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Changes in labor law: remote work law

  • Russia


    Remote work

    On 08 December 2020, the President of the Russian Federation signed Federal Law No. 973264-7 “On Amendments to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation (hereinafter, the “Labor Code of the Russian Federation”) with regard to the regulation of remote work and temporary transition of employees to remote work initiated by the employer in exceptional cases” (hereinafter, the “Law”). The Law will come into force on 01 January 2021.

    The reason for introducing the Law is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has revealed a lack of flexibility in labor legislation regarding the possibilities of using information technology and regulating remote work.

    The Law establishes the definition of remote work - the performance of work duties defined in the employment contract by an employee away from the location of the employer or its structural subdivisions provided that an information and telecommunication network, particularly the Internet, is used for the performance of said duties and for interaction between the employer and the employee on issues related to its performance.

    Labor law experts consider the final version of the Law to be a compromise between the interests of employees and employers.

    Remote work will be divided into three categories:

    • continuous remote work (during the term of the employment contract)
    • remote work for a specific period (but not longer than 6 months)
    • periodic remote work, in which the employee alternates between working remotely and working on location

    As a general rule, the basis for the introduction of a temporary remote work regime is an agreement between the parties in the employment contract, but the Law also defines situations where forced transfer to remote work is be possible without the employee's consent. For example, industrial necessity, a pandemic, a natural or man­made disaster, an industrial accident, other accidents and other exceptional events, as well as orders of state or local authorities would all be applicable situations for this Law.

    Peculiarities of work organization

    Now, in the case of a temporary transfer to remote work, the employer will provide the employee with the necessary equipment, and if the employee uses his or her own equipment, he or she will be reimbursed for the costs in accordance with the procedure and amounts approved by the local act. It is also provided for that remote employees will be paid for their business trips.

    However, the Law does not regulate the situation in which an employee is deprived of the opportunity to work from home due to certain circumstances - in particular, it does not regulate whether an employee is entitled to compensation for searching for an alternative job site.

    Electronic document management

    One of the reasons for the introduction of the Law is the necessity to establish a procedure for the use of electronic document management in employment related legal relations. This Law is innovative because it expressly states that an employment contract and an additional agreement to the employment contract that provides for the employee to perform work duties remotely can be concluded by exchanging electronic documents between the employee (the person entering the job) and the employer. At the same time, reinforced electronic signatures (qualified or unqualified) must be used when entering into employment contracts, additional agreements to employment contracts, their termination or material liability agreements in electronic form. In other cases, electronic documents can be exchanged using other types of electronic signature or in another format.

    Offline rights

    In accordance with the text of the Law, the time of interaction between the remote employee and the employer is included during working hours. Work outside the established working hours is overtime work and must be paid in accordance with the provisions of the Labor Code on overtime work.

    However, the Law does not explicitly regulate whether a remote employee can be offline during a working day. The situation in which an employee, on his own initiative, communicates with the employer outside working hours and then claims payment for their work, arguing that communicating outside working hours was a work necessity, remains controversial.

    Dismissal of a remote worker

    In the previous version, Article 312.5 of the Russian Labor Code provided that an employer may terminate an employment contract for remote work on the employer's initiative on the grounds provided for in the employment contract.

    This allowed employers to make decisions about terminating employment contracts with remote employees on such grounds as, for example, the employer's recognition of the work as ineffective or a change in the employer's development strategy.

    These provisions have led to discrimination against remote employees. As a general rule, termination of an employment contract is possible only on the grounds provided for by the Russian Labor Code.

    The Law amends the Labor Code of the Russian Federation and establishes only two additional grounds for termination of an employment contract with a remote worker in addition to those provided for by the Labor Code of the Russian Federation: i) the employee does not interact with the employer without a valid reason on issues related to the performance of work duties (a certain analogue of absence from work for a remote worker) for more than two consecutive working days from the date of the employer's request to do so, and ii) the employee changes the location where the work duties are performed, if the change of location makes it impossible to fulfill their duties in their contract as before.

    These changes will undoubtedly strengthen the protection of employees' labor rights compared to the provisions provided for in the Labor Code earlier.

    However, the provision allowing for the possibility of termination of the employment contract by the employer for the employee’s failure to communicate with the employer within 2 working days of being requested is extremely ambiguous, as it leaves room for numerous abuses both by the employer and the employee. We expect the courts to explain this provision later.

    On the whole, the adoption of the Law can be considered extremely positive, but a number of unregulated issues remain to be resolved in the courts.

    This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website.

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