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Labor Corona-Law – Distance Work as a “New” Form of Labor Organization

In the present situation connected with the spread of the new coronavirus disease and the restrictions on “on-site” work, imposed by authorities, employers have encountered a problem stemming from incomplete suitability of the labor organization forms provided for in the Labor Code for the new realities.

Specifically, the outworking, the regulation of which is provided for in a separate chapter 49.1 of the RF LC, turned out to be not always convenient to apply, because for the application thereof it is necessary to make with the employee an employment contract of a separate type - an outworking contract. It is possible to make a supplement agreement on transfer to the outworking regime with those employees with whom employment relations have already been established, at the same time the possibility of setting of such outworking regime for a certain period of time and reversing it at employer’s initiative is arguable. Besides that, it is evident that the transfer of an employee to the outworking regime is subject to the employee’s consent because the terms of his/her former employment will be changed, while in view of the presence in an employment contract for outworking of additional grounds for employee termination, which the employer has the right to include therein, the chance of receiving of such employee’s consent is reduced considerably.

Home-based work is another form of organization of work which is provided for by Chapter 49 of the RF LC. It implies manufacturing of finished products, using materials, instruments and mechanisms with possible involvement of members of home-based worker’s family in the performance of work. It is evident that the original meaning of such form of organization of work does not meet the present day requirements. However, where the objective is the reduction in number of social contacts in an effort to curb the coronavirus disease, the performance of work at home i.e. at the place of worker’s residence is the form of organization which may promote the said objective.

The Labor Ministry pointed out on several occasions in its recommendations and answers to questions about organization of work during coronavirus epidemic at the possibility of applying along with outworking and home-based work of a so called “distance work” reime, though employment laws do not provide for such form. The Labor Ministry has voiced several opinions regarding formalization of distance work – from admissibility of just issuing of an order on temporary transfer to distance work to the necessity of obtaining of employees’ consent to distance working and making of a relevant supplement agreement to the employment contract.

In the event of transfer to distance work, employers are recommended to prescribe the procedure for organization thereof, which includes the work schedule, methods of exchange of information about job assignments and completion thereof. It is important to fix employee’s obligation to always stay accessible during working hours with mobile phone and computer switched on and with Internet connection, immediately respond to telephone calls and email messages, check incoming correspondence, see after equipment operability.

Furthermore, it would be reasonable to specify rules for interaction between the employer and the employee in detail. This would allow for avoiding disputes and minimizing cases of employee’s unfair conduct when the employer does not directly control employee’s workplace and work.