Dismissal of complaint filed by A. N. Gorbunov regarding the violation of his constitutional rights by Article 261 of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation
Constitutional Court of Russian Federation
5 March 2013
Article 3: Best interests of the child
Article 27: Standard of living
Other International Provisions:
European Convention on Human Rights, Article 14: Prohibition of discrimination
Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights on the prohibition of discrimination
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
ILO Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention 1981
Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 7(2), 38(1,2): state support ensured to the family, maternity, paternity and childhood; protection of family, maternity and childhood.
Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 19: equality before the law and courts
Labour Code of the Russian Federation, Article 261: guarantees for pregnant women and persons with family rearing obligations regarding termination of a labour contract
Gorbunov A.N. initiated a wrongful termination lawsuit after being made redundant by his employer. According to Article 261 of the Labour Code, the termination of a contract by an employer is prohibited, among other cases, if the employee is the mother of a child under three years old or if the employee is the only breadwinner in relation to a child under three years old in a family consisting of three or more minor children, when the other parent is unemployed. A lower court had ruled that this provision does not apply to Gorbunov A.N.’s case because his wife was officially employed, although she was on maternity leave at the time. Subsequently Gorbunov A.N. lodged a complaint challenging the constitutionality of Article 261 of the Labour Code, alleging that it discriminated against employees on the basis of sex and family status and thereby infringed upon the rights of the minor children who are not being raised in large families.
Issue and resolution:
Non-discrimination. Whether the protection against termination of employment granted to mothers of young children and to parents of three or more children is consistent with the Russian Constitution’s provisions on equal treatment. The Court concluded that Article 261 does not amount to discrimination in breach of the Constitution.
In reaching its decision, the Court observed that the constitutional provisions for the protection of the family unit correspond to the requirements of the CRC, in particular, the obligation of the State to take administrative and legislative measures to ensure the best interests of the child; the right of every child to an adequate standard of living taking into account parents’ primary responsibility to secure the conditions of living necessary for the child’s development.
Regarding the first part of Article 261, which prohibits the termination of employees who are mothers of children under the age of three years old, the Court decided that since it is aimed at providing equal opportunities to women in the workplace, this provision is a justified difference in treatment.
Regarding the other provision of Article 261, which prohibits the termination of employees who have three or more dependent children with one child under the age of three years old and where the other parent is already unemployed, the Court decided that it is lawful since it aims to protect larger families. The Court decided that this provision is justified by the circumstances of large families where women might be unable to work due to the permanent care required by the children’s minor age. Therefore, where one parent is the sole wage earner in a large family and the other parent is unemployed, they enjoy an additional guarantee from unemployment in order to ensure the protection of the family.
Excerpts citing CRC and other relevant human rights instruments:
“The cited above constitutional provisions, conditioning the need to provide – based on generally accepted standards in social states – to the parents and other persons raising children the opportunity to adequately fulfil their social functions, correspond to the requirements of Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989), that, departing from the principle of priority of best interest of the child in all spheres, requires States to take all administrative and legislative measures to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for child’s well-being, taking into account the rights of parents, legal guardians or other individuals legally responsible for the child (art. 3(2)), to recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development (art. 27(1)), taking into account that parents and others responsible for the child have the primary responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities, the conditions of living necessary for the child’s development (art. 27(2))”.
“Приведенным положениям Конституции Российской Федерации, обусловливающим необходимость обеспечения – на основе общепринятых в социальных государствах стандартов – родителям и другим лицам, воспитывающим детей, возможности достойно выполнять соответствующие социальные функции, корреспондируют требования Конвенции о правах ребенка (одобрена Генеральной Ассамблеей ООН 20 ноября 1989 года), которая, исходя из принципа приоритета интересов и благосостояния детей во всех сферах жизни, обязывает подписавшие ее государства принимать все законодательные и административные меры к тому, чтобы обеспечить детям необходимые для их благополучия защиту и заботу, принимая во внимание права и обязанности родителей, опекунов и других лиц, несущих за них ответственность по закону (пункт 2 статьи 3), признавать право каждого ребенка на уровень жизни, который требуется для его физического, умственного, духовного, нравственного и социального развития (пункт 1 статьи 27), с учетом того, что родители или другие лица, воспитывающие ребенка, несут основную ответственность за создание в пределах своих способностей и финансовых возможностей необходимых для этого условий (пункт 2 статьи 27).
CRIN believes this decision is partially consistent with the CRC insofar as it establishes employment protections for parents in order to enable them to carry out their primary responsibility to provide an adequate standard of living for their children under Article 27 of the Convention. However, the Court fails to consider the individual situation of the children concerned or their best interests, as required by Article 3. Protections from unemployment should be accorded to parents where the needs of the child so require even if a child is over a particular age.
Определение КС РФ от 5 марта 2013 года № 434-О
Link to Full Judgment:
This case summary is provided by the Child Rights International Network for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.