November 12 (AP) – Remote workers in Portugal could see a healthier work-life balance thanks to new labor laws approved by the country’s parliament.
The new rules approved on Friday are a response to the explosion of working from home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ruling Socialist Party in Portugal has said.
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Under the new rules, employers could face penalties if they contact workers outside of office hours. Businesses will also have to help pay for the expenses of working remotely, such as higher electricity and internet bills.
But the changes made to labor law in Portugal have limits: they will not apply to companies with less than ten employees.
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What will change for teleworkers?
Companies can now face fines for contacting workers outside of their normal working hours, under the new rules.
Employers are also prohibited from supervising their employees while they are working from home.
However, a proposal to include the so-called ‘right to disconnect’ – the legal right to switch off work-related messages and devices outside of office hours – was rejected by Portuguese MPs.
Companies must now also contribute to the expenses that workers have incurred as a result of the switch to remote working. This can include electricity or internet bills, but not water. Employers can deduct these costs as business expenses.
The new rules are also good news for parents of young children. They now have the right to work from home without having to arrange in advance with their employers, until their child turns eight.
Measures to tackle loneliness are also included in remote working rules, with companies having to hold face-to-face meetings at least every two months.
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“A game changer”
Portugal was the first European country to change its remote working rules as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic in January this year.
The temporary rules made remote working a mandatory option – with a few exceptions – and required employers to provide the tools necessary to do homework.
But while remote working during the pandemic has brought new flexibility to many, issues such as unequal access to IT equipment have shown the need for the government to intervene, Portugal’s Minister of Labor and Health said. Social security, Ana Mendes Godinho, at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon. Last week.
“The pandemic has accelerated the need to regulate what needs to be regulated,” she said.
“Telecommuting can be a game-changer if we take advantage of the advantages and reduce the disadvantages.”
Building a healthy culture of remote working could also bring other benefits to Portugal, said Mendes Godinho, in the form of foreign remote workers seeking a change of scenery.
“We see Portugal as one of the best places in the world for these digital nomads and remote workers to choose to live, we want to attract them to Portugal,” she told the Web Summit audience.
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