In Portugal, telework or remote work is defined as employment carried out outside of the employer's office using information and communication technologies, either permanently or for some time. It requires a written agreement between the employer and employee and a teleworking contract outlining the remote work clauses and policies. This can also be directly added to the employment contract.
Employees with young children and ones who are victims of domestic violence have the right to telework, given that the job performed and resources available allow so.
For employees who are already employed and changing the work location from an office to their home, the teleworking agreement is valid for a maximum of three years, unless the company is covered by a collective regulation instrument that sets a different deadline. Either party can end the new arrangement within the first 30 days. When the teleworking contract ends, the worker resumes the work previously agreed upon.
Work from home
For employees to be allowed to work from home, there needs to be a written telework contract containing the following details:
- Identification, signatures and address of employer and employee
- The activity to be provided by the employee, with express mention of the teleworking regime, and corresponding remuneration
- Information on the standard working period
- If the teleworking period is less than the expected duration of the employment contract, the employee's activity after working remotely
- Ownership of the work equipment (laptop, phone) and who is responsible for the installation and maintenance of the equipment and additional expenses incurred from working from home, such as heating and electricity
- Information on the company's department that the employee works for and their contact point, such as a line manager
Employers have the following obligations:
- Provide employees with the appropriate training on the use of information and communication technologies required to perform work
- Avoid employee isolation by regularly contacting them (directly or through teammates and managers
- Installation and maintenance of tools relating to information and communication technologies
- Payment of expenses associated with the home office
- Respect employee's privacy, rest times and not contact them outside of office hours
- Provide employees with good working conditions, both physically and mentally
- Visit the employee's home office only to control work activity or maintenance of the work equipment, restricted only to 9 am-7 pm and always in the presence of the employee or someone appointed by them
- Provide the employee with the necessary equipment, working tools and a workstation to carry out their job. When this is not possible and if the employee agrees, personal equipment can be used alternatively
- Record the start, end and breaks of the employee's working hours to ensure maximum working hours are respected, and overtime is paid. Employers and employees can agree to a more flexible working schedule
- Bear the costs of eye exams of employees working from a computer screen and the payment of the appropriate equipment to protect their eyes.
Employees have the following obligations:
- Follow the employer's instructions in regards to health and safety in the home office
- Respect the limits of the standard working hours
- Employees must observe the rules for using and operation of the work tools made available to them by the employer
- Unless otherwise agreed, employees may not use the company's work tools for personal use
Health & safety at home
Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities to the employees working remotely as they do to those working from the office. There's a particular emphasis on the employee's mental welfare, and an obligation for employers to avoid remote workers' isolation. Employees are entitled to regular health and eye exams and appropriate equipment to protect their eyes.
Employers must conduct a risk assessment and prevention, and inform employees of risks they might be exposed to when working from home. Due to the limitations of access to the employee's home office, they must comply with the health and safety provisions and instructions. They have to inform their employer of an accident immediately.
Employees working from home are protected against work-related accidents and illness. The worker's compensation insurance that applies to the office premises is extended to remote workers. It requires that the company communicates the telework arrangements to the insurance provider, including the employee's address, which needs to be included in the insurance policy.
Security of information
Companies are responsible for ensuring they have sufficient data security and data protection practices for homeworking, protecting their data and personal information. The same level of security applied at an office should be applied in a remote environment. Companies should provide employees with a company computer if an employee's personal computer imposes information confidentiality risks. Employees must also ensure information confidentiality, preventing potential threats, such as leaving the equipment unattended in public places.
Best practices to ensure security include:
- provide employees with antivirus and VPN access
- train them of possible risks and attacks
- write a policy about data security for those working from home
- review access to internal systems
- ensure the security of employees own devices
- updated anti-malware and have virus protection across all devices
Employers must take all reasonable steps to ensure the employee's workstation is correctly set up, safe, comfortable and easy to use to reduce potential injuries as indicated in the health and safety measures. In turn, employees must care for their health and safety and follow any reasonable policies or directions their employer gives them.
An appropriate workstation will include the following:
- Right level of illumination, both natural and artificial light sources should not create glare on the computer
- Sufficient lighting level for visual tasks to be completed without eye strain
- The right level of ventilation and thermal comfort
- Unobstructed exit path in case of emergencies, including electrical cords, uneven carpet, clutter
- Suitable storage for documents
Employees working from home have the same rights and duties as those working from the office. Remote employees should not be impacted with limitations to their career, promotions and professional training. Health & Safety Safety at work, protection in the context of accidents at work and occupational diseases and regular working hours must also be respected.
Employers are not allowed to use remote surveillance through a computer application or any other means to control their performance. Surveillance is only accepted if the purpose is to protect and secure people and goods or when particular requirements inherent to the activity's nature justify it, and National Data Protection Commission must approve it. Furthermore, the employer must inform the employee about the existence and purpose of the surveillance means used. Tracking an employee's time on a task, websites accessed, the employee's real-time location, forcing an employee to use their camera during calls or capturing photos of the employee's screen are forbidden.
Recommendations for employees working from home:
- Take appropriate breaks every 30 minutes to ensure repetitive actions are not continued for long periods and stand up at least once per hour
- Stretch and change posture often, and if possible, an alternate activity
- Check for a comfortable posture
- Don't do any lifting, pushing, or carrying type task beyond the physical capacity
- Keep wrists in a neutral (straight) position—not bent up or down
- Sitting posture is upright or slightly reclined, maintaining slight hollow in the lower back
- Establish boundaries around work hours
- Schedule regular meetings and catch-ups with the team
- Go outdoors and exercise daily, if possible