Working from home as a measure to limit the spread of coronavirus infection

According to the order of the Government of the Russian Federation of March 16, 2020 No. 635-P, from March 18, 2020 to May 1, 2020, in order to ensure state security, protect public health and limit the spread of new coronavirus infection, a temporary ban is set on the entry of foreigners and stateless persons to Russia, including those arriving from the territory of the Republic of Belarus, as well as citizens of the Republic of Belarus.

Similarly, for this period, the acceptance of documents for invitations to the entry of foreign citizens and stateless persons into the Russian Federation and work permits is suspended, as well as the issuance of all categories of visas by consular offices of the Russian Federation abroad.

Furthermore, people who have already arrived from the countries with an unfavorable epidemiological situation (including China, Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran, France, Germany, Spain, etc.) shall observe the self-isolation regime for 14 days after arrival in Russia. For violation of the self-isolation regime, a person could be subject to administrative liability, and those citizens who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (coronavirus) shall stay in the appropriate medical organization until complete recovery.

With regard to recent events connected with the spread of the coronavirus in Russia and strengthening of the countermeasures against it, an increasing number of employers are seeking to develop efficient actions aimed at protection of their employees. Currently, one of the popular measures is assigning employees with a remote working arrangement.

Russian Labor Code doesn’t contain such notion as “remote working arrangement” or any special requirements for its establishing. In accordance with the general provisions of Russian Labor Code it is not prohibited to the parties of the employment agreement to amend its provisions at their own discretion as well as to modify provisions on the working place. Thus, in order to temporarily establish the remote work the parties should conclude the addendum to the employment agreement.

As for the provisions of the addendum regarding the remote working arrangement, to provide the proper control and restriction on possible area of work accidents, it is recommended including in the addendum a condition that the employee shall perform the employment duties at his/her residence address.

In practice, in addition to change of the working place location, one may introduce additional amendments aimed at providing the proper performance of the employment duties by the employee. For example:

  • obligation of the employee to perform the employment duties remotely without decrease in efficiency and quality of work;
  • obligation of the employee to have in place necessary equipment for safe and efficient performance of the employment duties during the period of remote working arrangement;
  • obligation of the employee to use the corporate laptops and mobile phones and to be available for calls and any other ways of communication with the employer during the working day;
  • obligation of the employee to immediately report on the equipment breakdowns and other obstacles in performance of the employment duties;
  • obligation of the employee to provide the employer with the regular progress reports;
  • obligation of the employee to bear expenses connected with the remote working arrangement.

In connection with the remote working arrangement an issue on the labor protection remains unsettled. In order to minimize the risks of bringing to responsibility, it is recommended to the employer to follow the requirements established to labor protection with regard to the distance employees (article 312.3 of Russian Labor Code), that is to familiarize employees with labor protection requirements relating to use of the equipment recommended or provided by the employer as well as to review and make an investigation of the work accidents in case of their appearance.

We suppose that in case the company has difficulties with signing of the additional agreements with each employee, the company could adopt an internal regulation providing for the conditions and order of the remote working arrangement. In this situation in order to establish the remote working arrangement the employer shall:

  • issue an order establishing the remote working arrangement, specifying its term as well as the reasons of its introduction;
  • draft an internal regulation and familiarize all the employees thereof against signature.

In case of worsening of epidemiological situation, in our view, it is also possible to declare a downtime. Payment during the period of downtime due to the fault of the employer is carried out in the amount of at least 2/3 of the average employee’s salary, and for reasons beyond the control of the employer and employee - in the amount of at least 2/3 of the basic monthly salary (in proportion to the downtime).

Mazars lawyers are ready to assist in drafting of the necessary documents and advise in more detail on the rules of their formalization.