Goltsblat BLP advises that the President signed a law regulating “distance employees”

11.04.2013

Legal Update No. 417, 11 April 2013

International law firm Goltsblat BLP advises that on 5 April 2013, the President of the Russian Federation signed a new law No. 60 FZ, ‘On the introduction of changes to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation’ (the “Law”). The Law came into force on 8 April 2013 and introduced changes to the Russian Labour Code and the Federal law ‘On electronic signature’ in relation to the regulation of remote employees’ labour. The Law supplements the Russian Labour Code with a new chapter 491. This chapter includes all of the relevant articles regulating the details of remote employees’ labour.

The Law that the President signed differs significantly from the initial draft, both from structural and substantive perspectives. In this update, we analyse the changes introduced and consider the main features of the final version of the Law in greater detail.

1. The main concept and general features of remote labour

Among other things, article 3121 of the Russian Labour Code defines the conditions for using the electronic documents exchange. This method of communication between the employee and the employer is new for Russian labour law. A necessary condition for using the exchange is the usage of enhanced electronic digital signatures by both the employee and the employer.

  • the performance of a labour function outside the employer’s main location, branch or representative office, other structural subdivision, or permanent workplace, territory or facility which is under the direct or indirect control of the employer;
  • the usage of the Internet for performing work and communicating with the employer. This includes other commonly used information-telecommunication networks.

Furthermore, in another change from earlier drafts, the Law combines all of the rules and regulations concerning remote labour into one article: article 3121 of the Russian Labour Code.

Among other things, article 3121 defines the conditions for using the electronic documents exchange. This method of communication between the employee and the employer is new for Russian labour law. A necessary condition for using the exchange is the usage of enhanced electronic digital signatures by both the employee and the employer.

Other articles of chapter 491 of the Russian Labour Code, which the Law introduced, concern details of remote working contracts, working under those contracts and how they are terminated.

It should be noted that the way in which the Law is worded does not allow for the combination of remote employees’ characteristics (part remote worker, part ordinary worker). Article 3121 of the Russian Labour Code provides that the “employment contract on remote work is concluded” with those employees, which seems to prohibit changing the nature of their work on a temporary basis without changing the terms of the employment agreement on remote work. However, it is possible that in court or when practically enforced, that question would be answered differently.

2. The electronic documents exchange

Article 3121 of the Russian Labour Code provides that the following are allowed using the electronic documents exchange:

  • signing of employment contracts;
  • familiarisation with local regulations, orders, notices and the employer’s requirements;
  • provision of original documents for compulsory social insurance; and
  • requests for and provision of documents related to employment.

A drawback of this exchange is the need to duplicate the electronic documents that are sent between the parties in paper copies by registered mail.

3. The definition of working conditions upon parties consent

An important feature of the remote work rules of the Labour Code is that the parties have wide scope to decide the terms of the employment relationship. It should be noted that such freedom is unusual and is a relatively new feature in Russian labour law.

Chapter 491 of the Russian Labour Code provides that the parties may use the employment contract to agree the following:

  • the procedure for making entries in the remote worker’s work record book. The parties may also decide that there is no need to make entries, or no need to have a record book at all;
  • usage by the employee in course of fulfilment of employment duties of equipment or software in accordance with the requirements of the employer;
  • how the work done should be reported;
  • how costs associated with remote work should be recovered; and
  • grounds for termination of the employment contract.

4. The labour safety of remote employees

A significant advantage to an employer is a shortened list of requirements for the labour safety of remote workers, as provided for in article 3123 of the Russian Labour Code. From a general list of employer’s duties set out by article 212 of the Russian Labour Code, only the following three apply to remote workers:

  • ensuring sanitary, domestic, medical and preventative care services for employees in accordance with the requirements of the labour safety rules and also delivery of employees who became ill at work, to medical institutions, in case of necessity of emergency medical care for them;
  • compulsory social insurance for employees against industrial accidents and occupational diseases; and
  • the employee’s familiarisation with labour safety requirements.

International law firm Goltsblat BLP will monitor enforcement practice and any government agency clarification on the new chapter of the Russian Labour Code. We shall ensure that you are promptly informed of any relevant changes.

If you have any question or would like more detailed information, please contact: Nadezhda Ilyushina, Head of Employment, Pension & Benefits Practice, Goltsblat BLP: +7 495 287 44 44, Nadezhda.Ilyushina@gblplaw.com.

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