As Russian regions are lifting pandemic-related workplace restrictions, employers must start considering how best to cope with a vast array of issues, including restarting operations, reintegrating remote-working employees, implementing new and existing requirements, and protecting the safety of employees and customers. Employers who proactively plan for these challenges will be best positioned to adapt to the “new normal.”
This guide highlights the key considerations for employers when reopening their operations in Moscow, the largest city in Russia. It offers practical implementation steps they can take. This guide is focused on what can be done now with the understanding that special attention must be paid to further decrees of the Mayor of Moscow, orders of various departments of the Moscow government and other authorities, as well as guidance from the sanitary authorities including Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor) and chief sanitary doctors.
In this guide we review the measures set by the Mayor of Moscow’s decree “On Introduction of the State of Enhanced Alert,” which was initially issued on 5 March 2020 and since then amended several times, most recently on 27 May 2020 (Moscow Decree) and his new decree “On the Phases of Lifting Restrictions Imposed due to Introduction of the State of Enhanced Alert,” issued on 8 June 2020 (June 8 Decree). Note that other regions of Russia are implementing their own rules.
On June 8, the Mayor of Moscow announced the softening of the lockdown measures and the timetable for reopening further businesses. For example, the following businesses will be allowed to reopen or expand their operations, subject to compliance with applicable reopening requirements:
The above are just examples. You need to consult with the June 8 Decree to ascertain whether and when your business can reopen.
These businesses are in addition to those that were allowed to reopen in mid-May and early June, including retail shops and wholesale businesses, engineering firms and architecture bureaus, computer maintenance and household appliances service companies, industrial enterprises such as metallurgical, electrics, and optics production, furniture manufacturing, clothing manufacturing, and construction companies and some other enterprises; and the exempt organizations that continued to operate during the lockdown (for details on the exempt organizations, please read our previous LawFlash).
When planning to reopen the workplace, employers must carefully review the following rules:
(Please refer to the section on Anti-COVID-19 Measures of our previous LawFlash for more details.)
(Please refer to our previous LawFlash for more detail.)
Importantly, as drafted, these rules apply even if an employer decides to continue remote working regime after it can reopen.
The above rules impose multiple conditions that need to be in place for reopening. Some of them overlap. Employers should think about and plan for what processes and procedures they must develop and implement to comply with these rules and, at the same time, accomplish the successful and efficient reopening of their businesses.
Rospotrebnadzor’s recommendations indicate that an employer should seek to clearly communicate the safety measures to its employees. An employer can also conduct trainings, both for employees and for the management, to educate employees about the new rules and responsibilities.
An employer should also consider whether to formalize these procedures in a formal written policy. Formal written policies will help protect employees, reassure employees who fear returning to work, and may reduce employer liability upon reopening.
Where appropriate, for example in relation to the employee scheduling, employers should seek to enter into amendments to employment agreement to account for the changed working conditions.
The requirements outlined in the preceding section can be split into the following key work streams of the reopening procedures:
Below we outline certain issues to be considered in relation to each of the procedures.
Employers that have already made such determination should regularly reevaluate it to make sure they are in line with the current rules. When implementing social distancing in the workplace, an employer may wish to consider staggered shifts, alternating teams, or similar scheduling accommodations.
Special care should be taken when deciding how to implement the restrictions to attend the workplace that apply to vulnerable categories of employees including individuals with certain preexisting health conditions and quarantined individuals.
While it may sound logical to include health restrictions in the applicable scheduling policy, it should be carefully considered. A one-size-fits-all approach may be easy to administer, but given the nuance involved in the decisions, we are not advising employers to implement broad policies that may have the effect of keeping everyone in a certain protected category at home when the restrictions are loosened or lifted. Rather, employers should look at who can return to work on an individualized basis.
The Moscow Decree specifically requires personnel to participate in these screenings and provide relevant information to the employer. However, the following must be taken into account:
Further, employers should review and update their personal data protection policies to account for the processing of this health data, including on communicating this data to the authorities or third parties, where required. An employer should consider adopting tailored consent forms that its employees would sign to authorize the employer to process such sensitive data during the pandemic period. Once this period is over, this data must be destroyed in compliance with the Russian data privacy law.
The Mayor of Moscow announced that he considers further loosening the restrictions to allow businesses to reopen, but they expect the social distancing, sanitary, and other anti-COVID-19 spread requirements to continue until the vaccine is available.
In the meantime, on 8 June 2020 President Vladimir Putin signed amendments to the Federal Law on Emergency Situations allowing the Russian government to establish special rules and exemptions from the Russian Labor Code to address the COVID-19 situation. It is expected that the Russian government will use this right to set forth special rules for remote working, furlough, and staff reductions during the pandemic.
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