Labour Inspectors' Authority
A number of enterprises in Russia have recently been visited by labour inspectors, who have been inspecting both offices and production areas for compliance with Russian labour safety requirements. Specific legislation regarding the health and safety of workers and the workplace has existed for a long time in Russia. The Russian Constitution and the Russian Labour Code both guarantee all individuals the right to a safe and healthy workplace. Employers are obliged to take all necessary measures to provide employees with a safe working environment and ensure compliance with labour safety legislation.
During the past several years, the relevant authorities have become more diligent in their quest to ensure that employers in Russia comply with the provisions of labour protection legislation. They have the right to impose penalties and take other measures against employers who fail to comply with this legislation, especially if an employer tolerates dangerous or hazardous working conditions.
As a result of the increased attention to labour safety issues in Russia, two laws have been enacted in the past year. These are the Federal Law on Fundamentals of Labour Protection in the Russian Federation and the Federal Law on Obligatory Social Insurance Against Labour-Related Injuries and Occupational Diseases. These laws govern respectively the basics of labour protection in Russia, and employers' obligation to provide social insurance against labour-related injuries or occupational diseases. In addition to these two federal laws, new Regulations on State Labour Inspection in Constituents of the Russian Federation, which govern the activity and authority of the state labour inspectors, were passed early this year.
With the exception of embassies and institutions of similar status that operate in accordance with international treaties, all entities under Russian jurisdiction, including employers that operate in Russia, are required to comply with labour safety and labour protection requirements. In this regard, the labour safety rules apply equally to both Russian and foreign national employees working in Russia. Accordingly, companies with foreign investment and accredited representative offices of foreign legal entities operating in Russia must ensure that they implement the obligatory labour safety and labour protection measures in the same manner as is required of Russian enterprises.
Under current labour safety legislation, all employers must determine which requirements apply to their business and ensure compliance in order to provide employees with a safe and healthy working environment. In this regard, employers in Russia are required to carry out the following measures:
- compile company manuals and regulations on labour protection and safety measures in accordance with the relevant legislation;
- inform employees of the company's labour safety rules, and arrange for training in labour safety upon hiring new employees and subsequently at regular intervals;
- keep a record of the above and ensure that employees' signatures are obtained as confirmation that they have completed the training and are aware of labour safety rules and measures;
- arrange for medical examination of employees in certain instances;
- arrange for obligatory insurance against labour-related injuries or occupational diseases;
- undertake an investigation as provided by legislation in the event of a labour-related injury or diagnosis of an occupational disease;
- supervise labour safety issues and ensure that employees comply with the labour safety requirements; and
- provide access to the workplaces for state authorities checking compliance with labour safety legislation, including labour inspectors.
Labour Inspectors' Authority
Under the new regulations on state labour inspection, the state inspectors for labour protection and the state labour inspectors for legal issues monitor compliance with labour safety legislation in Russia. For this purpose they are authorized to:
- have unrestricted access to workplaces at any time in order to conduct labour and labour safety inspections, and to examine workplaces with respect to compliance with labour protection legislation;
- request and obtain from employers documents and information required to carry out inspections relating to labour and labour safety issues;
- issue mandatory directives to employers, requiring them to remedy any breaches of the labour protection requirements;
- suspend from work those individuals who have not completed training on labour protection and safety measures;
- undertake administrative investigation and impose administrative penalties on employers for violating labour safety requirements; and
- forward information on labour safety violations to the authorities for further investigation.
The reasons for a labour inspection may range from a planned review to a complaint from an employee or trade union. If visited by a state labour inspector, an employer should ask to see his or her identity card and obtain copies of any protocols or directives which are issued as a result of such inspection. Should the employer disagree with the contents of the issued documents, it is advisable either not to sign them or to specify in writing the nature of the disagreement. Companies must comply with the legitimate requests of state labour inspectors.
In certain cases where employees fear that they might suffer injury or ill health because of an unsafe working environment, they are entitled to discontinue working until the employer remedies the situation. Equally, the employee has an unrestricted right to commence court action against the company in the event that his or her right to safe working conditions has been violated, particularly if it has resulted in a labour-related injury or other significant negative consequences. In this case, should the company be held liable, it could be required to pay compensation to the employee, including compensation for moral damages.
Both the employer and the employer's officers may face administrative and civil liability for failure to comply with labour safety requirements. In addition, a company officer that is found to have been responsible for a violation of labour protection regulations which resulted in substantial damage to an employee's health could be subject to criminal liability. The company could be forced to temporarily suspend certain employees until labour safety requirements are observed. In extreme cases, where an employer has perpetrated a gross violation of the labour safety requirements, which might result in significant harm to employees' health, the company could be forced to freeze or altogether cease operations in Russia. As a result, the employers could face substantial disruption in their normal business activity and, consequently, significant losses.
Regardless of whether an enterprise operates on a large or small scale (for example, where there are only a few employees with no equipment other than personal computers and a photocopier), the labour protection rules will nevertheless apply, as they cover safety not only in terms of fire, electrical and construction hazards but also under public health rules, including rules for use of office equipment. It is therefore recommended to determine which labour safety requirements apply to your business and take steps to comply proactively with these requirements in order to avoid any adverse consequences.
For further information on this topic please contact Julia Borozdna or Alla Izmailova at Baker & McKenzie's Moscow office by telephone (+7 095 230 60 36) or by fax (+7 095 230 60 47) or by e-mail ([email protected] or [email protected]). Alternatively, contact Anya Kruglova at Baker & McKenzie's St Petersburg office by telephone (+7 812 325 83 08) or by fax (+7 812 325 60 13) or by e-mail ([email protected]).
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