Remote work

n the Russian Federation’s Labour Code in 2013, there was a chapter dedicated to the regulation of the work of remote employees. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the transition to remote work became widespread, so it was necessary to clarify remote workers' legal status. All changes in the labour legislation on remote work, which came into force in 2021, are reflected in the Federal Law dd 08.12.2020 No. 407-FZ.

The concept of remote work has not changed. It is still a question of performing work outside of the employer’s location and outside of any facilities under its control.
However, in the new version of Article 312.1 of the Labour Code, remote work is divided into three types:
  • Permanent
    for the entire duration of the employment contract;
  • Temporary
    continuously, but no longer than 6 months;
  • Periodic
    when the "remote" work and work in a stationary place is possible.
Thus, there are no more questions of the legality of the "mixed" format of work — when an employee partially performs his functions in the office and partially outside it.

You can transfer to remote work not only newly hired employees but also those who already work in the "standard" format. In the latter case, the transfer terms should be reflected in the supplementary agreement to the employment contract.

In the previous version of Article 312.2 of the Labour Code, it was stated that electronic documents could be used when concluding an employment contract. But the mechanism of electronic document management, particularly the procedure for using electronic signatures, was not regulated in the previous version of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation.

In the new version of te Labour Code, article 312.3 details the procedure for electronic and "paper" exchange of information between an employer and an employee.

From 2021, enhanced electronic digital signatures are only required for the conclusion, modification, and electronic termination of the following contracts:
  • labour agreement and additional agreements to it;
  • documents about financial liability;
  • student agreement.

At the same time, the employer must have an enhanced qualified signature, and the employee will be able to use both an enhanced qualified and an enhanced unqualified ES. For other types of personnel documents (orders, applications, etc.), the parties may establish other forms of signing. These options must be specified in the collective agreement, employment contracts, or other company’s local regulations.
n the new version of Article 312.4 of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation, the employer’s ability to regulate issues related to the activities of a remote employee in local regulations is prescribed:
  • the mode of working time of a permanent employee on remote work or the frequency of performing a labour function during temporary remote work;
  • conditions and procedure for transferring a temporary remote employee to a stationary workplace;
  • conditions and procedure for such an employee to get a stationary workplace on their own initiative;
  • the procedure for granting all types of leave to an employee who constantly works in a remote format.

If the employer does not specify the working time in the local regulatory act, the remote employee can set it for himself.

The time of interaction between the remote employee and the employer (phone calls, video conferences, etc.) must be considered as working time.

With the new article 312.5 of the Labour Code, the State has protected remote employees from wage losses under the new work format. Now the law states that remote work cannot be the basis for reducing wages.

The employer is obliged to provide the remote employee with everything necessary for work, including equipment, computer programs, software, etc.

The remote employees can also use their own or rented equipment or other necessary means of work.

In this case, the employer and the employee should sign the agreement, and the employer will be obliged to pay the remote employee:
  • compensation for the use of personal / rented equipment;
  • expenses on the use of personal equipment.

The procedure, terms, and amounts of such payments must be established in the local act.
The new law retains the employer’s reduced requirements in terms of labour protection of remote employees (Article 312.7 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation). The employer is only obliged to acquaint employees with the requirements for labour protection, comply with the regulatory authorities' instructions, and find out the causes of accidents, if any.

The Labour Code of the Russian Federation introduced a new article 312.9, which allows employers in exceptional cases to transfer employees to remote work on their own initiative.

Transfer to remote work without the consent of employees is possible in the following situations:
  • in case of a threat to life or normal living conditions, particularly due to natural and human-made disasters, epidemics, after industrial accidents. You can transfer employees to remote work for the period while one of the listed events lasts or its consequences are not eliminated.
  • by the decision of the state authorities or local self-government bodies.

In any of these situations, the employer must not obtain employees' consent for a temporary transfer to the remote work. At the same time, the employer will be obliged to provide remote employees with the necessary equipment or other means, without which remote work is impossible.

The employer is obliged to train employees to work on the recommended or provided equipment, if necessary.
For the temporary transfer to remote work under Article 312.9 of the Labour Code, the employer must prepare a local act. The document must reflect all the essential circumstances: the reason for the transfer, the terms, the list of employees, the procedure for organizing work and providing the necessary equipment, etc. A reduction in the level of remuneration is not allowed. All employees who are temporarily switched to the remote work format should read and sign this document.

In this case, you do not need to make changes to the employment contracts. At the end of the temporary remote work period, the parties must continue to fulfill the current employment contract under the same conditions.

The 2020 version of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation allowed the employer to include in the employment contract with a remote employee any grounds for dismissal.

Now, for remote workers, only two additional grounds for dismissal on the initiative of the employer are allowed, compared to the standard rules (Article 312.8 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation):
  • if the employee did not respond to the employer’s request within the specified period without reason. This period is 2 working days, but the employment contract parties can also define a more extended period.
  • if the employee has moved, and the change of place of work has led to the fact that the labour function can no longer be performed under the same conditions. This situation may occur, for example, due to a significant difference in time zones.

In all other situations, the employer can dismiss remote employees on its initiative only according to the general rules specified in the Labour Code of the Russian Federation.
Thanks to the adoption of the new law on remote work, the position of remote employees has become more defined and stable since the beginning of 2021 Now such specialists are more protected from discrimination in terms of pay and working conditions.

The new version of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation provided additional opportunities for employers. Now they can send their employees to remote work if needed, as well as dismiss them on their own initiative for violating the order of remote interaction.

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