On April 8, 2013, the president of Russia signed into law amendments to the Labor Code introducing a new Chapter No. 49.1 “On Remote Work”.
This new law represents a significant change and modernization of the Russian labor laws, for it will now for the first time be legal to arrange work on a remote basis at an employee’s home. There remain in the Labor Code prior provisions about so-called “domestic work”, but these provisions have had limited effect and have not in fact regulated the situation where employers hire people to work at their homes or otherwise remotely outside the office. The old rules of domestic work, which will stay in force, regulate a quite peculiar labor relation with a person that works in a capacity of a contracting manufacturer producing light consumer and artisan goods from materials and instruments provided by the employer or purchased by the domestic worker at own expense. Those provisions have not been applicable to organizing remote work for a broad category of employees. There has been a great need in Russia to apply a regime of remote working for categories of employees like IT specialists, sales representatives, consultants, translators, etc. Now, with the change, it finally becomes possible to properly regulate such work practices.
Under the new law, remote work (referred to in Russian as distance work) is understood to be work outside the employer’s place of business, its branch office, representative office, or other site beyond the employer’s control. The new law stresses the need to organize communication through means of modern IT telecommunication facilities by making it a necessary condition for remote work to use the facilities of various channels of IT telecommunication networks, including the Internet, to perform the work and to interact with the employer.
The provisions on remote work introduce a lot of possibilities for flexibility in the labor contract; most importantly it allows setting the conditions for termination of employment more freely without being restricted by the closed list of grounds for termination as per the general provisions of law.
Remote work is understood to be work outside the employer’s place of business, its branch office, representative office, or other site beyond the employer’s control. A necessary condition for distance work is the use of IT telecommunications networks, including the Internet, to perform the work and to interact with the employer (Art 312.1 Labor Code).
An important provision of the law is that it is explicitly stated that the hiring of a person for distance work does not constitute an obligation for the employer to register a branch or any kind of subdivision (no tax registration necessary). This conclusion can be drawn from the fact that according to the law a separate structural subdivision must be registered with the tax authorities if the employer organizes a stationary workspace at a separate geographical location (Tax Code Art 83(1) and 11(2)), whereas a remote worker’s workplace is by definition not stationary for the employer. The law on remote work contains a number of provisions that are specific to this kind of a working regime. According to the law, the remote worker (or a candidate for a vacancy) and the employer shall exchange electronic documents by means of enhanced qualified electronic signatures. But this is necessary only when so agreed between the parties. If there is no such agreement, then the parties need to ensure physical signature when such signature is required by law (Art 312.1 Labor Code).
The contract with the remote worker must explicitly stipulate the condition that the working regime is that of remote work. The contract may stipulate that the remote worker must utilize for the performance of the agreed work equipment, hardware and software, means of protecting information, and other technical means provided by or recommended by the employer.
The employment contract must foresee conditions regarding the following:
– Procedures and terms for providing equipment, hardware and software, means of protecting information, and other such technological means delivered by or recommended by the employer;
– Procedures and terms for reporting on work performed;
– Terms of compensation for use of the equipment, hardware and software (etc.) belonging to (or rented by) the distant worker;
– The procedure for reimbursing other costs connected with the performance of remote work.
The employer’s duties to guarantee labor protection and workplace safety apply to remote workers only if applicable to the nature of the working arrangement. If otherwise not specified by the employment contract, the remote worker decides at his own discretion on the daily working regime and time of rest.
A labor contract and addenda to it may be entered into via exchange of electronic documents. In that case, the employer’s location is indicated as the location where the employment contract was entered into. No later than three calendar days after the conclusion of the labor contract, the employer must send to the remote worker a duly executed hard copy of the labor contract by registered mail with delivery confirmation. The dispatch of the documents required to be submitted in connection with entering into a labor contract (Art 65 Labor Code) must be carried out by sending copies of them as electronic documents. However, when required by the employer, the job seeker must send such documents as notarized copies by registered mail with delivery confirmation.
An employee may be familiarized with work-related documents, including local normative acts and orders of the employer specified by the Labor Code, through exchange of electronic documents. In cases when the employee, in accordance with the Labor Code, is entitled or obligated to file an official request or provide the employer with an official explanation, etc., the remote worker may do so in the form of an electronic document. When so agreed between the parties, data on the remote worker are not entered into the labor book, and a labor book is not issued to a first-time worker.
Likewise, the parties are entitled to enter into a labor contract for remote work without using electronic documents in the traditional manner. In that case, the contract indicates the place where the contract was actually entered into. The job seeker submits original documents to be presented when entering into a labor contract. Furthermore, in that case the employer must provide for the certificate of state pension insurance for a remote worker who is taking up a job for the first time in his life. In this case, the worker is also entitled to demand that a labor book be properly issued.
In a range of cases, remote work requires due execution of written documents which are sent through the postal service as registered letters with delivery confirmation. An employer, even in a case where a labor contract has been entered into via exchange of electronic documents, is obliged to send the remote worker a duly executed hard copy of the labor contract. For provision of mandatory insurance, coverage for mandatory social insurance in the event of temporary incapability, and in connection with maternity leave, the remote worker sends the employer the originals of required documents. In the event of termination of the labor contract, even if it is specified that one should become familiar with the dismissal order in the form of an electronic document, the employer must, on the termination day of that labor contract, send the remote worker a duly executed hard copy of that order. In other cases, the use of hard copies is not mandatory.
The parties may in a remote work labor contract (as with domestic workers) set the terms of termination of employment more freely, without being restricted by the closed list of grounds for termination as per the general provisions of law.