Labor relations during martial law: what is important to know?
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Labor relations during martial law: what is important to know?

On March 15, 2022, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Law of Ukraine “On the Organization of Labor Relations in Martial Law” № 2136-IX. This article will analyze what innovations await employers and workers in martial law.

The changes apply to employees of all enterprises, institutions, organizations, regardless of ownership, type of activity, industry affiliation, and persons working under an employment contract with individuals.

The provisions of the law are temporary and apply only during martial law.

Concluding an employment contract

The employee and the employer independently agree on which form of employment contract to choose, i.e., to conclude the contract orally or in writing, or select the contract as a particular form of the employment contract.

When concluding an employment contract, a probationary period may be set to verify the employee’s compliance with the work assigned to him. The test condition must be specified in the order (instruction) on hiring. An important innovation is lifting the test ban for privileged categories of workers. Currently, the condition of probation for employment applies, for example, to young professionals, people with disabilities, pregnant women, single mothers, when transferring to another company, and so on. In peacetime, such persons were exempted from probation.

Regarding the term of the employment contract – the right of employers to conclude employment contracts with new employees only for martial law or for the period of replacement of a temporarily absent employee.

Transfer to another job and changes in significant working conditions

Can an employer transfer an employee to another job without his consent? The answer is positive. But if such work is not contraindicated for a health worker, this is not an area where active hostilities occur. The reason for the transfer is only to prevent or eliminate the consequences of hostilities and other circumstances that pose or may endanger the lives or normal living conditions of people. Wages, in this case – not lower than the average earnings from previous work.

If the employer decides to change the essential working conditions (pay system and benefits, benefits, working hours, establishing or abolishing part-time work, combining professions, etc.), he is not obliged to notify the employee two months in advance. Thus, changes can be announced even the day before.

Termination of the employment contract at the initiative of the employee

The employee has the right to terminate the employment contract on his initiative without notice two weeks before the desired date of dismissal. When this rule applies – in the case of work in combat areas, i.e., when the office or business is located in a place where there is a war, and there is a threat to life and health.

However, there are exceptions. If the employee is forcibly involved in community service in wartime or to perform work on critical infrastructure), he must notify the employer within two weeks.

Termination of the employment contract at the initiative of the employer

During the period of martial law, an employee may be dismissed at the initiative of the employer during his illness, on leave (except for maternity leave and childcare leave).

Work and rest time

The normal working hours of employees during martial law may not exceed 60 hours per week (in peacetime it was 40 hours).

For employees of privileged categories who have reduced working hours (workers aged 14 to 18 working in hazardous conditions) the working hours may not exceed 50 hours per week. In peacetime, 24-36 hours a week were set.

How much to work: five or six working days, determined by the employer at the discretion of the military command together with the military administrations. The start and end times of daily work (shifts) are also determined by the employer. Because both the current situation with regard to hostilities and the length of the curfew are taken into account.

The number of days off per week can be reduced to one day.

Restrictions on overtime work are removed. Such work can now exceed four hours for each employee for two consecutive days and accordingly be more than 120 hours per year. The limits of overtime work are not set.

The rules on holidays or non-working days and their transfer are not applied, the length of the working day before holidays or non-working days is not reduced, work on weekends is allowed.

Personnel record keeping and archival storage of personnel documents with the employer

During martial law, the organization of personnel records and archival storage of personnel documents is carried out at the discretion of the employer. Thus, the employer independently determines how to issue orders or directives and where to place personnel documents, in turn, to ensure their safety and prevent destruction.

Work at night

The following categories of workers are not involved in night work without extreme necessity: pregnant women and women with children under the age of one, persons with disabilities who are contraindicated due to their health conditions.

The duration of night work is not reduced by one hour and is not equal to day work.

Involvement of certain categories of employees

The use of women’s labor is allowed in heavy work and in work with harmful or dangerous working conditions, as well as in underground work. Exceptions are pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding.

Employees who have children (except those with children under one year) may be involved in night and overtime work, work on weekends, holidays, and non-working days, go on business trips with their consent.

Terms of payment

Wages are paid on the terms specified in the employment contract. That is, in size and in time, as in pre-war times.

However, in the event of an inability to pay wages due to hostilities, the payment of wages may be postponed until the employer’s ability to carry out its main activity is restored. As we can see, neither the terms nor the specific reasons for such a suspension are defined by law. The employer decides at its own discretion when to stop payments and how long it takes to resume them.

Collective agreement

Certain provisions of the collective agreement may be suspended at the initiative of the employer. Again, the procedure and grounds for such suspension, the procedure for notifying employees or trade unions, and the duration of the suspension.

Holidays

Annual basic paid leave is granted to employees for a period of 24 calendar days.

Can an employer deny an employee any kind of leave? Yes, if such an employee is involved in critical infrastructure. This rule does not apply to maternity leave and childcare leave.

At the request of the employee, the employer may grant an unpaid leave of any duration. The norm of 15 calendar days a year does not apply now.

Suspension of the employment contract

The employer has the right to temporarily suspend the work of the employee without dismissing him. The reason is the inability to perform work due to hostilities. In fact, work under the employment contract will be paused and the employment contract will be suspended. The employer is in no way limited in this matter. Therefore, the suspension is possible for any period that the employer deems acceptable given the current situation. After the end of military aggression, work can be resumed.

Reimbursement of wages, guarantees, and compensation payments to employees for the period of suspension of the employment contract in full is entrusted to the Russian Federation. However, it is unknown at this time what the recovery procedure will be and whether the employee will be able to receive benefits.

Activities of trade unions

Trade unions should do their utmost to ensure the state’s defense capabilities and ensure public control over minimum labor guarantees.

For the period of martial law, the provision on the allocation of funds by enterprises, institutions, organizations to the primary trade union organizations for cultural and mass, physical culture, and health work is temporarily suspended.

Conclusion

The law was adopted to regulate certain issues of labor relations in the new realities of life. Its norms are designed to ensure continuous operation, the rapid response of institutions, enterprises, and organizations, uninterrupted operation of critical infrastructure. The main task of employers and workers on the territory of Ukraine is to take all possible actions, both on the military front and in the rear, to overcome the armed aggression of the russian federation.

Author of the material:

Iryna Syroid, attorney at Trustme Law Firm