On May 19, 2022, the Russian official publication Rossiiskaia Gazeta reported that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation had ruled that the amount of a severance package of a laid-off teleworker must be the same as an onsite worker’s severance package.
According to the plaintiff, she concluded a labor contract with the employer, under which she would work remotely and be terminated in case of a workload decrease. When she was eventually terminated because of a workload decrease, she received a lump sum payment that she considered unreasonably low and sued the employer for greater exit compensation.
The Labor Code of the Russian Federation states that when the termination of a labor agreement under the employer’s initiative is not the result of an adverse action, the exiting employee must receive a monetary amount equal to their average monthly salary, and depending on some specific circumstances, this payment may be increased to the amount of the employee’s pay for two or three months. (Labor Code art. 178.)
The laid-off employee argued that offering her a small amount of compensation only because she was a teleworker was unfair and constituted a violation of her labor rights. A district court that heard the case did not agree with the plaintiff, and the district court’s decision was confirmed by appellate and cassation courts. However, the Supreme Court quashed the decisions of the lower courts and returned the case to the court of first instance for a new trial in line with the Supreme Court’s comments. In its comments, the highest court said that the labor rights of an employee cannot change depending on the employee’s location and that a person who works remotely has the same rights as a person working onsite. The court based its decision on article 312.5 of the Labor Code, which says that “remote work cannot be a reason for lowering the employee’s wage” and extended the application of this article to severance packages as well.
Commenting on this ruling, the chairwoman of the Social Policy Committee of the Federal Assembly’s Federation Council (upper chamber of the legislature) clarified some specific obligations for employers and employees during telework. According to her, a special communications schedule should be established defining the hours when employees are required to respond to employers’ phone calls and electronic messages. Not responding to the employer outside of the established time frame cannot be considered a disciplinary issue. She also said that the employer cannot decide for an employee where they should be located geographically. Any place where an employee can connect to the office can be considered a suitable workplace. However, employees are responsible for ensuring an uninterrupted connection with the office. Teleworking employees can be fired if they do not communicate with the employer for two days, and problems with online connections are not considered a justifiable reason for not working.