LawFlash

COVID-19: Rules on Working in Russia During Mandatory Downtime

April 09, 2020

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked people to stay at home and introduced non-working days, initially from 30 March to 3 April and recently extended to 30 April. The non-work days are mandatory, save for certain exceptions. On 2 April, President Putin also authorized the heads of subjects of the Russian Federation (Russia’s constituencies) to provide further exemptions or stricter rules depending upon the epidemiological situation in the particular territories. This LawFlash addresses some of the issues resulting from these unprecedented measures, including concerning work that may be permitted during the downtime, with a particular focus on Moscow, Russia’s largest city.

Non-Work Days Extended to 30 April

President Putin delivered an address to the nation on 25 March requesting that people self-isolate from Saturday, 28 March to Sunday, 5 April, and established mandatory non-work days from 30 March to 3 April. These measures were set forth in a presidential decree of the same date (March Decree). On 2 April, President Putin in another address to the nation extended the non-work days from 4 April to 30 April, and issued a presidential decree to that effect (April Decree).

On the non-work days concept, please read our previous LawFlash.

In general, the non-work days are established to assist the government to ensure that people self-isolate and stay at home and do not go to their workplace other than in few exceptional cases.

In effect, the April Decree amends the rules already existing under the March Decree, but also introduced the new rules.

The Mayor of Moscow has also issued a separate decree addressing the measures to be taken in Moscow to fight the COVID-19 spread. This decree has been amended several times, most recently on 4 April (Moscow Decree).

Powers of the Heads of Russia’s Constituencies

Russia comprises 85 constituencies - the subjects of the Russian Federation.  Moscow is one of them.  The April Decree mandates holders of the highest office (heads of the highest executive authority) of the constituencies (a constituency head) to develop restrictive and other measures depending upon the specifics of COVID-19 spread in a relevant territory.

As the first priority, each constituency head must

  • determine the boundaries of a territory (relevant territory) where the measures must be applied;
  • suspend (limit) activities of certain organizations located in the relevant territory taking into account the April Decree rules concerning organizations to which the April Decree does not apply;
  • determine special procedure for movement of people and vehicles in the relevant territory other than vehicles conducting interregional transportation.

Under the April Decree, these measures could be taken for the whole non-work day period or any part of it.

Exempt Organizations

Under the April Decree, the non-work days do not apply to certain organizations and their employees; such organizations include

  • continuously operating organizations;
  • medical organizations and pharmacies;
  • organizations providing the population with food and essential goods;
  • organizations performing emergency work in emergency circumstances and (or) when there is a threat of spreading a dangerous disease, and in other cases which endanger life, health, or normal living conditions of the population;
  • organizations engaged in emergency repair and loading/unloading operations; and
  • organizations providing financial services but only in respect of emergency functions (foremost, settlement and payment services) (Exempt Organizations; on some of the issues concerning the Exempt Organizations see our LawFlash); and
  • other organizations as may be determined by a constituency head (Local Exempt Organizations).

Government Authorities, Mass Media Organizations, Systemically Important Companies, and Scientific and Educational Organizations

The April Decree repeats the March Decree rules regarding work during the non-work days for employees of the federal and municipal authorities, as well as mass media organizations. In sum, these entities must themselves determine the number of staff who continue working to ensure entity functioning under the circumstances.

The April Decree states that it may apply to so-called “systemically important organizations” and scientific and educational organizations upon agreement with the government (see our separate LawFlash describing the systemically important organizations). In other words, work in these organizations during the downtime is governed by other specific rules.

Moscow Limitations on Business

The Moscow Decree suspended (prohibited) the work of certain types of businesses in Moscow until 1 May. (Some of these businesses had been already prohibited by the earlier versions of the Moscow Decree.)

In essence, these are businesses associated with people visiting and gathering. Examples of prohibited businesses and activities include

  • public eating and food services (cafes, restaurants, bars, and others) other than working for takeaway or food delivery and canteens servicing employees;
  • retail sales, other than pharmacies, food and pet food stores, optics and stores selling essential goods listed in the Moscow Decree or online sales including with delivery option;
  • spa and beauty salons, saunas, solariums, and similar services where a customer must be physically present other than services provided by an organization which has a medical license;
  • recreational, cultural, sport, marketing, advertising, educational, and similar activities and services related to such activities in places of mass visiting;
  • attendance of schools and other similar establishments; and
  • activities offered by social centers and public libraries.

Local Exempt Organizations; Moscow Decree

The April Decree introduces the Local Exempt Organizations category which is of particular importance. In general, it permits a constituency head to allow certain organizations otherwise covered by the non-work day requirement to continue working during the non-work days.

The Moscow Decree introduced a general rule that an organization may decide not to limit its activity in Moscow unless its activity is prohibited by the Mayor of Moscow (see the section on Moscow Limitations on Business) or otherwise prohibited by the President or other laws and regulations. Such organization must determine the number of individuals (employees and individual contractors) in each of the following categories:

  • working in the workplace (office); it should be limited to persons who cannot work remotely because they must be directly involved in ensuring the technological and other processes necessary for such organization’s functioning (Essential In-Office Employees; most likely, it means that if a person can work remotely this person cannot be an Essential In-Office Employee);
  • working remotely; and
  • not working (being on the non-work day regime).

The organization must then report to the Moscow government about this determination. The Moscow Decree contains special rules and procedures concerning this reporting.

Importantly, organizations that continue working in Moscow must ensure compliance with both all-Russia and Moscow-specific anti-COVID-19 measures.

Anti-COVID-19 Measures

Individuals

People living in Moscow must

  • stay at home at all times, except for:
    • medical emergency or similar travel, travel to and from the workplace (provided the work activity is not restricted), or travel associated with the work requiring travel for certain permitted activities (e.g., transportation or delivery services), and in some other limited cases;
    • walking to the nearest grocery or pharmacy, or walking domestic animals not further than 100 meters (approximately 328 feet) from the place of living, and in some other limited cases; and
  • maintain social distance of not less than 1.5 meters (approximately 5 feet) ¾ with certain limited exceptions

Entities

Further, the Moscow Decree lists measures mandatory for all employers in Moscow, including for example

  • measure body temperature of employees and suspend from work those with high temperature;
  • provide assistance to employees who must self-isolate (e.g., people arriving from abroad, people with confirmed COVID-19, relatives or other people living together with the self-isolated people, people above 65 years of age or with certain diseases);
  • inform the relevant authorities of all contacts that an employee with confirmed COVID-19 had;
  • disinfect all premises where an employee with confirmed COVID-19 was present; and
  • ensure maintenance of social distancing including by limiting access to the workplace and mapping out the 1.5 meter distance on the floor.

Importantly, there are other mandatory measures such as those in decrees of Russia’s Chief State Sanitary Doctor.

Liability

Both Russia and Moscow recently introduced more severe liability for breaches of sanitary requirements and related regulations. For example, the Russian Administrative Offences Code penalties were raised in a new part of Article 6.3 from 500 rubles to 40,000 rubles (approximately US$530) on an individual, and from 20,000 rubles to 500,000 rubles (approximately US$ 6,600) and suspension of activity of up to 90 days on an organization. Under the Moscow Administrative Offences Code new Article 3.18.1 a failure to suspend business activities may result a fine of up to 300,000 rubles (approximately US$ 4,000) with increased fines for the repeated violations.

The existing criminal liability under Article 236 of the Criminal Code for breaches of sanitary requirements that caused mass infection or someone’s death under Article 236 of the Criminal Code has been increased as well. The fines were increased from 80,000 rubles to 2 million rubles (approximately US$26,500). The maximum imprisonment term under this article is up to five years.

Important

Whether your organization is an Exempt Organization or other organization whose employees can work in-office during the downtime, the rules that apply to such work, including concerning the number and categories of employees who can work in office and other relevant matters, must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to the rules applicable to all employers in Russia, there may be specific rules established in a territory where your enterprise is located or operating and rules established by your industry regulator.

Most likely, the rules governing work during the downtime will be further revised and updated.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force

For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. We also have launched a resource page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. If you would like to receive a daily digest of all new updates to the page, please subscribe now to receive our COVID-19 alerts.

CONTACTS

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact the following Moscow-based members of Morgan Lewis’s corporate and business transactions practice (Vasilisa Strizh and Anastasia Dergacheva) and labor and employment practice (Bela Pelman).