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.
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).
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
Under the April Decree, these measures could be taken for the whole non-work day period or any part of it.
Under the April Decree, the non-work days do not apply to certain organizations and their employees; such organizations include
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.
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
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:
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.
People living in Moscow must
Further, the Moscow Decree lists measures mandatory for all employers in Moscow, including for example
Importantly, there are other mandatory measures such as those in decrees of Russia’s Chief State Sanitary Doctor.
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.
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.
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.
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).