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20 april 2020

Employment Issues under COVID-19 Pandemic

MODELS OF EMPLOYMENT

During the pandemic, the following models of the employment relationship may be used:

  1. Remote work (Article 307-1 of the Labor Code)

Remote work is the work performed by an employee outside the employer's location using information technologies to perform this work and to interact with the employer.

Switching to remote work may be initiated by both the employee and the employer, provided that the work may be performed remotely. If the initiative comes from the employer, it is necessary to follow the procedure of changing the essential working conditions (CEWC).

Remote work may be set for a specific period of time, for example, up to 30.04.2020, or indefinitely. Reverse switching from indefinite or ongoing remote work to work in the premises of the employer should be made in the same way.

The notification of CEWC shall state a reasonable production, organizational or economic reasons. A pandemic is not one of those reasons per se, but it may be a trigger of such production, organizational or economic reason. For example, the closure of the office for disinfection due to employee’s coronavirus disease is considered as a valid organizational reason to establish a remote working mode for those employees who haven't been in contact with him /her.

Employees who are not interested in continuation of work in the changed conditions, may be fired under paragraph 5 part 2 Article 35 of the Labor Code with payment of severance pay in the amount of two weeks' average salary.

  1. Social leave without pay at the employee's request (Article 190 of the Labor Code)
  2. Social leave without pay or with partial pay at the initiative of the employer (Article 191 of the Labor Code)

Such social leave may be provided by the employer only upon the employee's written consent, provided that there is the need to suspend the work or reduce its scope temporarily.

The amount of partial pay is to be agreed with the employee.

The maximum duration of such leave should not exceed 6 months in total during the calendar year.

  1. Labor leave (Articles 170-172 of the Labor Code)

Labor leaves are provided in accordance with the leave schedule, which is to be approved at the beginning of the year. If it is necessary to postpone the leave period, the employee's consent is required (article 171 of the Labor Code).

Labor leave may also be granted early to all or certain categories of employees in case of unexpected suspension of work due to an accident, natural disaster, lack of raw materials or other exceptional and unforeseen circumstances (Article 172 of the Labor Code). The consent of employees in this case is not required.

  • Downtime (Article 34 of the Labor Code)

The employer has the right for reasons of production or economic nature (failure of equipment, mechanisms, lack of raw materials, electricity, etc.) to declare downtime with the employees maintaining at least 2/3 of the tariff rate (tariff salary), salary (Article 71 of the Labor Code).

  • Part-time work (shortened working day or shortened working week) (Article 118 of the Labor Code)

This change is considered as CEWC and requires, as described above, justification of reasons and compliance with the procedure (Article 32 of the Labor Code). Employees who are not interested in continuation of work in the changed conditions, may be fired under paragraph 5 part 2 Article 35 of the Labor Code with payment of severance pay in the amount of two weeks' average salary. If the proposed part-time work is less than half of the normal working hours, the severance pay in the amount of one average monthly salary is paid.

 

BUSINESS TRIPS DURING THE PANDEMIC

As of March 12, 2020 the employers must:

  • extend the period of business trips for the employees who cannot return to Belarus due to the coronavirus with reimbursement of travel expenses (transportation costs, rent of accommodation, accommodation (allowances cost) and expenses incurred by the employee with the permission or knowledge of the employer);
  • keep the salary of such employees for the period of extension of the business trip, as well as for the period of self-isolation upon arrival in Belarus, if it is impossible to work remotely, not lower than 2/3 of the tariff rate (tariff salary), official salary, salary.

Details are provided in the Council of Ministers’ executive order No. 194 of April 03, 2020 "On Official Business Trips Abroad".

 

TERMS of CEWC NOTIFICATION

As a general rule, the employer is obliged to notify the employee about the CEWC at least one month in advance (Article 32 of the Labor Code).

Moreover, as from 24.04.2020, if the CEWC (except for wages decrease) is caused by justified reasons for the adverse impact of the epidemiological situation on the employer’s activity, the notice period may be reduced to 1 calendar day (paragraph 14 of Decree No. 143 of 04.24.2020 “On supporting the economy”).

 

 

We will be happy to provide any further information or assistance should you are interested in the above procedures.

Should you have any further queries, please contact VMP eployment practice team partner Svetlana Dashuk (svetlana.dashuk@vmp.by) or associate Valentina Belko (valentina.belko@vmp.by)