Portugal recently passed new labor laws which make it illegal for employers to contact their employees outside of working hours, except in emergency situations.
“The new labor laws were passed by Portugal’s Parliament earlier this month and were introduced following an increase in people working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic,” reported CNBC.
The outlet added that an October document that proposed the legislation “explained that workers should have the right to at least 11 consecutive hours of ‘night rest,’ during which they should not be interrupted unless for emergencies.”
These rules will also force employers to contribute to employees’ “work-from-home” expenses, such as electricity and internet, as well as requiring in-person meetings between managers and staff every two months. Young parents are also given the right to work from home without preliminary approval if their child is less than 8 years old.
“The legislation, approved in Parliament on Friday and coming into effect this weekend, was drafted by Portugal’s Socialist-led government as an attempt to preserve work-life balance. Pandemic lockdowns kept uncountable millions of people working from home over the past two years, but Portugal is the rare country to enact laws seeking to formally protect workers’ off-clock hours and contain their work-related costs,” reported The New York Times. “The legislation was presented by Portugal’s labor minister, Ana Mendes Godinho, as a way not only to protect domestic workers but to encourage more foreigners to select Portugal as a location for working remotely. Portugal has become a major destination for so-called digital nomads, in part because it is offering them special temporary resident visas to work from Portugal.”
“‘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,’ Ms. Godinho said at a conference in Lisbon this month.”
Under this legislation, employers can be fined if they fail to comply.
As The Guardian noted, “Portugal isn’t the only country modernizing its labor laws; citizens of France, Spain, Belgium, Slovakia, Italy, the Philippines, Argentina, India and more, all currently enjoy ‘the right to disconnect’ — or abstain without punishment from working and communicating with their employers during designated rest periods.”
On the subject of whether such legislation could be enforced in the United States, University of San Diego professor of law, Orly Lobel, said, “I don’t think that we’ll see a firm requirement of employers to not at all contact employees during non-work hours.”
“I just don’t see it as a frontier right now when there are so many things that could be better,” she added.
“It is absolutely legally possible for US lawmakers to pass a law similar to the one passed in Portugal,” said Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. “The impediment is twofold. One is rooted in the power of industry; the business lobby would never allow something like this to pass. The second is simply that US lawmakers and courts have historically been very reticent to interfere in business decisions.”
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