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Russian Seista: to reduce or not reduce working week during the heat?

The weather in May in the capital region depresses, and all working individuals hope for a summer vacation, which may be spent in warmer regions.

But what about those, who are forced to stay in the capital and work during the entire summer in the hot city?

Russian Siesta

MPs, namely A.A. Ishchenko, I.K. Sukharev and V.V. Sysoev, support such category of people and have brought to the State Duma Bill No. 1101414-6 ‘On Amendments to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation’.

The main idea of this Bill is that in summer the working week should not exceed 35 hours (and even less for minors and disabled people), while the time of breaks for rest and meals should not be less than two hours.

The current wording of article 108 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation stipulates, that “during the working day (shift), an employee must be provided with a break for rest and meals for a period of not more than two hours and not less than 30 minutes”.

The group of initiative MPs substantiated this need for such changes by the fact, that during the hot summer, the human body is subjected to heavy loads and greater tiredness; after eating, the outflow of blood from the nervous system to the digestive system occurs, causing drowsiness and reducing efficiency, which means that the body needs more time for recuperation and return to normal operation. In this regard, according to MPs, extension of the duration of daily rest is intended to reduce the load on the body during heat waves, as well as to recharge the working population of the country.

Seemingly, it is difficult to disagree with people’s elected officials, especially as in their view the adoption of the Bill will not require extra expenses out of the federal budget, but this Bill, oddly enough, has received negative reviews of both the Government of the Russian Federation and the State Duma’s Committee on Labor, Social Policy and Veterans’ Affairs.

The Government of the Russian Federation has stated in the official response to the Bill that these legal relations are regulated by the by-laws, namely SaNPiN (Sanitary Rules and Norms) 2.2.4.548-96. 2.2.4. Physical Factors of the Production Environment. Hygienic Requirements to the Occupational Microclimate. Sanitary Rules and Norms, approved by the Decision of the State Committee on Sanitary and Epidemiology Surveillance of the Russian Federation No. 21 as of October 1, 1996, which, in order to protect workers from possible overheating or cooling at the air temperature at workplaces in the premises of above or below acceptable values, provide for the limitation of time, spent at the workplaces (continuously or cumulatively during the work shift). Referring to the existing provisions of articles 91 and 108 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation, the Government of the Russian Federation has concluded that ensuring of proper working conditions by reduction of working hours, establishment of additional work-breaks, provision of a separate rest-room, is the direct responsibility of the employer, as set forth in the legislation of the Russian Federation, and the additional regulation is not required.

State Duma’s Committee on Labor, Social Policy and Veterans’ Affairs, developing the arguments of the Government of the Russian Federation, referring to Provisions 22 and 212 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation, and Articles 25 and 32 of the Federal Law No. 52-FZ “On Sanitary and Epidemiological Welfare of the Population”, also concluded that the employer already has to maintain such working conditions, which correspond to the sanitary norms and rules, which do not allow employees to “overwork” during the heat, as well as to monitor compliance with the above-mentioned rules.

As rightly pointed out in the opinion of relevant Committee, SanPiN (Sanitary Rules and Norms) 2.2.4.3359-16 “Sanitary and Epidemiological Requirements to Physical Factors at Workplaces”, approved by the Decision of the Chief State Medical Officer of the Russian Federation No. 81 as of June 21, 2016, entered into force on January 1, 2017, according to which indicators of the microclimate should preserve the thermal balance of the human with the surrounding environment and maintain optimal or acceptable thermal state of the organism, and the employer is obliged to limit the time of stay of employees at the workplaces if the air temperature at such workplaces is above or below the permissible values. Furthermore, the standards, prescribed by this SanPiN, impose fewer working hours than limitations, proposed by Bill No. 1101414-6.

Hammering the last nail in the Bill, relevant Committee pointed out, that the term “summer time” is not used in the Labor Code of the Russian Federation, and, given the length of our vast Motherland, the “summer time”, in various regions of the Russian Federation, may be interpreted differently according to the temperature mode in relevant region; furthermore, the proposed change in working hours may result in additional financial burden on employers, as well as lead to the shortfall in revenues of budgets of all levels, and the economic evaluation of the proposed changes are not given by the authors.

In the presence of such reviews, the Bill is likely to be rejected.

So, gentlemen, we are going to work as before – minimum 40 hours per week, and expect that the employer will pay attention to the thermometer outside.

D.S. Grinevich, Partner of Legal-choice

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