What do employers in Russia need to know? An overview of COVID-19-related developments
Russia has been adopting rules to counter the spread of the coronavirus since the beginning of March, both at a federal and local level.
As in most countries, employers and employees have faced various changes in their working modes, rights and obligations.
Developments at a federal level
General restrictions deriving from orders of the Russian Federation government
The government of the Russian Federation has introduced several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including:
- restricting access to Russia for foreign citizens and stateless persons from 18 March 2020 until 1 May 2020;
- freezing the validity time of residence permits, work permits, visas, work authorisations, permits to engage and employ foreign citizens of those who have obtained these rights, when the latter expires within the time frame 15 March – 15 June;
- allowing employers to continue engaging foreign individuals who do not have work permits as employees between 15 March and 15 June, provided that the employers have permissions to employ and engage foreign citizens and that they comply with the restrictions and sanitary measures;
- closing all border crossings.
Working from home/non-working days until 30 April
Since 28 March, Russia has been predominantly in a work-from-home/paid non-working ("furlough") mode, based on decrees issued by the President.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection has clarified the scope and applicability of this regime, which currently is due to end on 30 April.
Apart from certain categories of employer that are allowed to continue operations (in Russian), employers whose employees work from home or are furloughed should keep in mind the following:
- such days shall not constitute a legal ground to decrease employees’ salaries;
- such days are not weekends/public holidays and shall not be paid at a higher rate;
- as a rule, salary includes base salary, compensation and incentive payments, and employees must receive full salary for furlough days;
- payment for the furlough period must be the same as payments that employees would have received had they worked full time; and
- salary for the homeworking/furlough period shall be paid on the usual dates.
It is only possible to terminate the employment of a furloughed employee at the employee’s initiative, in accordance with a compromise agreement or due to the expiration of fixed-term employment contracts.
Notwithstanding the clarifications by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, termination of employment during the furlough period by companies that are subject to full or partial restrictions on their activities may trigger legal risks because the clarifications conflict with the basic legal rules contained in the laws as well as for practical reasons (eg HR officers are not allowed to meet with the employees to hand over mandatory documents).
Reports on potential terminations of work
Starting from 12 April, employers are required to record any planned and actual terminations of employment (and other required information, including about: liquidation, redundancies and potential termination of employment, other employment matters as required by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection) on a website provided by the federal government. The rules will be in force until 31 December 2020.
Developments in Moscow
On 5 March, the Mayor of Moscow – via Decree No.12-УM – put the city in high-alert mode and set certain restrictions for employers and employees. Since then, several decrees have replaced one another, maintaining the high-alert mode and implementing new protective measures.
Employers that are allowed to continue operations have had to measure the temperature of employees in the workplace, respond to official inquiries about any employees with coronavirus symptoms and those who have come into contact with such employees, as well as disinfect the premises where such employee was located.
Employees themselves must self-isolate for 14 days if they have returned from countries affected by coronavirus, have received an isolation order from medical officials or live with any individuals falling within these previous two categories. Employees who are older than 65 years old and/or suffering from certain illnesses are also requested to self-isolate until 1 May, and their employers must prevent them from entering the workplace. In addition, as of 22 April, employees with suspected novel coronavirus infections, who have manifested symptoms of acute respiratory viral infection or of any other acute respiratory disease, and those who reside with the above individuals to self-isolate at home and leave only under exceptional circumstances.
We recommend employers that continue their operations under the high-alert regime informing the employees of the new requirements to self-isolate and, where possible, arranging for them to work remotely.
Based on the latest decrees of the Mayor of Moscow, the following two measures have been adopted.
1. Visiting restrictions until 1 May
There are restrictions on visiting territories, buildings and premises (including offices therein) until 1 May.
Employers subject to these visiting restrictions are permitted to maintain personnel responsible for security, maintenance, processes that cannot be stopped due to their technical nature, and payroll administration. However, certain categories of employer (PDF, in Russian) are still allowed to engage employees at their workplace.
Employers whose employees continue working at the workplace, whether in full or in part, are required to issue a decision on the number of employees that are required on site, have been transferred to remote work and have been furloughed. They must also submit a report to the Moscow city authorities.
2. Digital permit to go outside – applicable since 15 April
Since 15 April, residents of Moscow have had to obtain digital travel permits to go outside (including going to work), although some categories of professions, such as journalists or advocates (ie those admitted to the bar), are excluded. Individuals (including the ones who exercise professions excluded from the requirement to obtain the permit) must link their electronic travelling cards for public transport to the permit or provide information on their cars to the system to use the digital permit.
Individual permits expire at the end of the day but work-related ones are valid until 30 April and have no limitations on the number of trips and destinations.
A permit may be revoked if false information has been provided in breach of the decree.