· 2 min read · Features

A postcard from... Russia


Our 'postcard from' series keeps you updated on key HR areas in different countries

Economic briefing

Russia is emerging from a two-year recession following the 2014 slump in oil prices. Sanctions imposed by the West following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have further hampered growth.Figures released by the Russian Federal State Statistics Service show that recovery is being aided by a 1.4% increase in manufacturing.


Male life expectancy is low (64) and has been linked to heavy drinking. Women are having less children, with the birth rate at 1.7 per female, below the 2.1 births needed to replenish the working population. The situation is further exacerbated by low retirement ages. A Yale study estimates that Russia’s working population will decline by 25% by 2050.

Legal lowdown

Sue Warman, senior HR director, Northern Europe and Russia/CIS for SAS, says that Russian employment law is typically ‘pro-employee’. For example, probationary periods cannot last more than three months and employees must be paid at least twice a month. Employers are also legally bound to document the working life of an employee.

Warman reports: “Around 40% of all workers have trade union representation, which directly affects the style of employee relations management across the country.”

She also points to some notable differences between the UK and Russia, namely around discrimination. Russian law offers no protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Women’s rights

Russia’s protections for women could be considered antiquated by UK standards. In 2016 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) found that a Russian female navigation officer had been discriminated against when she was prevented from steering a ship. Her role is on a list of 456 occupations the country deems too arduous for women and a risk to their reproductive health.

However, Ashley Babey, former HR director for Moore Stephens CIS, spent two years in Moscow and recalls a rather different view of women in the workplace. “Women’s Day [8th March] is a public holiday in Russia. In our office we would give gifts to each of the women and throw a party in their honour,” he says.

From the HR frontline

“HR is still an emerging profession in Russia,” reports Warman. “The trend of increased overseas investment and the presence of international firms has driven [this] change.”

Babey has witnessed a move from a very autocratic structure to one that encourages open discussion. He recalls: “I think [it came as] a bit of a shock to some of the ‘old school’ management who were having to adjust to a more inclusive style.”