MADRID — Portugal is barring employers from contacting their staff outside their contracted working hours under a new law and from remotely monitoring their work, in one of the world’s boldest efforts to regulate the remote work that the pandemic forced on many in the industrialized world.
And, at a time when a surge in natural gas prices has sent electricity costs soaring, the law requires employers to pay part of the electricity and internet bills of staff who work from home.
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.
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 the new law, employers can be fined for contacting staff outside regular hours except in an emergency situation. The law also requires companies to ensure that people who work remotely go to their workplace at least once every two months, to meet with their supervisors and fellow employees, in an effort to avert excessive isolation.
It also gives young parents the right to work from home without preliminary approval from their bosses, as long as their child is less than 8 years old.