Minimum Working Conditions
In Portugal, collective labour regulation instruments can determine the minimum working terms and conditions. At the same time, collective labour agreement instruments can only be set aside by a labour contract when the latter establishes more favourable conditions for the employee and if the contrary does not result from the collective labour agreement rules.
Workers posted abroad are entitled to local working conditions provided by law and collective bargaining agreements with overall effectiveness, whenever these are more favourable than those that generally apply in the place of work, on the following subject matters:
- protection against dismissal;
- maximum length of working time;
- minimum periods of rest;
- minimum remuneration and payment of overtime;
- transfer of workers by temporary employment agency;
- occasional provision of workers;
- safety and health at work;
- protection of parenthood;
- child labour protection;
- equal treatment and non-discrimination.
The monthly minimum wage in Portugal in 2020 was fixed at €635. However, in the Azores islands the minimum wage was €666,75 and in Madeira island €650,88, in order to compensate for insularity. Amounts have risen to €665 in 2021 (increasing to €698,25 in the Azores and €682 in Madeira).
Maximum Working Week
The maximum weekly and daily working periods are set at 40 and 8 hours, respectively. However, subject to certain rules, these limits may be assessed on an average basis measured by reference to four or six month periods. This is a system known as adaptability and the additional work hours rendered by the employee on specific days or weeks exceeding the aforementioned 40 and 8 hour limits do not qualify and are not paid as overtime work but are, instead compensated by equivalent reduction of hours worked on other days or weeks.
Similar flexibility may also be obtained by resorting to the so-called hour bank. In this case additional working hours may be performed, compensated by a monetary compensation, an increase on the vacation period or on a reduction of hours worked on other days.
In general, only work rendered between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. qualifies as night-time work, entitling the employee to an appropriate salary increase (an increase of 25% over the payment of equivalent work rendered during the day). Collective bargaining agreements may, nevertheless, extend or adjust the period that qualifies as night-time work and they very frequently do so, for instance, setting the starting point for night-time work from 8 p.m., instead of 10 p.m..
The employee may be required to provide overtime work: i) when the company has to cope with temporary increase of work that do not call for additional employee recruitment; or ii) in case of force majeure or when the overtime work is needed to prevent or remedy serious injury to the company or its viability. Overtime work is paid at the normal hourly rate plus:
- 25% for the first hour or part thereof, and plus 37.5% for every subsequent hour or part thereof, on working days;
- 50% for the first hour or part thereof, on weekly rest, compulsory or complementary, or on bank holiday.
Overtime work rendered on weekly rest entitles the employee to a remunerated compensatory rest day, during one of the following three working days.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
The employer has the obligation to permanently ensure employee health and safety conditions at work. To comply with such duty, the employer must follow a set of general principles focused on the prevention of work accidents and professional illnesses, and thus to comply with several duties. In general terms, the employer must put in place and ensure:
- technical work accident preventive measures;
- employee training, information and consultation on workplace safety;
- internal or external health and safety services.
The employer must implement appropriate company healthy and safety (H&S) activity at work. This includes organising and keeping appropriate H&S services and other preventive measures, like ensuring risk exposure assessments and the performance of tests and other actions on occupational risks and health monitoring.
At the same time, an insurance to cover work accidents risk must be contracted by the employer for each hired employee. On the other hand, there might be the necessity to set up an internal service of H&S depending on the activity of the company (high risk activities), as well as on the number of employees.
Concurrently, it is mandatory to set up an internal structure that ensures first aid, fire-fighting and evacuation activities. Specific measures must be defined for adoption in case of emergency and certain employees must be appointed as responsible for the implementation of same measures and for calling the competent authorities in case of emergency.
Moreover, the employer has to provide proper H&S training to its employees and must identify the potential occupational risks and try to minimise them, for instance, when choosing work equipment and facilities, or when designing workstations.
If risks to the employee are assessed in connection with work features or requirements, specific medical checks are also required, and must be carried out before the employee is subject to risk exposure. Employee health surveillance and the monitoring of the exposure to potential occupational risks are mandatory. Pregnant or lactating employees cannot perform some activities, due to a high-risk of exposure to physical, biological or chemical agents and activities carried out in dangerous working conditions.
The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has had a huge impact on H&S issues. Employers are now required to organise appropriate contingency plans relating to the SARS-CoV-2 infection, and procedures to be followed in case of employees presenting symptoms of COVID-19 at the workplace, in line with the guidance issued by the health authorities (some measures are specific to certain business areas or industries). Also, employers should be mindful of any particular workplace organisation and health requirements for a post lock-down return to the workplace.