Home Law in IT January 1 morning: what you need to know about the new law on remote work

January 1 morning: what you need to know about the new law on remote work

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In 2020, many companies were transferring employees to telecommuting. And they didn’t always do it the right way legally. One typical violation is sending an employee to telecommute without their written consent.

In December, the State Duma passed a law that changes the rules for remote work. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2021. It will no longer be possible to reduce an employee’s salary due to a transfer to telecommuting, and remote workers will not need an electronic signature to sign most documents. Read about these and other facts below.

1. Employer can now transfer employee to remote work without his or her consent

The pandemic has once again made everyone aware of how inflexible our labor law is. When the need arose to move workers to remote work, companies began to think about how to legally formalize it. The problem was that by law it could not be done without the employee’s consent.

This is far from the only example where the Labor Code limits the employer’s arbitrariness. These are the things that supervisors are required, with few exceptions, to get the employee’s consent :

Engaging to work on weekends and holidays,

Involvement in overtime work,

transfer to another job, to another organizational unit, or to another location,

change in the job title of an employee,

engaging in another position – by law, a programmer cannot be forced to drive documents or replace a cartridge in a printer unless he or she agrees to do so himself or herself,

splitting the annual paid leave – it is illegal to send an employee on leave twice a year for 14 days instead of once for 28 days without their consent,

The carryover of annual leave to the following year,

Employee’s recall from leave,

Passing on an employee’s personal information to someone else,

  • Some other things.

  • Getting the employee’s consent means signing a supplemental agreement to their employment contract. If a company employs several thousand people, transferring the majority of employees to a remote location can make life in the HR department a living hell for a long time. Therefore, some companies were limited to the fact that the CEO signed an order on the transition to remote work.

    With the coming of 2021, everything will change. The government has realized how hard it is to pull off the bureaucratic flywheel, even in a private company, and has allowed workers to be transferred to telecommuting without their consent, if :

    • normal living conditions of the population are threatened by some kind of emergency situation like disasters, accidents, fires, floods, earthquakes, epidemics, etc;

    • authorities have decided to make it mandatory to work remotely for any reason other than those listed above.

    Once it’s over, employees will have to go back to their previous working conditions.

    2. You can no longer reduce an employee’s salary because they are on a remote job

    It used to be that your bosses could cut your pay just because you worked remotely. And some companies used to take advantage of that, even though everyone talks about employers cutting costs when they move to telecommuting.

    The Labor Code will now explicitly state that telecommuting cannot be grounds for a wage reduction. Therefore, if the company decides to transfer an employee to telecommuting without his consent, it will not be able to reduce his salary. And if the employee takes a telecommuting job right away, he or she should have the same salary as regular employees in the same position.

    3. You can now officially alternate between telecommuting and working in the office

    You could arrange with your supervisor that you work from home on Mondays and Tuesdays and go to the office on the other days. Or that in the summer you work remotely, and in the fall, when you miss the native faces of your colleagues, you come back closer to your bosses. It’s enough to spell it all out in your employment contract.

    You couldn’t make it official before : you either always go to the office, or you work remotely all the time.

    We, like many other companies, are very happy about these innovations. It is not convenient for everyone to work from home, so CROC is not against working in the office for a prearranged time. The main thing is to observe safety requirements. At the same time our company is developing a flexible approach to alternating between working remotely and in the office. In the meantime, about 90% of employees continue to work from home.

    4. The company must provide the remote worker with everything he or she needs to work remotely

    Those who are in the field can throw a stone at me: they say, there was something similar in the law before. There was, but the wording was very different, more vague. And some companies were able to find loopholes in them. Now it’s all written very clearly, you can’t get a clue.

    Any equipment, software, data protection and anything else an employee might need to work out of the office is the employer’s responsibility. And if the employee wants to use his or her own equipment, software, etc. – he should ask his boss for permission or at least tell him about it. The bosses, in turn, will have to reimburse the employee for anything he or she acquires on his or her own for work.

    Many companies are already doing this. And we are not lagging behind: the CROC provided laptops and protection equipment to everyone who needed it for work. We even allowed them to take home office chairs and large monitors during the pandemic to make their work more comfortable.

    5. Most documents no longer require an electronic signature

    Previously, electronic documents exchanged between an employee and a company could only be signed with reinforced qualified electronic signatures. Not every remote worker had such a signature, so from time to time he had to visit the office and sign the accumulated paperwork.

    Now you can use a predetermined email address to officially exchange documents. And no electronic signatures are needed. To make this scheme work, you have to write it all down in your employment contract or in the CEO’s order.

    But you’ll still have to use an electronic signature for addenda to employment contracts and some documents. Fortunately, it will be sufficient for the employee to have an enhanced not qualified electronic signature. And that makes life very easy.

    6. The grounds on which a distant worker can be fired have changed

    Actually, you can only fire an employee on the grounds that are listed in the Labor Code. And there aren’t that many of them.

    This is what can cause an employee to be fired without their consent :

    – Low qualification of the worker.

    You can only fire an employee because of low qualifications if the company does not have a position in which he or she could work with his or her qualifications. Or if the employee does not agree to work in such a new position. Before the employee is fired, he or she must undergo a special certification that confirms that his or her qualifications are low. Without all of these formalities, the termination will be illegal.

    – Repeated not very gross violation of job duties if the employee has previously had a disciplinary action.

    If you don’t grossly violate once, you can’t be fired. If the Labor Code does not explicitly state that the violation is gross, then it is not gross.

    – Gross violation of employment duties.

    But a gross violation is enough for one. Gross violations are :

    • absenteeism is absence from the workplace for more than four consecutive hours without a valid excuse,

    • appearing drunk in the workplace,

    • Stealing other people’s things (yes, yes, that includes stationery and tea in the shared kitchen, too) or deliberately damaging them,

    • disclosure of trade secrets or other sensitive data,

    • Some other things.

    – Downsizing.

    Downsizing must be real, not fictitious. If you were laid off, and a month later you see that your old company has opened a vacancy for a position exactly like the one you had, you can go to court and demand your job back.

    There are other grounds in the Labor Code for firing an employee without consent.

    Remote workers, until recently, were the exception. The Labor Code allowed the employer to come up with and specify in the contract with the employee additional reasons for dismissal. And some companies actively used it. There are cases where the court has recognized the lawful dismissal of remote workers, who have not violated anything at all. They were fired simply because their bosses wanted them to be.

    Beginning in 2021, this practice will become unequivocally illegal. In addition to the grounds for termination common to all employees, a remote worker can only be fired if he :

    • fails to contact his or her supervisor for two consecutive working days without good cause,

    • moved to another area and because of this can no longer perform his job duties under his previous conditions.

    The bottom line is this : Of the six innovations, three are in favor of the workers, one in favor of the employers, and two more should please both. The clear advantage is on the side of the oppressed class. Grandpa Lenin would have been pleased. 🙂

    And how did your remote work experience go this year? Was there any abuse from your employer, or were you provided with absolutely everything (a desk, Netflix subscription, Yandex.food or Kitchen on the block promo codes), and there was no point in going out? Write your stories in the comments – we’ll discuss it together))

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