On 3 November Portugal introduced several changes to the exceptional and temporary Government measures to control the spread of COVID-19. These include adjustments to the exceptional remote work regime.
It is mandatory for employers to adopt a remote work regime, regardless of the employment relationship, whenever employees’ duties allow it and their living conditions and work tasks allow them to work remotely.
Regardless of the number of employees, this obligation applies to all companies that have premises in the territorial areas where the epidemiological situation justifies it, as defined by the Government (currently 121 Municipalities). No written agreement between the employer and the employee is required.
Companies that use or benefit from services provided by temporary employees and / or service providers are also obliged to adopt the remote work regime.
Exceptionally, when an employer decides that the conditions for remote work are not met, it must inform the employee, in writing, of the grounds for this decision. It is the employer’s responsibility to prove that the employee’s duties are not compatible with a remote work regime or that the minimum technical conditions for its implementation are not met.
Within three business days following the employer giving this notice, the employee may ask the Labour Inspection Authority (ACT) to verify the requirements and the facts invoked by the employer. ACT has 5 business days to analyse the matter and issue a decision.
The employer must provide the employee with the necessary equipment and working tools for the provision of remote work. When this is not possible and if the employee agrees, remote work can be carried out using their own means and materials. The employer is responsible for programming and adapting them to the work that may be required.
Employees who are unable to perform their duties under a remote work regime, including because of inadequate technical or housing conditions, must inform the employer in writing of the reasons they cannot work remotely.
Employees working under a remote work regime have the same rights and duties as any other employee, without any reduction in pay, particularly with regard to normal working hours limits and other working conditions, health and safety and compensation for occupational accident damages or occupational disease. They also maintain the right to receive any meal allowance that was already due.
The remaining measures, which refer to the mismatch of working hours and organisation of working time that applies in situations in which it is not possible to adopt the remote work regime, remain in force, as do the measures relating to employees who are entitled to request to work remotely for personal reasons.