Portugal’s Socialist government announced a new series of laws it says will help remote workers adapt to the new work-from-home environment, including a rule that bars bosses from contacting employees during off-hours.
Ana Mendes Godinho, Lisbon’s labor minister, announced the new law. She said the COVID-19 outbreak has introduced widespread remote working and “accelerated the need to regulate what already needed to be regulated.”
The Financial Times reported that employers who fail to abide by the new rule will be in “serious breach of labor law” and could face fines and sanctions.
Ana Catarina Mendes, the parliamentary leader of the Portuguese Socialist party, wrote in The Guardian that employers are not allowed to “text message, phone, or email their workers when they are off the clock.”
“There should be a boundary between the time when an employer’s authority prevails, and the time when the worker’s autonomy should prevail,” she wrote in the paper. “There should be a boundary between the time in which a worker is a resource in the service of the person paying their salary, and the time in which they should be the owner of a life that is not about work.”
The new law is part of a series of labor laws recently passed in Lisbon. The law was first proposed in October and said workers should have at least 11 consecutive hours of “night rest,” where they are not disturbed.
CNBC reported that another part of the legislation calls on these employers to pay some of their workers’ bills while they work from home.
The Trends Journal has reported extensively on how the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the face of doing business. (See “FACEBOOK: EMPLOYEES CAN WORK FROM HOME FULL-TIME” and “WORK FROM HOME=CITY REAL ESTATE DOWN,” “REMOTE WORK=COMMERCIAL BUST.”)
The shift to at-home working has also accelerated new industries. (See “META MAY OPEN BRICK-AND-MORTAR STORES,” and “FACEBOOK WORLD 2021: AN ARTIFICIAL REALITY THAT WILL DESTROY THE HUMAN SPIRIT AND COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE.”)
The new mandate does not apply to companies with fewer than 10 employees. The CNBC report pointed out that not all of the proposals were passed by parliament. The report said one of the proposals that died on the floor was the “right to disconnect,” which would have given employees the right to switch off their work devices at the end of the day.
TREND FORECAST: The more people who work remotely, the further commercial real estate prices will fall. In turn, businesses and transportation systems that relied on commuters will economically suffer, as will the workforce once employed in those sectors.
The shift to working at home will redefine economic ecosystems, especially in urban centers. Commuters buy lunch, gifts, clothes, gadgets, and other items in locales where they work; as workers stay home, downtown stores and restaurants will lose their traditional customer base and gas stations along commuter routes will see business plummet.
At the same time, owners of commercial real estate will face a reckoning as they slash rents to lure a shrinking base of tenants, forcing them to demand property tax concessions from cities that will struggle even more to maintain police, fire, and public works infrastructures.
Godinho, Portugal’s labor minister, attended a Web Summit in Lisbon and said the COVID-19 outbreak had shown telecommuting was a “game-changer, giving workers the power to decide where and from who they want to work from,” CNBC reported.
Other countries will follow Portugal’s lead on the issue as work-from-home becomes part of normal daily life. One needs to look at the lockdowns just ordered throughout Europe to contain the spread of COVID-19 to see that we are nowhere near a “return to normal.”