Belarus: Amendments to the Labour Code
On 25 July 2014 the Law of the Republic of Belarus of 8 January 2014 No. 131-Z “On Amendments to the Labour Code of the Republic of Belarus” (the Law) entered into force. The Law affects more than 180 articles of the Labour Code.
The most material changes concern regulations on employment agreements (contracts), guarantees and compensation, social holidays, combining work with training as well as collective labour disputes. The Labour Code was also amended with regulations on employment of professional athletes and coaches.
Below is a digest of these amendments prepared by the SORAINEN Belarus Employment team.
1) Conclusion, amendment, and termination of employment contract:
- discrimination based on social background, age, and place of residence is prohibited;
- individual entrepreneurs and micro-organisations are granted the right to enter into fixed-term employment agreements when the work is of a permanent nature;
- in the case of changes in laws, employment agreements (contracts) must be adjusted accordingly regardless of the parties’ consent;
- the list of essential work conditions which the employer may change based on good industrial, operational, or economic reasons by one month’s notice to the employee is adjusted. So, now a salary raise is no longer considered an essential change of working conditions and therefore may be done without observing the notification procedure;
- on closing a representative office, branch or other company department, employees may be dismissed upon the employer’s decision to close (previously in these cases the employer could use only the option of staff reduction that required observing some limitations, e.g. prohibition on dismissing women with children under a certain age, obligation to offer other jobs available, even abroad, obligation to observe priorities of a certain group of employees to stay employed). Severance pay will be the same as in the case of company liquidation, i.e. three average monthly salaries;
- an employment agreement (contract) may be also terminated in the case of:
- establishment of legal restrictions with regard to particular activities preventing continuation of work (e.g. for a driver, a court decision that prohibits driving vehicles);
- emergence of circumstances preventing educational work in accordance with the law, including activities in the field of physical education and sports (e.g. establishing that a person has a criminal conviction but kept it from the employer);
- the list of grounds for dismissing pregnant women and women with children under the age of 3 years, single mothers with children from 3 to 14 years (disabled children under 18 years), is expanded. For example these women may be dismissed for health reasons making them non-compliant with job requirements.
2) Secondary employment, homeworkers:
- heads (managing directors) of private companies can work for more than one company. Previously, they could not combine a director’s job with any other employment, only medical practice, educational, or scientific activities;
- home workers may work at their place of residence or other premises they choose as well as freely using their own materials, equipment, tools, machinery and accessories.
3) Working time conditions:
- the list of persons who may take leave to care for children under the age of 3 years is extended. In addition to relatives any family member of a child may take leave (for example a stepmother). A family member may take leave if the child's mother goes back to work under an employment agreement (contract) or to full-time studies, is self-employed, practices as a notary, attorney, creative professional, craftsman, or works in the field of rural tourism;
- for overtime work or work during public holidays, weekends and holidays an employee is entitled to payment in addition to salary. The amount of additional payment in private companies should be established by the employment agreement (contract) and cannot be less that the "piece rate" or "hourly wage rate";
- with employee’s consent additional payments for overtime work, work during public holidays, weekends, and holidays may be substituted by additional unpaid days off. An additional unpaid day off may be granted if the employee has worked a full extra day. If work during public holidays, weekends, and days off exceeds the monthly standard duration of working time, with the employee’s consent an additional unpaid day off may be granted along with additional payment for overtime work.
4) Professional athletes and sports coaсhes:
the Labour Code establishes:
- terms and conditions of employment agreements (contracts) with professional athletes and coaches;
- grounds for transfer of athletes from one employer to another;
- specific working regulations for female and juvenile athletes;
- additional guarantees and compensation to athletes and coaches (e.g. an employer has to provide athletes and coaches with required sports equipment plus other material and technical resources);
- special grounds for terminating employment of athletes and coaches (e.g. dismissal in the case of disqualification of the athlete, use of doping in sport, failing to achieve certain results).
5) Salary in foreign currency:
In the past, Article 320 of the Labour Code exempted companies with a “commercial organisation with foreign investments” (COFI) from certain limitations set by labour legislation (e.g. to pay salary in foreign currency). This exemption was cancelled following abolition of the COFI status in January 2014.
This means that currently all Belarusian employers that concluded employment agreements in Belarus must pay salary in Belarusian roubles.
- By default the representative offices of foreign companies must also pay salaries in Belarusian roubles since enactment of the Regulations on Establishment and Activity in the Republic of Belarus of Foreign Companies’ Representative Offices, approved by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus No. 1189 of 31 December 2013. These Regulations establish that employment agreements (contracts) with all employees (including foreign employees) must be in line with Belarusian Labour laws. The Labour Code establishes that salary must be paid in Belarusian roubles.
- The Labour Code does not apply to employment agreements (contracts) concluded outside Belarus, unless otherwise stated by legal acts or international treaties.