Employers who text employees after working hours could now face fines in Portugal

The country’s parliament recently passed legislation ensuring remote workers’ “right to rest.”
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Location: Lisbon, Portugal; Credit: Sean3810 / Getty Images

· 3 min read

In today’s hybrid pandemic workplace, messages from your boss can sometimes light up your phone like the unrelenting climax of a Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular, regardless of the time of day. But this barrage of after-hours missives will no longer fly in Portugal, where the country’s parliament just outlawed employer texts outside of an employee’s regular working hours, “except under exceptional circumstances,” the AP reports.

American workers dreaming of greater work-life balance as they adjust to messy office re-openings might now be gazing across the Atlantic with a bit of envy.

Text me after work? You’ll pay for that. The law seeks to protect workers’ “right to rest,” meaning an employer cannot text, email, or call an employee after the work shift concludes, for 11 consecutive hours. The rule affects companies with more than 10 employees, and any employer that violates it can face fines. The texting law, passed last Friday, is part of a broader legislative package that applies to Portugal’s remote workforce.

It includes a number of other clauses:

  • Workers with children under eight years old don’t have to seek approval to WFH, as long as their duties make remote work feasible.
  • Companies may have to pay for part of their workers’ increased home utilities costs, such as gas, internet, and heat, as a result of working remotely.

Please, work here (remotely)!

Portugal is one of several European countries offering “digital nomad” visas to attract new residents. Earlier this year, an entrepreneur in the Madeira islands—an autonomous region of Portugal several hundred miles west of Morocco—launched a small network of digital nomad coworking hubs. And yet here I am, typing away on my couch in a Brooklyn neighborhood that is aggressively not Madeira.

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Portugal is burnishing its image as a haven for remote workers who may be interested in relocating to a place with a favorable work-life balance and some of the highest vaccination rates in Europe. Ana Mendes Godinho, the country’s minister of labor, solidarity, and social security, said as much earlier this month during a speech, the BBC reported: “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’s legislation is similar to a 2017 bill passed in France, which gave workers the right to ignore work email after working hours. If US workers are suffering a massive case of FOMO over their European counterparts, it might be best to temper expectations and just get a burner phone for personal use. Speaking on the chances of a similar bill being passed in the US, Veena Dubal, a law professor at University of California’s Hastings College of Law, told The Guardian: “The business lobby would never allow something like this to pass...US lawmakers and courts have historically been very reticent to interfere in business decisions.”—SB

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Contact Sam Blum via the encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram (@SamBlum_Brew) or simply email [email protected].

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.