duty to provide first aid facilities.

Employers should, therefore, consider whether their existing arrangements for protecting staff and visitors take account of the risks arising from COVID-19 and they should regularly re-assess those risks as the situation develops or the government or World Health Organisation issues new guidance. This includes conducting risk assessments to identify the likelihood of staff contracting COVID-19 whilst at work and appropriate measures to control that risk.

Some Russian employers have started to provide personal protection equipment to their staff, such as alcohol wipes and hand sanitizers, with additional measures for staff at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Employers should inform employees about all social distancing and infection control measures they are taking and the extent to which they require their staff to adhere to these measures (such as personal hygiene, social distancing, etc.).

Employers may also consider implementing measures to screen visitors to their premises, for example requiring them to certify that they have not recently visited a high risk area.

Employers should consider implementing protocols to deal with employees under mandatory quarantine; who have self-quarantined; who have travelled to high risk destinations; who propose going on holiday to such destinations; or who appear to be at risk or are ill, potentially with COVID-19.

2. Business travel – should travel be restricted?

Employers may also consider implementing policies to minimise the risk of employees catching COVID-19 in the workplace.

Currently, there are no restrictions on business trips inside Russia. On 16 March 2029, the Russian government closed the borders of the Russian federation for international arrivals. Russia will deny entry to foreign citizens and stateless persons, including citizens entering the Russian Federation through the territory of Belarus as well as Belarusian nationals. There are however some exemptions, namely: diplomats and their families; truck drivers for international goods transport; crew members on airplanes, trains and ships; members of official delegations of foreign governments and international organizations; persons having diplomatic, official, or ordinary private visas issued in connection with the death in Russia of a close relative; permanent residents in the Russian Federation; and transit travelers not leaving airports’ international zone.

On 18 March 2020, the Chief State Sanitary Physician of the Russian Federation introduced significant reporting and quarantine rules aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. This includes an obligation on employers to assist in allowing employees to self-isolate at home and a requirement on individuals that have arrived from all foreign countries to undergo self-isolation for 14 days.

3. Flexible working - can an employer require staff to work flexibly?

Generally no, unless otherwise prescribed by the employment agreement. The employer may ask the employee to work from home, however unless there is a contractual provision requiring the employee to work from home, consent should be sought to the arrangement.

4. Staff who are unable or unwilling to attend work?

Such employees may take sick leave or annual leave (vacation).

5. If staff cannot attend work, are they entitled to pay?

This will depend on the reason for the non-attendance.

Employees who are sick are entitled to sick leave and the employer should apply usual sick pay.

If employees are quarantined, then as a general rule, employees are also entitled to sick leave and usual sick pay. The quarantine should be duly certified by a competent doctor.

Employees self-isolating and working from home at their employer’s request will be entitled to their full salary. Employers can ask employees to take paid annual leave (vacation) during this period, however this can only be applied with the consent of each employee.

6. Reporting - Can an employer require staff to report suspected cases of the COVID-19 relating to themselves or those they have come into contact with?

Employers are obliged to maintain a safe place of work and should consider taking appropriate steps to prevent staff who are infected (or who are likely to be infected) from entering the workplace. This may include, for example, measurement of employees’ body temperature and excluding those who have fever or other symptoms of COVID-19.

Employers can request staff to report if they are infected or have been exposed to infection. However, under data protection laws, such information about an individual’s health counts as a ‘special category’ of personal data which may only be processed in limited circumstances. The processing of this information (for instance what and how will be used and with whom it will be shared – as strictly necessary) should be made clear and employers should ensure that the processing is necessary and appropriate for the stated purpose and is carried out in a proportionate manner.

7. If there is a decreased requirement for staff due to the COVID-19 outbreak, can employers require employees to take annual leave during a shut down period?

No, this may only be done in agreement with each employee. The employee is then entitled to holiday pay.

8. What other contingency planning steps should employers be taking?

In Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other regions, employers are asked to measure employees’ body temperature and exclude those who have a fever from attending work.

9. Where can guidance from the Russian government and international bodies be found and monitored?

The Russia government’s website provides the latest official information on COVID-19 in Russia –

http://government.ru/

The World Health Organization’s information on the COVID-19 may be found here:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

10. If an employer has a business operation in an affected area, what additional steps should be taken?

Companies operating in affected areas should comply with local regulations and guidance from international bodies such as the World Health Organisation.

Beyond compliance with local laws, companies should ensure measures are taken to properly assess the risks to staff and the impact on business continuity and should adapt their plans accordingly.

11. Is there any obligation on a private employer to report any cases or suspect cases of COVID-19 to the relevant local authorities?

In Moscow, St. Petersburg and other regions, employers must provide a list of all employees who have had contact with other named employees confirmed as infected with COVID-19 upon request by the Sanitary authorities. Deadlines to provide these lists should be complied with.

 

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