Contacting remote workers after work made illegal

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Employees in Portugal may see a better work-life balance as new legislation now make it illegal for employers to contact remote workers outside of work hours. The new law approved by the nations parliament is a response to the exponential growth in the number of remote workers, Portugal’s ruling socialist party said.

What will change for remote workers?

Under the new legislation, employers that are found contacting workers outside of office hours may be subject to fines, companies will also have to pay for the expenses incurred by remote workers, these can include higher electricity and internet bills but not water bill increases. Employees will be able to claim these back as a business expense.

The new legislation will also help new parents and parents of young children. These employees now have the right to work from home without having to arrange it in advance with their employers, up until their child turns 8 years old.

Measures to tackle loneliness are also included in the new rules. Companies are now expected to organise face-to-face meetings at least every two months

However, the amendments to Portugal’s labour laws. The new laws will not apply to employers currently employing less than 10 members of staff. In addition, the government also rejected the ‘right to disconnect’ proposal which would give employees the legal right to switch off work-related messaged and devices outside of office hours.

‘A game changer’

In January, Portugal became the first European nation to make changes to its remote working rules as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The temporary rules implemented made remote working a mandatory option, with exceptions, and obliged employers to provide the necessary tools for getting the job done at home.

 Whilst working during the pandemic has brought new flexibilities to many, issues have begun to arise. Issues such as unequal access to IT equipment has highlighted the need for the government to step in.

Portugal’s Minister of Labour and Social Security, Ana Mendez Godinho told the web summit conference in Lisbon, “The pandemic has accelerated the need to regulate what needs to be regulated. Telework can be a ‘game changer’ if we profit from the advantages and reduce the disadvantages”

Building a healthy remote working culture could bring other benefits to Portugal in the form of foreign remote workers seeking a change of scenery, Mendez Godinho said. “We consider Portugal one of the best places in the world for these digital nomads and remote workers to choose to live in, we want to attract them to Portugal”.

With Portugal taking the first steps to creating a better work-life balance for remote workers, many nations will be watching closely to see the outcomes and benefits this brings to Portugal.

The covid-19 pandemic has forced many employers to adopt a flexible way of working within the UK. With many employees noticing the issue of a blended work-life balance due to remote work, parliament may follow suit should Portugal begin to see benefits with the move.

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