From record to relic: work books to be abolished

The employment history of Russians has traditionally been recorded in a labor book held by their employers. Source: ITAR-TASS

The employment history of Russians has traditionally been recorded in a labor book held by their employers. Source: ITAR-TASS

Russian companies will no longer maintain employment records for their workers, but many fear this will make it easier for job-seekers to lie about their experience.

Look at the résumé of a Russian job-seeker and any mention of references will be conspicuously absent. That is because up until now, that function was reserved for the labor book (trudovaya knizhka), a record of an individual’s education, specialization, past employers and the post and duties associated with each job they have held. That may all change soon, however, with plans by the Ministry of Heath and Social Development to introduce new rules governing labor relations and the abolition of the work record in 2012. Usually, the work record is kept by the human resources department of a person’s current employer until he or she resigns from that company. Now, with the development of new technology, this archaic system of labor relations appears to be a vestige of a bygone era. The data required to calculate pensions is set by the social security system and the qualifications and professionalism of the employee can be proved by copies of their degree certificate and work experience.

In their own words

Alexander Safonov Deputy Minister of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation " In the Soviet Union, the work book was an instrument of control over the lives of individuals. Then, there was a single list of requirements for a position, but now the employer determines how the employee fits into a specific position and the requirements for it.” Svetlana Yakovleva Head of the northwest Russia division of Ancor recruitment agency " As long as there is no transparency in the alternative ways of finding information about past work experience and confirmation of a person’s occupation in previous jobs, it is impossible to say that the labor book is a relic or unnecessary.” Michael Germershausen Managing director of Antal Russia recruitment agency " There are widespread situations in which candidates claim to have held the post of marketing director at an interview when in fact they were little more than the marketing director’s deputy or assistant. With the elimination of work records, the number of such cases will increase.”

According to Alexander Safonov, deputy minister of the Ministry of Health and Social Development, the work record is no longer essential in a modern market economy in which labor relations are defined by contract. The labor book is a holdover from the Soviet period when the state was both the employer and the main consumer of labor. Questions remain, however, about what life will be like without the obsolete document. For example, where will the personal information that was collated in the labor book now be kept? There is as yet no unified database available that includes complete information about the experience of a potential candidate or present employee. “Unfortunately, we still don’t have a conclusive answer to these questions,” said Svetlana Yakovleva, head of Ancor recruitment agency for northwest Russia. “As long as there is no transparency in the alternative ways of finding information about past work experience and confirmation of a person’s occupation in previous jobs, it is impossible to say that the trudovaya knizhka is a relic or unnecessary.” Said Michael Germershausen, managing director of Antal Russia recruitment agency, “From a recruiter’s point of view, the absence of the work record and other documents confirming both employment and the position held is a great disadvantage. Not every candidate can provide their new employer with a copy of their labor contract, as this information is often confidential. “There are widespread situations in which candidates claim to have held the post of marketing director at an interview when in fact they were little more than the marketing director’s deputy or assistant,” he said. “With the elimination of work records, the number of such cases will increase.” Currently, candidates provide employers with their labor book on the first day of work with the new company. The employer therefore makes a decision on the candidate without investigating their employment record. “At the same time, the candidate realizes that they will have to hand over their work record on entering the new post,” said Yakovleva, “so it’s not in their best interests to give the wrong information.” There are many ways to find out about a candidate’s work for any organization, and the easiest one is getting oral or written recommendations. “Employers rely on the C.V., impressions from the interview and recommendations. The abolition of work records will improve the practice of recommendations,” said Germershausen. “We already verify every candidate by calling their former employers. Gathering references allows us to not only confirm the truth of the data given by a candidate, but also to corroborate the impression formed during the interview,” he said. Written recommendations, however, are more widely used in Europe than in Russia, where employees are not in the habit of asking for letters of recommendation when leaving a post. “Moreover, giving written recommendations is prohibited in some companies by their internal policy,” said Yakovleva. According to specialists at Ancor, existing work records are more useful for employees, as they allow them to confirm their work experience, which plays an important role in assessing the amount of social benefits they are due. “With the abandonment of the trudovaya knizhka,” said Yakovleva, “employees will be forced to find another way of confirming their work experience.” 

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