New provisions of the Russian Labour Code on remote working were introduced by Federal Law N 60-FZ “On Amending Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation” dated 05.04.2013, which came into force on 19 April 2013.

Remote work is defined as the performance by an employee of his job, as contemplated by the relevant employment agreement, from a location outside the business address (including outside the region) of the employer, or its branch, representative office, or other separate business units, or the permanent workplace, territory or a site directly or indirectly controlled by the employer, provided that the employee uses public information and telecommunication networks, including the internet, to perform his work and cooperates with the employer in this regard.

Labour laws and regulations apply equally to remote employees. For example, an employment agreement with a remote employee can be entered into and terminated by exchanging electronic documents. If a remote employee and his or her employer agree to exchange the employment agreement in electronic format, enhanced qualified electronic signatures shall be used. The use of an electronic digital signature is regulated by Federal Law No 63-FZ “On Electronic Signature”. After exchanging the employment agreement in electronic format, the employer shall send a certified copy of the employment agreement to the employee by registered mail with receipt acknowledged within three days of the execution date of the agreement. Such an employment agreement shall be deemed to have been made at the registered address of the employer.

In accordance with the Law, if an employee’s first employment is based on an employment agreement for remote work made in electronic format, the certificate of state pension insurance shall be obtained by the remote employee him or herself.

The parties to an employment agreement may agree not to make any records in the employment record book of the remote employee, and where it is the first employment agreement for the employee, may agree not to keep an employment record book at all. A remote employee may prefer not to have any records of the remote work in his or her employment record book (copies of the employment agreement and the termination order shall be sufficient to confirm the remote employment). It is worth mentioning that the remote nature of the employment relations should be reflected in the employment agreement.

As a general rule (which the parties may contractually choose not to follow), the working and leisure time of remote employees will be determined at their own discretion “unless otherwise set out in the agreement”.

These new rules have been introduced to promote simplified employment relations for both the employers and the employees. However, remote work and cooperation is not a new concept. The new provisions are expected to have a positive impact on the work of remote employees and help create the legal framework for the relationship between employer and employee, which will be governed by law and will ensure certain guarantees for both the employee and the employer. Of course, the new scheme is not without challenges and risks that are very likely to appear in practice. However, it is necessary to have these new regulations in place.

An important issue in this area is the question of whether a holder of an electronic signature key certificate is a legitimate owner of the electronic signature. As defined by Law N 63-FZ, a certificate holder is a person to whom the respective certificate has been issued. With the increase in the application of electronic signatures, there are now more categories of persons who are entitled to act as electronic signatories. As set out by Law N 63-FZ, persons interacting in electronic format include, but are not limited to, organisations, i.e. legal entities. Accordingly, legal entities can be legitimate owners of electronic signatures.