Workers’ Paradise? Portugal’s New Teleworking Law Takes Flak | World News

By BARRY HATTON, Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal’s new regulation on working from residence makes the European Union nation sound like a staff’ paradise.

Companies can’t try to contact their employees exterior working hours. They should assist employees pay for his or her residence gasoline, electrical and web payments. Bosses are forbidden from utilizing digital software program to trace what their teleworkers are doing.

There’s only one drawback: the regulation may not work. Critics say the brand new guidelines are half-baked, brief on element and unfeasible. And they could even backfire by making corporations reluctant to permit working from residence in any respect.


“The law is badly written and doesn’t meet anybody’s needs,” says José Pedro Anacoreta, an employment legal professional at PLMJ, considered one of Portugal’s important regulation corporations. “It’s no good for anyone. … It doesn’t make any sense.”

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In many locations world wide, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a previous development towards the digitalization of labor and extra versatile work preparations. Amid such a sudden and large shift within the employment panorama, governments are scrambling to accommodate working from residence of their employment legal guidelines. Those efforts are largely nonetheless of their infancy.

Many Europeans have stopped going into the workplace usually since March final 12 months to assist curb the unfold of COVID-19.

In Europe, not like within the United States, employee protections are broadly thought to be cherished entitlements. Laying off a employees member, as an illustration, can entail substantial severance pay.

Without a promised European Commission directive on methods to legally body the shift to extra intensive working from residence, governments’ legislative responses have been patchy and piecemeal.


During the pandemic some international locations have really helpful teleworking. Others — like Portugal — have demanded it. Most EU international locations have particular laws on teleworking, although with totally different approaches, and others are contemplating it via amendments, extensions or conventions.

As residence working grew lately, staff’ “right to disconnect” — permitting employees to disregard work issues exterior formal working hours — was adopted earlier than the pandemic in international locations comparable to Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. It is now changing into the usual.

But Portugal is taking that idea a step additional, by flipping the onus onto corporations. “The employer has a duty to refrain from contacting the employee outside working hours, except in situations of force majeure,” that means an unanticipated or uncontrollable occasion, states the brand new regulation.

Also, mother and father or caregivers with youngsters as much as eight years outdated have the suitable to do business from home in the event that they select, so long as the kind of work they do is suitable with teleworking.

Fines for corporations breaking the regulation go as much as nearly 10,000 euros ($11,200) for every infringement.

The Portuguese guidelines are supposed to tackle the draw back of what has change into often called WFH.

The expertise that allows working from residence has additionally opened the door to abuses, comparable to drawn-out workdays as employees stay reachable exterior their regular eight-hour shift. The penalties could embrace attrition between work and personal life and a way of isolation.

But the brand new regulation has met with skepticism from these it’s meant to guard.

Andreia Sampaio, a 37-year-old who works in communications in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, agrees with the regulation’s function however thinks it’s too basic and can be “very hard” to implement.

“We have to have common sense,” she says, including that she would not thoughts being contacted out of hours if it is an pressing matter. “We have to judge each case by its merits.”

And she reckons authorities will principally solely act on staff’ complaints — “but people will fear losing their job if they do.”

Prompted by the pandemic however designed to use sooner or later no matter COVID-related measures, the regulation might come into pressure as quickly as Dec. 1.


It is basically the brainchild of the center-left Socialist Party, which has ruled Portugal since 2015. Ahead of an election for a brand new authorities on Jan. 30, it’s eager to burnish its progressive credentials and hoist a banner about staff’ rights.

Nevertheless, sensible questions abound: should employees be taken off firm e-mail lists when their shift finishes after which put again on after they begin work once more? What about Europeans who work in monetary markets and must know what’s happening in, say, Hong Kong, and have colleagues working in numerous time zones?

What if an industrial machine that may’t be stopped requires the eye of an engineer who’s off? Who is it that may’t “contact” the worker — the division supervisor? The firm CEO? What constitutes “contact” — a cellphone name, a textual content message, an e-mail?

“The devil is always in the details … but also in the implementation,” says Jon Messenger, a specialist on working situations on the International Labor Organization, a United Nations company based mostly in Geneva.

The Portuguese Business Confederation, the nation’s largest grouping of corporations, wasn’t concerned in drawing up the brand new regulation and thinks it is filled with holes.

Teleworking guidelines have to be versatile, tailor-made to every sector and negotiated between employers and employees, says Luís Henrique of the confederation’s authorized division.

“We’re treating situations that are completely different as if they were all the same. That’s not realistic,” Henrique stated. “(The law) can’t be one-size-fits-all.”

Policing and implementing the brand new guidelines may be difficult in what is among the EU’s economically poorest international locations. In Portugal, which is infamous for pink tape and gradual justice, in addition to poorly resourced public providers, how lengthy will a criticism take to filter via the system and obtain a end result?

Across Europe over the previous decade the variety of labor inspections has “collapsed,” in response to knowledge analyzed by the Brussels-based European Trade Union Confederation, which represents 45 million members in 39 European international locations.

The nation with the largest drop within the variety of inspections since 2010? Portugal, with 55% fewer checks as much as 2018.

“Ambitious, progressive laws … run up against the reality that ways of policing them aren’t in place yet,” stated Henrique of Portugal’s enterprise confederation.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials is probably not printed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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