The Russian Government has included the coronavirus in the list of the illnesses that are dangerous for the general public. The first person with this infection has recently been found in Moscow. Please see the below overview of possible consequences of the coronavirus if you are a Russian employer.
Does the coronavirus trigger any additional employer's obligations in connection with health protection?
Russian law provides for a general employer's obligation to guarantee safe working conditions and labour protection to the employees. The employer is obliged, inter alia, to inform the employees about working conditions and labour protection and all related risks. Thus, you may consider issuing some email communication with a description of main precautionary measures that the employees may take due to the coronavirus.
The general employer's obligation is to take the sanitary anti-epidemic precautionary measures. As of now, no additional requirements to take particular measures in connection with the coronavirus have been adopted at the level of the Russian Federation. However, the employer may (but are not currently obliged) provide the employees with disinfectants, for example, in toilets or at the entrances to the company premises.
We note that additional obligations may be triggered depending on the type of business (including the size of the business, customer contact, manufacturing).
On the regional level the additional requirements for employers in Moscow from 5 March 2020 were introduced. The employers in Moscow must:
- ensure measuring of the temperature of the employees (with mandatory suspension from work in case of high temperature);
- cooperate with the employees to provide them with the possibilities of self-isolation at home;
- provide the authorities upon the request with the information on any contacts made by sick persons and ensure disinfection of premises where he/she was.
If the employer does not fulfil health obligations, it may be subject to administrative fines. Additionally, the employee may claim the reimbursement of the damages incurred.
Can employers continue to arrange business trips to China?
Currently the Russian Government has introduced a one-sided restriction suspending tourist trips of Chinese citizens to the territory of the Russian Federation as well as issuance of working visas for Chinese citizens. But this does not prohibit Russian citizens to visit China.
Generally, unless otherwise is indicated by the employment contract, the employee has no right to refuse from the business trip save for the special categories (pregnant women etc.).
Despite the lack of the official prohibition, the Russian Federal Service for Labour and Employment ("Rostrud") advises considering the epidemic situation in China and recommendations of the Russian authorities to avoid of trips to China until the situation is stabilized.
We also note that sending the employee on a business trip to China may be potentially considered as the employer's negligent performance of the labour safety obligations. We would recommend putting business trips to affected regions of China off until the situation stabilises.
Can employers oblige employees to work from home?
No, unless the employment contract provides for remote working or home-based regime. Otherwise the employer and the employee may enter into the addendum to the employment contract that will set forth the possibility of remote working.
Can an employee refuse to work because he/she is afraid of the infection in the company's office or while traveling?
Unless the employee is sick, the fear of the infection is not a justification to refuse to work. In case the employee is absent from work without justified reason, the employer may dismiss such an employee for gross misconduct (being absent from work) as the disciplinary action.
But the employee is entitled to refuse working if the danger to his/her health or life exists due to actual violation of the labour safety requirements.
The employee potentially imposes health risks to the other employees. What shall I do? May I suspend the employee from work?
If there is no justification for such suspicions, the employer cannot suspend the employee from work. Such suspension may lead to a claim from the employee regarding illegal restrictions to his/her constitutional right to labour and reimbursement of all the unpaid salary as well as compensation for moral harm. We recommend considering the option of remote working in this case.
If the employee was in a risk area (i.e. China, South Korea, Iran and others), the employer must notify the employee on his/her obligation to comply with "isolation" regime at home. This obligation was introduced by Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor).
Moreover, Moscow authorities obliged all the citizens returning to Moscow from their trips to the affected countries (for instance, Italy and other countries from the approved list) to perform mandatory self-isolation at home. For this purpose the employee may claim for sick leave certificate that will be delivered to him/her at home.
As noted above, Moscow's employers are obliged to ensure measuring of temperature within the workplace. If the employee has high temperature, he/she shall be suspended from work.
Some employers in Russia introduce the mandatory medical investigations for their employees returning from any trip abroad (either for business or personal purposes). We note that if the employees of the company are not subject to mandatory medical investigations in accordance with Russian law, such introduction shall be agreed with the employees and documented via addendum to the employment contract. Alternatively, the employer may adopt the internal regulation that an employee must be acknowledged with against his/her signatures.
Due to the coronavirus our company needs to expand manufacturing and needs to hire additional employees. Is there any specific here?
You may consider two main ways: outstaffing or hiring new headcounts.
In first case, you may enter into personnel lease agreement with accredited private employment agency due to temporary expansion of manufacturing. This personnel provision should not exceed 9 months.
In the second option you may enter into fixed-term employment contract for the term less than 1 year. The justification for a fixed-term agreement will be the same as above – expansion of the manufacturing.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.