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Get a job in Russia

If you read this, chances are that you are thinking about getting a job in Russia. Or you may want to “hop”. The days are long gone when hoards of non-Russian speaking expats were flown into Moscow, earning astronomic salaries, living the high life in gated communities and roaming through hard currency supermarkets. But there is still a lot to gain from working in Russia. It is challenging, the experience is more intense and, let’s be honest, salaries and rewards can be very good.

If you have taken the psychological leap of landing a job in Russia, you will have to negotiate an employment agreement and your employer will have to obtain a work permit for. Most c
ompanies opt for the “highly qualified foreign worker” permit, which allows for a fast track procedure (a few weeks) and applies only if the salary is at least 2 million roubles (50,000 Euro) per year. The other option is the regular work permit. This takes 3-5 months and your employer must have guessed in advance that he needs a foreigner for that job because the quota must be applied for before 1 May of the previous year. A limited number of management positions is excluded from prior quota.

The message of the above being that it is not worth coming to Russia for less than 50K per year, there is a lot at stake for both parties and you may ask the “job security” question. If you work for a multinational company, you are likely to have an employment agreement with the company in your home country which continues to be valid during your assignment in Russia. Sometimes pension fund and social premiums are still being paid under that “mother contract” in order to keep you in the social security system of your home country. That does give you a level of protection you do not enjoy under the Russian social system, which is off limits unless you obtain a permanent residence permit вид на жительство) and vastly insufficient anyway.

Under the “highly qualified foreigner” work permit your employer must purchase a health insurance, in other cases that is up to you. This and pension, disability and unemployment insurance are crucial issues which are often overlooked.

Whether or not you are hired locally, the start and termination of your Russian employment agreement is a matter of Russian law. Russian law allows temporary employment only if you are hired for a project with a clear termination. In all other cases, the agreement is for an unlimited period, even if the text states otherwise: a judge can overrule the limited period and reinstate you in the former glory of your Russian employment position. Having established that a Russian employment agreement will not likely expire, termination is possible following repetitive violation of rules. Except for obviously intolerable behavior at the working place, a violation must be put in writing and you must be made familiar with it and allowed to clarify. Such violation expires after one year.

Another ground for termination is downsizing. When a company is downsizing, and the specific position you are in is terminated, you must be notified about this two months ahead. After your termination, you are still entitled to three months salary if you have not found another position instead. If you wish to dispute a termination by your employer, this must be done within a month. Dispute resolution by the courts is fast and there is no need for an expensive lawyer: anyone is able to represent you in court, even you if your Russian is good enough.