Employers can be fined for contacting employees outside work hours under new Portugal law

The new law says that 'the employer must respect the privacy of the worker'.

Jane Zhang | November 13, 2021, 12:06 PM

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Many of us in Singapore know the sinking feeling of receiving a work-related message from our bosses outside of work hours.

That, however, likely won't be as much of a problem for workers in Portugal anymore, after the country passed a law that bans bosses from contacting staff outside of their regular working hours, known colloquially as the "right to rest" law.

Companies can be fined for disturbing privacy

The Associated Press (AP) reported that on Friday (Nov. 5), Portugal's parliament approved new labour laws pertaining to working from home. These laws give more protection to employees who work outside of their company premises.

Under the new regulations, companies can be fined for disturbing the privacy of staff or their families.

This includes contacting workers outside of their regular working hours by phone, message, or email, according to CNN.

The new law states that "the employer must respect the privacy of the worker" including rest and family time, and violating that is a "serious" offence.

The BBC reported that the law also allows staff with children to work from home indefinitely, without the need to seek prior approval from their employers, until their child turns eight.

In order to address issues of isolation for employees working remotely, companies are expected to arrange for regular face-to-face meetings between supervisors and staff, according to the BBC and AP.

Employers may also be responsible for reimbursing workers for additional expenses incurred by working from home, such as increased electricity and gas bills.

However, a measure within the proposed bill was not approved by Portugal's parliament, which proposed the "right to disconnect" — the right for employees to turn off work devices outside of work hours.

People's Action Party Member of Parliament Melvin Yong had previously said that Singapore should consider a Right to Disconnect law — which has been adopted by other countries such as France, Spain, and Italy — in order to reduce employee burnout and fatigue.

Enticing digital nomads

According to the BBC, the changes are being introduced to improve work-life balance, in light of an expansion of working from home.

In addition, Portugal's Minister of Labour and Social Security, Ana Mendes Godinho, articulated the hope that the enhanced labour protections will attract more foreigners to the country:

"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."

Portugal has a temporary resident visa scheme that is meant to attract entrepreneurs and freelancers, BBC reported. Madeira, an island of Portugal, even has a "digital nomad village" complete with free wifi and office desk facilities.

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Top photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash.