Responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Russia: Measures Affecting Employers

March 19, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has urged the Russian authorities to take immediate steps to respond to the pandemic. The rules apply to every employer in Russia, whether a governmental agency or a company, or a branch or representative office of a company, including foreign companies. We summarize some of them below.

What Employees Should Do If They Arrive in Russia From Abroad

According to the Resolution of the Russia Chief Sanitary Inspector dated 18 March 2020 (March Resolution), all people coming to Russia from abroad must

  • report and leave their contact details at the specially established official hotline in each region
  • ensure self-isolation at home for a period of at least 14 days from the date of their return to Russia.

If such individuals feel unwell, they must promptly seek medical help from home but must not visit a medical organization.

This rule applies to any individual coming to Russia from any country in the world.

The self-isolation regime contemplates that an individual must not attend work, study, and generally minimize visits to any public places.

Legal Grounds for Employees Not to Attend Work During the Self-Isolation Period

Under the Russian Labor Code, an employee must have a legitimate reason to not attend the place of employment (for example, a sick leave certificate, or other reasons for absence.)

A self-isolated employee may apply for a sick leave certificate; the Russian authorities must provide such certificate to the employee without such employee’s visit to a medical organization.

Staying at home during the self-isolation period is mandatory. Violation of the regime may result in substantial monetary fines (up to six salaries or other income received for a period up to six months) and imprisonment up to five years.

Payment to Self-Isolated Employees

The self-isolated employees must receive a compensation for the whole period of self-isolation in the amount that is equal to the sick leave payment made by an employer in a regular sick leave situation.

Moscow Measures Affecting Employers

In addition to the above, Russian regions and cities can also issue their own local-level regulations to limit social contacts, and some of them have done so already.

Moscow, as the largest city in Russia, introduced its specific measures, too. The rules apply to every employer in Moscow. We summarize some of them below.

Precautions to Be Taken by Employers to Prevent the Risk of COVID-19 Spread in Moscow

Any employer irrespective of the sphere of its business must undertake the following steps to mitigate employees' exposure to COVID-19:

  • ensure regular measuring of the employees’ body temperature at workplaces. Employees with high temperature (37⁰C or higher) must be suspended from work immediately. Notably, employers are not required to obtain employees’ consents to measure their body temperature and to process such data, but this information must be destroyed no later than 24 hours upon receipt
  • assist suspended employees to comply with the self-isolation regime at home
  • report about all contacts of an employee diagnosed with COVID-19 at his/her workplace
  • disinfect all premises where a sick employee has stayed

The mayor of Moscow also requested employers to allow their employees to work remotely and to ensure that at least some of the employees do so.

Employees Working Remotely During Self-Isolation Period

If employees can fulfil their employment duties remotely, their employer may wish to consider implementing a remote or flexible working regime for such employees (distance employees).

The Russian Labor Code generally allows employers to set out a working regime where employees will work full-time outside the office. In practice, this means that a regular "in-office" employee may be transformed into a "distance employee" (upon consent).

To implement the above "transformation" an employer needs to amend the existing employment agreements and policies and prepare other formal HR documentation.

Given the circumstances, the full-fledged implementation of the distance employment arrangement may take significant time and effort. Some employers prefer to agree with the employees "informally" and the employees start working remotely without having formal documentation signed.

Such informal arrangement could also help to organize distance employment for those employees who are not under self-isolation but prefer to have a flexible work arrangement.