Soviet Relic to Be Phased Out

Soviet Relic to Be Phased Out

Published: September 21, 2011 (Issue # 1675)

Look at the CV of a Russian jobseeker and any mention of references will be conspicuously absent. That is because up until now, that function was reserved for the labor book, or 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.

Typically, the work record is kept by the human resources department of an employee’s current employer until the post is resigned. Now, with the development of new technology, this archaic system of labor relations appears to be the 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 proven by copies of their degree certificate and work experience.

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 where labor relations are defined by contract. The trudovaya knizhka 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 personal information that was collated in the trudovaya knizhka now be kept? There is as yet no unified database available that includes complete information about the past 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.”

“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,” said Michael Germershausen, managing director of Antal Russia recruitment agency. “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. With the elimination of work records, the number of such cases will increase,” he said.

The absence of an established list of predetermined reasons that an employee would choose from when leaving a position is also a disadvantage of the innovations.

“But even now, a note in the work record saying ‘resigned’ does not always mean that the employee really left the job of their own volition,” said Germershausen.

Currently, candidates provide employers with their trudovaya knizhka only on the first day of work with the new company. The employer therefore makes a decision on the candidate without investigating their past employment record.

“At the same time, the candidate realizes that they will have to hand over their work record on entering the new post, so it’s not in their best interests to give the wrong information,” said Yakovleva.

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 CV, 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, employees will be forced to find another way of confirming their work experience,” said Yakovleva.

Modern work records were introduced for the first time in Germany, in 1892, and represented a form of identification. Later, in 1918, a similar document appeared in Soviet Russia. These are the only countries in the world where the trudovaya knizhka was used. After the book disappears from Russia, it will only continue to exist in a few of the former Soviet republics.

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