On 8 December 2020, the Russian President signed a Law* that amends the Russian Labour Code in relation to distance (i.e. remote) work.
This Law was adopted in response to the epidemiological situation in the Russian Federation and the need to adapt legislation on distance work to current realities and needs.
The Law will come into force on 1 January 2021.
What are the main changes introduced by the Law?
Remote work (“udalennaya rabota”) was the work regime introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic without being regulated by the Russian Labour Code. As a result of the Law, the concept of remote work is introduced in the Labour Code and is equated with the pre-existing concept of distance work (“distantsionnaya rabota”). Other than this distinction, there is no difference between distance and remote work.
It is possible to alternate distance work with work at a fixed stationary workplace.
Establishing distance work by agreement of the parties is allowed both on a permanent and temporary basis.
Temporary distance work is divided into two types:
- continuous work for a period determined by the parties (but for no more than six months); and
- periodic work when the employee alternates between work from the office and at a distance.
Distance work can be established by agreement of the parties, not only in an employment agreement, but also through an addendum to an employment agreement.
The procedures for interaction between an employer and a distance employee will be changed in the following way:
- To conclude, amend and terminate an employment agreement in electronic form, an employee can use an enhanced unqualified electronic signature.
- In other cases, distance employees and employers can interact by exchanging electronic documents using other types of e-signatures or another form provided that this form is specified in a collective agreement, internal company regulation, employment agreement or addendum to an employment agreement, and allows to evidence that the parties have received documents electronically.
It is prohibited to reduce the salary of an employee for performing his employment duties remotely.
Additional grounds for dismissing a distance employee are expressly established. The employer can terminate the employment agreement with such an employee if:
- the employee is not in communication with the employer on work-related issues without a valid reason for two consecutive working days; or
- an employee performing distance work on a permanent basis has changed his location and is as a result unable to work under the same conditions.
At the same time, under the Law the employer is no longer able to establish, at his discretion, other grounds for dismissal in the employment agreement, as was previously allowed.
Employees can be temporarily transferred to distance work without their consent on the basis of an internal company regulation in any exceptional cases where the life or normal living conditions of the population are in danger. The duration of the transfer is limited to the period of the circumstances that served as the basis for the employer’s adoption of this decision. If an employee temporarily cannot perform remote work, idle time is declared for reasons beyond the control of the employer and the employee. And the employee will receive payment of at least two-thirds of his official salary for the relevant period.
In the current situation, many employers have been forced to temporarily transfer their employees to remote work. However, in the absence of an appropriate regulation, employers used their discretion to determine the procedure for these transfers.
After the entry into force of the Law on 1 January 2021, employers with distance employees will need to revise the procedure for formalising distance work and their interactions with employees and bring HR documents (e.g. employment agreements, internal company regulations) and internal processes in line with the requirements of the Law.
If you have any questions on this eAlert, do not hesitate to contact CMS Russia experts Valeriy Fedoreev, Christophe Huet, Irina Skvortsova and Ekaterina Elekchyan or your regular contact at CMS Russia.
* In Russian