• Mykola Voitovych |Gramatskiy & Partners

    2016 was the year of strong expectations for significant amendments in labor legislation. Even the new Labor Code was seriously expected to be passed. The Code was to create revolutionary new approaches to labor relations by ending the era of the existing Labor Code of Ukraine, which was adopted back in soviet times and conserved norms that didn’t respond to the spirit of the time and thus overburdened relations between employers and employees.

    But, as so often happens, the expectations were not justified, and we continue to live with the soviet era Labor Code, and 2016 has left the labor sphere as one of the least reformed. Occasional amendments were influenced by a complicated domestic situation, which demanded improvement in the status of some employees such as mobilized and internally-displaced persons. The institute of probation has also undergone some transformations.

    At the same time, it must be highlighted that 2016 gave effect to the Law of Ukraine On State Service. The law, among other things, introduced considerably new approaches to regulation of working for the state and raised broader requirements for civil servants.

    As to dispute resolution, their numbers continued to grow in 2016. The majority of cases traditionally constituted disputes on the cancellation of employment termination, reinstatement of employment and compensation of the average salary. The New Law On State Service has also triggered disputes in the respective field.

    In contrast to 2016, the very start of 2017 brought with it sensational amendments: the minimum wage was doubled to UAH 3,200, the wage system has been transformed, new significant fines for violation of labor legislation have been introduced, and municipal authorities have been delegated certain powers of inspection.

    The important thing is that the current political dialogue displays the readiness of Parliament to adopt the long-awaited Labor Code before the end of 2017. In dispute resolution practice it may be predicted that a growth in cases on challenging the decisions of municipal bodies originated from their new inspection authorities as well as cases on cancellation of fines related to them.

Vasil Kisil & Partners, member of the largest global alliance Ius Laboris, is known for its high-end employment matters, representing primarily corporate employers. The firm is seen equally in advisory and disputes, labor law issues arising out of corporate reorganizations and mergers, transfer of employees, terminations and redundancies. Among the noteworthy instructions of late is advising a major Ukrainian pharmaceutical company during introduction of the Council of Honor; assisting a Swedish manufacturer of outdoor power tools on the dismissal of the Ukrainian subsidiary’s GM; representing a global money transfer company in a staff reduction matter. The practice also converges with tax services, and advised a Ukrainian subsidiary of an international IT manufacturer on the choice of an operational structure for doing business in Ukraine. Oksana Voynarovska, partner, is a top-referenced practitioner committed to Ukrainian labor law development. The market also knows and endorses the name of another team member, Valeriya Savchuk, especially marking her out for litigation work.

Baker McKenzie is particularly renowned for its international ties and strong extensive clientele in Ukraine. The office rendered advice on wage and hour issues, employee privacy rights, employment-related tax issues, family and medical leave matters, terminations, compensation, insurance coverage, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for resolving employee grievances and legal claims, compliance. The team is involved in terminations covering seamless employment related advice, labor safety, disciplinary proceedings, personal data protection. Lina Nemchenko, partner, is a practice head focused on data protection and general labor law. Mariana Marchuk, counsel, specializing in employee compensation, executive transfers and terminations, internal investigations, privacy and data protection, employee termination, collective disputes and collective agreements, trade unions.

Dentons employment practice is much diversified and covers contentious, advisory and transactional work. The Kyiv office narrowed its position of a preferred counsel for international companies doing business in Ukraine, on the employment consequences of M&A, restructurings, closures and downsizing. Given the ever-growing worldwide network of this international powerhouse, the practice team assists clients on a wide variety of cross-border employment matters. Recent selected highlights include complex advice given to an international luxury products company on employment, immigration and corporate law issues in connection with employment of foreign and local employees; representing the Institute of International Education, Inc. on various employment issues related to its operations in Ukraine; providing comprehensive advice to the Salvation Army on employment, immigration and corporate law. Volodymyr Monastyrskyy is an established figure in the Ukrainian market, and combines labor knowledge with corporate law practice, and anti-corruption advisory.

Sayenko Kharenko has an integrated labor and compliance practice that includes employment, privacy/data protection and anti-corruption/anti-bribery niche practice groups. The client focus is pharmaceutical, insurance, retail, IT and computer equipment, communications, chemical, food and production industries. Recent highlights included advising on the best possible employee dismissal scenarios, workforce restructurings, moving employees between various entities of the same corporate group, resolving grey area issues in documenting the combining of jobs, employee transfers, employing foreign nationals, compensation and benefits, employment risks of concluding services agreements with private entrepreneurs. The team widely uses mediation techniques and resolved amicably, confidentially and on the clients’ terms a number of complicated disputes. During 2016 the team also advised on personal data protection law implications on conducting internal compliance investigations and implementing global whistle-blower schemes. Dr. Svitlana Kheda is specifically recognized for successfully and amiably (i.e. out-of-court) resolving challenging labor disputes, including those resulting from dismissals related to compliance violations.

Asters traditionally advises numerous high-end corporate clients supporting with far reaching advisory instructions and dispute representation. The team is enlisted for labor safety matters, compliance, high-level hiring and firing, termination and severance payments, etc. In the past year, among others, the firm represented Wizz Air Ukraine in a court dispute with a former employee, advised on various employment matters, including obtaining work and residence permits for foreign employees, compensating employees and contractors, hiring and dismissing managers and personnel of a Ukrainian subsidiary and representative office. Other clients include Molson Coors Ukraine and Visa. Armen Khachaturyan and Vadym Samoilenko are lead partners.

With a strong client base in healthcare, food and banking industries, Arzinger enjoys demand for compliance, anti-corruption and employees’ problematic dismissals and relocation advice. The network of its regional offices (Lviv and Odesa) benefits the firm’s dispute resolution capabilities. Since 2014 the dedicated team has provided complex legal advice on mobilization and relocation of personnel from the temporarily occupied territories (Crimea and Eastern Ukraine). Most recently Arzinger became especially busy with advice on collective labor negotiations and counteraction with trade unions. Among the highlights is supporting a world leading manufacturer of spices with the change of the head of the representative office; providing an international tobacco company advice on data retention in the context of labor law. The extensive client list includes Alumni Fund Ukraine, BrainBasket Foundation, BrainTV, InnerWorkings Ukraine, MAN Truck and Bus Ukraine, FM Logistics, Scientific Games, Emarket Ukraine (OLX), Louis Dreyfus Commodities Ukraine, GK Software. Partner Pavlo Khodakovsky heads the employment department and is the main point of contact.

AVELLUM, as led by managing partner Mykola Stetsenko, assists globally active clients on employment matters evolving out of their global transactional activities. Thus, throughout the previous year the team advised Allergan Inc. on sophisticated employment matters related to transfer of employees in Ukraine; Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH on Ukrainian aspects of transfer of employee benefits in connection with a global business swap between Boehringer and Sanofi. The multidisciplinary team demonstrates dedication to employment structuring, compliance, corporate governance related issues, sensitive aspects of personal data protection, collective bargaining agreements, terminations, dismissal. The firm deals regularly with employment instructions common for the Ukrainian IT sector. Yuriy Zaremba, associate, is among key practitioners of the practice.

ILF (Inyurpolis Law Firm), a broadly active Ukrainian firm with offices in Kyiv and Kharkiv, stands out for employment litigation that established precedents in the sphere of labor regulations. Over the past year the firm increased the scope of its advisory work and exceeded in peaceful settlement of disputes before the court. Industry wise, ILF acts for both corporate clients from the agrarian, pharmaceutical, retail sectors, as well as for private clients. Serhiy Silchenko, partner, is the eminent practice head and comes praised for his strong litigation skills.

CMS Cameron McKenna possesses an extensive experience in advising both in terms of quite straightforward assignments (employment agreements, internal labor policies and individual dismissals) and more complex ones (implementation of mass layoffs programs, outsourcing projects and other schemes for employment restructuring). Given strong corporate practice, the office acts on employee transfers and advises on issues arising in relation to foreign nationals being employed by Ukrainian companies and Ukrainian representative offices of international businesses or secondments of expats into Ukraine. Olexander Martinenko and Natalia Nakonechna are primary contacts.

Ilyashev & Partners, as led by Mikhail Ilyashev, acts primarily for corporate employers on a range of employment disputes, also rendering advisory in comprehensive projects, confidentiality, labor safety, contractual matters. Some representative projects included representing SE Antonov during a series of labor disputes against the Ministry of Industrial Policy and its candidate regarding dismissal and further confirmation of powers of the President of SE Antonov; advising the Embassy of Qatar in Ukraine on potential implementation of a joint project in the Askania-Nova biosphere reserve involving employment issues; acting for VimpelCom on the collection, processing and protection of personal data of employees and clients. The portfolio of clients include: ProCredit Bank, BTA Bank, ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih, Embassy of the Czech Republic in Ukraine, Ukrrichflot, Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine.

In 2016 Spenser & Kauffmann, the rapidly growing domestic market force, reestablished its employment offering. Most recently the practice team received instructions regarding compensation and benefits, compliance, trade unions. Given facilitation of transactional support to its clients, the firm covers subsequent employment matters that arise out of them. The industrial coverage includes but is not limited to the auto industry, metallurgy, recycling, pulp and paper, food and beverages. Tetyana Ivanovych, counsel, is in charge of employment and private client practices.

The Kyiv team of Jeantet advised numerous clients on employment of foreign employees, collective bargaining agreements and trade unions; redundancy and social benefits plans. Throughout the past year the team gained extensive experience in transfer of employees located in Crimea and the Eastern part of Ukraine to other regions. Another front of work is advice on mobilization of employees, most recently advising Servier, a world-leading pharmaceutical company. Another notable strength of the team is employment litigation, specifically against former top managers disagreeing with a decision of the group on their dismissal and trying to keep control over the company. The client following includes PACT, Credit Agricole, L’Oreal Ukraine, Daymon Worldwide Europe Inc., SOKA. The team consists of 4 lawyers led by local partner Illya Tkachuk.

Over 2016 EY provided ongoing legal support and advisory services for a number of large multinational and local companies. This included employment agreements, internal employment-related documents, labor law due diligences/HR health checks, mediation of conflict termination cases, immigration compliance and advisory services for cross-border assignments, work permits, service cards, residence permits, disputes. As an example, the team accomplished successful pre-court mediation in conflict termination regarding a senior management employee of a Ukrainian subsidiary of a large multinational agricultural company. Olga Gorbanovskaya and Albert Sych, partners, are the key figures of the practice.

PwC Legal offers a combination of legal support and HR consulting from advisory lines of service of the PwC network, having on board multinational and local clients. In 2016 the team rendered legal support to Hopewell Residential with immigration and labor law matters; Joy Global (Poland) with employment issues related to setting up a legal entity in Ukraine; Can-Pack S.A. with labor issues included in the scope of high-level legal due diligence involving two Ukrainian plants. The practice is led by Andrey Pronchenko, known foremost for his skills in handling complex labor disputes. Olga Melnychenko is another key practitioner, focused on labor and immigration.

Following its core specialization, sports law and resolution of sports-related disputes, GoldenGate is kept busy concluding a huge number of contracts between international football clubs and football players (resulted in their employment with the clubs). At present managing partner Anton Sotir leads the representation of an Uzbek football club against a Ukrainian football player at FIFA regarding the payment of salary and enforcement of a decision by world football body FIFA; acts for the footballer Borys Tashchy at the Football Federation of Ukraine in a complex dispute against a football agent regarding the performance of a representation contract.

Full-service law firm Integrites offers a range of advice to Ukrainian and foreign clients on various labor law issues, being particularly busy of late with collective bargaining agreements, termination, dismissals, compliance, and foreign specialists’ employment matters. The practice also handles, in conjunction with the dispute resolution team, a lot of labor disputes of its corporate clients. Clients come from energy, metallurgy, machinery, construction, banking, telecom. The practice is currently overseen by two partners, namely Oleksiy Feliv and Julian Ries.

Wolf Theiss is centered on advising on employment matters related to top management and personnel of both Ukrainian companies and Ukrainian subsidiaries of foreign clients. The team typically assists on employment matters as part of its corporate, regulatory, finance and tax advice. The office advised OSRAM on a carve-out process, including labor, corporate, contractual aspects, in particular, the procedure of transfer of employees between the Ukrainian companies; represented a large international financial company on  internal compensation rules and amending them in line with the mandatory requirements of Ukrainian law; consulted an international drug research and testing company on the use of electronic signatures for employment-related documents. The practice head is Olena Vardamatska, who is also known for a solid IT law expertise.

International Legal Center EUCON boosted its employment practice with business migration, handling employment permits, employment contracts, trade unions, and representation in disputes. The mainstay of the center comprises labor migration between Ukraine and Poland. Sound representation of late is acting for Savik Shuster, popular TV host, appealing against the annulment of his permit for employment as a foreigner. The practice works in ties with the firm’s corporate practice and functions in cooperation of two offices in Kyiv, where it is managed by Tetiana  Samsina, and Warsaw, guided by Andriy Romanchuk.

EQUITY (called FCLEX up till June 2017) possesses strong litigation capacities, internal policies and compliance issues. Among notable long-lasting cases accomplished by the team is providing continuous support to Concorde Capital in a dispute with a former employee. The litigation side works in close connection with the criminal defense practice, in particular, representing the interests of Igor Likarchuk, former head of the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment, who is suspected of abuse of office. Partners Oleg Malinevskiy, Taras Poshyvanyuk and Vyacheslav Krahlevych oversee the practice.

Over 2016 GOLAW extended its offering to procedures for acceptance/dismissal of employees, documentary formalization of labor relations, compliance of requirements regarding employment of individuals with disabilities. UBISOFT, specializing in the development of computer video games, instructed the firm for due diligence against the requirements of labor legislation; Inditex Group has been advised on indexation of wages, registration and termination of employment relationships, obligations in relation to mobilized employees. The dispute highlight includes representation of Reckitt Benckiser Household Health Care Ukraine in a series of disputes with former employees. Senior partner Sergiy Oberkovych is the primary contact.

Gramatskiy & Partners gives visible advice to the firm’s established industrial clients and, notably, was a highly active counsel in the IT sector. For example, the team provided support to international software developers in optimization of staff as well as consulting on qualification of “actual employment relationship” of private entrepreneurs with customers. Additionally, the firm advises on internal documentation on safety and health protection alongside specific workshops to prominent corporate clients, such as Ulma Opalubka Ukraine, Gold Mandarin, Danfoss Group, SNT LLC. The practice is led by Mykola Voitovich.

Eterna Law renders a broad range of contractual work and advises on foreign employees employment mostly for international market players. Partner Oksana Kneychuk is practice head, while Oleh Malskyy contributes with his general expertise.

Ante Law Firm has a focus on aviation, pharma and healthcare sectors. Throughout the previous year the firm performed a full audit of labor relations in a group of 4 companies (Technomedex group) and Zdravo; handled the closure of a representative office and staff reduction for a big pharmaceutical company. The team dealt with a few labor disputes between top managers and employers and was involved in a number of labor cases on both sides — employer (big pharma corporation) and employees, including a civil servant. Andriy Guck, partner, is the primary figure.

With its top tax background, KM Partners became the port of choice for solid foreign companies operating in Ukraine in structuring expenses on remuneration of labor, elaborating HR documentation, agreements, contracts, outsourcing relations, consideration of tax risks, compliance, restructuring/reorganization; support in labor disputes. The practice team is led by partner Alexander Shemiatkin.

Law Firm Dynasty handles advisory and day-to-day advice. In 2016 the firm advised Versobank on the organization of its representative office in Ukraine and obtaining a work permit for  employees. The firm’s practice is carried out by the Kyiv office partner Antonina Selivanova, and two partners in Dnipro, Viacheslav Kohlyakov and Anna Poddubnaya.

The Kyiv outfit of Peterka & Partners has covered obtaining work permits, termination of labor relationships, preparation of a memorandum on transfer of employees within the accession process, change of CEO. The client list includes Nutreco N.V., Velux Ukraine LLC, T Machinery a.s., Tikkurila Oyj, Kiilto Family Oy, European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative. Tatiana Timchenko, partner, and Taras Utiralov, managing associate, are the core practitioners.

Poberezhnyuk & Partners, a domestic litigation-focused firm, is enlisted for disputes and contractual advice. In the past year the firm acted as a legal adviser to the separate subdivision Medecins du Monde Association (France) in Ukraine regarding the development of labor and collective agreements for the activities of its structural subdivision. Founding partner Larysa Poberezhnyuk is the main contact.

Vdovychen & Partners handles comprehensive matters involving mass redundancies, employment conflicts, administrative appeals, drafting internal instructions. Oleg Vdovychen, founding partner, is the main point of contact.

Aleksandra Yevstafyeva, senior associate in M&A and corporate and head of employment practice at EPAP Ukraine, received the support of peers for her knowledge in employee incentive schemes projects.