Changes in legislation in the area of labour relations

On 29 June 2023, the President of the Republic of Belarus signed a law that introduces changes to labour legislation. To a large extent, the changes address the following issues:

  • work and recreation regimes
  • remote working formats
  • the procedure for exchange of documents between the parties of labour relations

Below we look at the main changes that employers and employees need to consider from 1 January 2024:

1.    Labour remuneration and deductions from wages and salaries

Change in terms of guarantee provision upon transfer

Currently, the Labour Code of the Republic of Belarus (hereinafter referred to as the LC) provides employees in case of temporary transfer a guarantee in the form of preservation of the previous average earnings for at least 2 weeks from the date of transfer. The new edition of the Labour Code is supplemented with a list of circumstances when such a guarantee is not provided to employees, in particular, when:

  • with the written consent of the employee for up to 6 months within a calendar year;
  • of industrial necessity;
  • simple.

Payment of wages

A uniform approach to the payment of wages has been established. From 1 January 2024, regardless of the type of employment contract concluded with an employee, wages must be paid at least twice a month (according to the current wording of the Labour Code, under the contractual form of employment the employer may pay wages once a month).

Withholdings from wages

The amendments also affect the issues of withholding from employees' wages. The employer will now be entitled to withhold (in full or in part) from an employee's wages the amount spent by the employer on organising meals that the employee has used.

2.    Working hours and holidays

Work on public holidays and public holidays

The list of work which may be performed on public holidays and public holidays has been supplemented. Now such work includes, among other things, work related to the holding of mass events in accordance with the established procedure. However, such work may only be performed with the employee's written consent. 

Duration of working hours of part-time employees

The uncertainty regarding the reduction of the length of the pre-holiday working day for part-time workers has been removed. The pre-holiday working day is now reduced for this category of workers in proportion to the duration of part-time work.

Rest and refreshment breaks

At the employee's request, he/she may not be given a rest and meal break if the duration of the daily work (shift) of the employee is not more than 4 hours. 

Timing of payment of average earnings for the period of labour leave

The rules concerning the timing of payment of average earnings for the period of labour leave have been amended. Currently, the employer is obliged to make the payment no later than 2 days before the start of the leave. The new wording of the Labour Code allows the employer to pay the average earnings not later than 2 working days from the day of commencement of the labour leave, provided that the following conditions are met:

  • Having the consent of the employee;
  • holiday is not granted in accordance with the holiday schedule (e.g. at the written request of the employee).

Division of leave into parts

The parties to labour relations by agreement between them have the possibility of dividing leave into 3 or more parts, even if this is not provided for in collective agreements or contracts.

Limitation on the duration of leave 

The duration of social leave for family and domestic reasons, to work on a qualifying scientific work (dissertation), to write textbooks and for other valid reasons has been limited. Now it should not exceed a total of 3 calendar months within a calendar year (previously there was no such restriction). 

3. Additional safeguards

Article 103-1, which provides employees with guarantees when undergoing medical examinations, is a new feature of the Labour Code. From 1 January, employees will have the right to be released from work with retention of their place of work, their position as an employee (worker's profession) and their average earnings. 

The frequency and duration of such release from work shall be based on the age of the employee: 

  • the general rule of thumb is 1 free day every 3 years;
  • employees who have reached the age of 40 - 1 free day once a year;
  • for employees who have reached the normal retirement age, as well as within 5 years before reaching such age - 2 working days once a year.

4. Remote work and electronic form of interaction between the parties to labour relations

Substantial changes have been introduced regarding the regulation of remote work. From 1 January it will be possible to perform remote work: 

  • on an ongoing basis;
  • temporarily (continuously for a specified period of time, not exceeding 6 months in a calendar year);
  • combined (to be performed permanently or temporarily with alternation of remote work and work at the employer's location during working hours).

At the same time, the establishment / cancellation of the remote format of work on the initiative of the employer is directly called a change in the material conditions of labour and entails the need to follow the established procedure.

The requirements regarding the form of interaction and exchange of documents between the employer and employees have been relaxed. Thus, most documents requiring a handwritten signature of an employee (or familiarisation with such documents) may now be executed by exchanging electronic documents (i.e. signed using an EDS obtained from the State Unitary Enterprise) or in electronic form, provided that the software and hardware tools used by the employer allow unambiguous identification of the employee. Exception - documents mediating the conclusion, extension and amendment of labour contracts, agreements on full material liability, which must be drawn up, as before, on paper.

The possibility for remote employees to familiarise themselves with documents both by exchanging electronic documents and in electronic form has been retained. At the same time, the need to exchange hard copies of such documents from 1 January 2024 is established by agreement between the parties. 

5. Other changes

In addition to those listed above, other significant changes have been made to the LC:

  • the concept of "an employee who does not allow violations of production, technological, performance and labour discipline" was introduced. Such an employee is an employee who, as of the date of contract extension/conclusion, has no disciplinary sanction that has not been removed or cancelled in accordance with the established procedure. The employer is obliged to extend the contract with such employees for the period until the expiry of its maximum term of validity;
  • the provision that the maximum duration of flexible time during a working day shall not exceed 10 hours and that for a reference period the sum of hours of working time shall be equal to the norm of hours for that period has been deleted;
  • the conflict with Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 5 of 15.12.2015 regarding the term for issuing a characterisation from the previous place of work has been eliminated. Now both legislative acts set the term of 7 calendar days from the moment of receipt of the request.

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