New Ways of Working

Explore and keep track of key legal and compliance considerations for multinational employers as new ways of working become increasingly embedded as the pandemic begins to recede. Learn more about the response taken in specific countries or build your own report to compare approaches taken around the world.

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01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

The Portuguese Labour Code established the legal regime for remote working, in particular teleworking, in 2003. This provided employers with a general framework for this kind of arrangement. During the covid-19 pandemic and its successive lockdowns, a vast array of legislation on telework was issued, given the specificity of the situation.

Back in March 2020, the teleworking regime could be unilaterally imposed by an employer or requested by employees, without the need for an agreement of the parties provided that it was compatible with the employees’ functions. Independent contractors were excluded from the scope of this regime.

Due to the evolution of the pandemic, it was then determined that teleworking should be mandatory, regardless of the employment relationship (including contractors), whenever employees’ functions allowed it. In this context, measures were also adopted to promote the compulsory implementation of teleworking within the scope of civil servants, whenever this was compatible with the functions being performed.

With the reduction in the number of covid-19 cases, in summer 2020 teleworking was no longer mandatory and the legal regime foreseen in the Portuguese Labour Code was solely applicable.

However, the increase of covid-19 infections led to the adoption of new measures in October 2020, which determined the promotion of teleworking whenever the nature of the activity allowed it. Considering the number of outbreaks, it quickly evolved to a point when teleworking became mandatory in the regions with a higher risk of infection.

It was only in November 2020 that teleworking was established as mandatory for companies that were the final users or beneficiaries of services provided by independent contractors, service providers and temporary employees.

After Christmas 2020 and with the new lockdown, teleworking once again became mandatory across the country. Despite a government announcement in March 2021 that teleworking would be mandatory until the end of the year, due to the success of the national vaccination programme teleworking ceased to be mandatory from 1 August 2021.

Council of Ministers Resolution No.181-A/2021 decreed mandatory teleworking between 25 December 2021 and 9 January 2022, which was then extended until 14 January 2022.

Other than this period of mandatory teleworking, at the end of 2021 Law No. 83/2021 was passed, which entered into force on 1 January 2022. This law modified the teleworking regime, introducing several changes to the Labour Code and to Law 98/2009 on work accidents and occupational diseases.

This new law states that provisions on equipment and systems; organisation, direction, and control of work; special obligations; privacy; and health and safety at work apply to all situations of remote work without legal subordination, but with economic dependence. The extension and scope of such obligations are unclear, but it is doubtful that this new teleworking regime was intended to accommodate “gig economy” workers and other independent contractors. It is more likely to have a residual character, to prevent situations where it is unclear if one is dealing with an employment contract or a service provision (eg, home workers), as this may change crucial rules on privacy or health and safety.

Last updated on 08/07/2022

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Sweden

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  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper

The Swedish government has not introduced any statutory laws regarding remote working, only recommendations. Thus, it is generally the employer who decides if employees should work from home or at the office. Under the currently applicable recommendations from 23 December 2021, the Swedish Public Health Agency recommends that employers facilitate employees working from home.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Until the pandemic, teleworking was used rather infrequently, and most Portuguese employers were not prepared – namely in terms of technology and data storage – to suddenly have their workforce almost entirely and permanently working from home or remotely.

For those reasons, teleworking mainly raised – and continues to raise – concerns regarding the employer’s capacity to ensure that information is protected and that it stays confidential despite being remotely accessed and processed. Remote working enhances security vulnerabilities, which can lead to data breaches.

We would also like to highlight the use of technological solutions that, on one hand, allow employers to exercise their powers of management and control over work performance, but that, on the other, do not violate the general rule prohibiting the use of remote surveillance to control employees' professional performances, or that do not cause excessive restrictions on employees’ private lives.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper

Pursuant to the GDPR, personal data should, inter alia, be processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security and confidentiality for the processing of that data, including by preventing unauthorised access to or use of personal data. For natural reasons, there may be additional challenges associated with this obligation when employees are working remotely, including an increased risk of personal data breaches when employees are working from home. The Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection mentions in its Privacy Protection Report of 2020 the increase in employees working from home as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, and the increased use of cloud service providers. The Authority highlights that data in cloud services is often transferred to countries outside the EU/EEA, and especially to the US. As a result of the Schrems II ruling in 2020, the use of, eg, cloud service providers that transfer data to  such jurisdictions (eg, in connection with IT maintenance) is problematic and may need to be addressed in relation to remote working.   

In light of the above, it is important as an employer to consider what measures are necessary in terms of IT security when working from home (eg, instructions to employees).

Last updated on 21/09/2021

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

In terms of privacy, the teleworking regime establishes that employers must respect employees’ privacy and time with their families, as well as provide them with good working conditions, both physically and psychologically. This was made even clearer with the new teleworking law.

Whenever remote working is carried out at an employee's home, visiting the workplace should only be necessary to check work performance or equipment and can only take place during the employees’ working hours, in the presence of the employee or a person designated by the employee, with prior notice of at least 24 hours and the employee’s consent.

Regarding limits on employers monitoring employee activity, the Portuguese Labour Code prohibits the use of remote surveillance in the workplace to monitor the professional performance of employees.

Especially during the pandemic, when remote working and teleworking, in particular, were normalised, concerns arose regarding the limits of monitoring and how to adequately safeguard employees’ privacy.

On 17 April 2020, the National Data Protection Commission (CNPD) issued guidelines on remote control during teleworking, especially the need for monitoring working time and the fact that, in several companies, employees were using their own devices to work.

In these guidelines, the National Data Protection Commission clarified that, regardless of who owns the work equipment, under the teleworking regime employers retain powers to direct and control the execution of work by employees. However, since there are no special provisions on remote control during teleworking, the National Data Protection Commission believes that the general rule prohibiting the use of remote surveillance fully applies.

Therefore, technological solutions for remote monitoring of employee performance are not allowed. For example, software that, in addition to tracking working times, records websites visited; tracks equipment locations in real-time; monitors the use of peripheral devices; captures screenshots; records when access to applications is initiated; controls the document being worked on; or records the time spent on each task are all prohibited.

Please note that, during the pandemic, when remote working was most widespread, the National Data Protection Commission and Trade Unions reported a significant increase in employees’ complaints about illegal monitoring taking place.

Also, since Portuguese labour law imposes an obligation to register working time (eg, start, pauses, end of work time), in teleworking this can be done through technological solutions. Applications specially designed for this purpose are allowed provided data protection principles are respected.

Concerns regarding these technological solutions were partially addressed by the new teleworking law, which states that when controlling the performance, the employer must respect the principles of proportionality and transparency, notably the employer cannot impose a permanent connection on employees through image or sound.  Also, it is forbidden to capture and use images, sound, keystrokes, browsing history, or other information that may affect the employee's right to privacy.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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From a privacy perspective, employers must consider the GDPR and other privacy-related legislation. The GDPR states, inter alia, that the processing of personal data must be adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary concerning the purposes for which they are processed (ie, the data minimisation principle). This means that the employer’s monitoring of employees cannot be too intrusive – it must be proportionate for the purpose. Furthermore, employers must be able to demonstrate that the purpose of the processing cannot be fulfilled by other, less-intrusive, means. Employers must also adhere to other GDPR requirements, eg, providing employees with information about the data processing in advance. Further, employers must always act in accordance with good practices in the Swedish labour market.

When it comes to employees’ use of email and the internet, the Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection recommends that employers have guidelines for internet use and e-mail. The guidelines should clearly state what type of private use is permitted, and also when the employer may consider controlling employees’ internet or e-mail use. Depending on the situation, it may be lawful to carry out inspections of an employee’s online usage. If there is a concrete suspicion that an employee is acting in breach of his or her employment contract, it may be lawful to monitor that employee, subject to complying with the GDPR and other privacy legislation. Employees must be informed about inspections or monitoring that may take place.

In terms of time tracking, the Swedish Working Hours Act also applies to remote working, meaning that the same limits on overtime and provisions on minimum daily rest periods must be observed. In some circumstances, however, such as when the work is performed without employer supervision or control, the Working Hours Act may not apply. There are no general guidelines on when the exemption is applicable, but it should be applied restrictively and is rarely applicable in the case of remote working. Employers should therefore engage in dialogue with employees on their working time to ensure compliance with the Working Hours Act.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Yes, under the new teleworking law employers are responsible for providing employees with the equipment and systems required for the performance of their work and employee-employer interaction. The teleworking agreement must indicate whether such equipment is directly provided by the employer or acquired by the employee with the employer’s approval regarding its characteristics and prices.

Furthermore, employers may define the usage conditions of the equipment in the teleworking agreement or the company's internal regulations; if the employer does not, it is assumed that there are no limits to the use of such equipment.

As mentioned above, under the general provisions on teleworking, employers should pay any extra costs related to teleworking. As specified by the new teleworking law, employers will fully reimburse all additional expenses that the employee incurs as a direct consequence of acquiring or using the equipment and computer or telematics systems necessary for the performance of the work, which includes any additional energy and internet costs, as well as the maintenance costs of the equipment and systems. Such reimbursement is considered, for tax purposes, a cost for employers and does not constitute income for employees.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper

There is no legal obligation per se to provide work equipment; however, employers are responsible for the overall work environment, irrespective of whether the work is performed at the office or remotely from the employee’s home. This means that the employer must assess the employee’s homeworking environment to identify any health and safety risks. This also includes a responsibility for the psychosocial environment. If such an assessment was to show that, for example, the lighting or the seating arrangements for an employee would pose a risk for ill-health, the employer would be required to take measures to prevent this risk. Such measures could include offering employees work equipment such as a lamp or office chair. However, the need should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to computers and other tools necessary to perform the work, it is common for employers to provide this to employees.

In terms of reimbursing costs such as internet when working from home, there are no legal requirements and it is therefore subject to agreement with the employee. However, it is not uncommon that the employer pays part of the internet fee for employees that are permanently home-based, but it is not required.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

The analysis of potential issues associated with cross-border remote working depend on whether employees are working in Portugal or abroad and if there are one or multiple employers involved and where they are located.

However, cross-border remote-working arrangements mainly raise issues regarding the definition of applicable law. The correct definition of the applicable law allows for compliance with labour and social security obligations that otherwise, if breached, pose significant risks to employers.

Even if there is an agreement through which the parties choose the applicable law, a set of mandatory provisions of Portuguese labour law would still apply if the work is mainly performed in Portugal, namely in key areas such as termination, health and safety obligations, and insurance for workplace accidents. Failure to correctly identify the applicable law may have serious consequences, for instance, employers may be entirely and solely responsible for all liabilities deriving from a work accident.

Furthermore, if in a given case the Portuguese labour law applies to the cross-border remote-working agreement, employers have to bear in mind that there are some difficulties regarding the definition of workplace and work time in connection with remote working, which can raise challenges when implementing these schemes.

Besides the above, cross-border remote working may also raise questions regarding work permits.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper

Labour law

Pursuant to the Rome I regulation, the employment relationship will, as a main rule, be governed by the law of the country in which the employee habitually carries out his or her work. If the employee does not habitually carry out the work in one country, the contract is governed by the law of the country of the place of business of the employer. However, if it appears from the circumstances as a whole that the work is more closely connected with another country, the law of that other country shall apply. Notwithstanding the above, it is possible for the employer and employee to agree on which country’s legislation should apply, provided another law does not deprive the employee of the protections that would have been guaranteed by statutory law under the applicable legislation, as per the Rome 1 regulation.

In light of this, cross-border remote-working arrangements may open up questions on applicable legislation. It is advisable to check if there are any such issues before allowing such arrangements. In addition, there may also be tax consequences for both the employer and employee. Furthermore,  a cross-border remote-working arrangement might also mean risk from an insurance perspective. Therefore, employers should ensure their insurance covers employees working remotely from another country.

Social security and tax law

Employers who have employees working remotely from another country should be cautious about the tax effects such an arrangement may trigger. An employee working remotely (eg, from home) in Sweden may trigger a taxable permanent establishment in Sweden, which has the effect that a part of the company’s income would have to be taxed in Sweden. If a permanent establishment is triggered, the company would have to register with the Swedish Tax Agency for corporate income tax purposes. It should also be noted that the Tax Agency can look back up to six calendar years for a reassessment of a permanent establishment. It is thereby possible for a foreign company to carry out activities in Sweden for a long time without being taxed in Sweden and having a full reassessment decision from the Tax Agency for previous years.

Furthermore, the company may also have to register for payroll purposes in Sweden, if the employee’s income would be subject to Swedish income tax and Swedish social security contributions. Income tax and social security contributions are to be reported and paid monthly. However, if the employer does not have a permanent establishment in Sweden, and provided that certain criteria are met, the employee may self-report and pay the social security contributions (but not the tax). Even if such an arrangement can be applied, the employer must still register with the Swedish Tax Agency for filing a statement of earnings and tax deductions and to report and pay income tax on the salary paid to the employee.

If a Swedish company has employees working remotely in another country, the employer may become liable to pay income social security fees and taxes abroad on any income that would be attributable to the work undertaken in that country, and may also have to comply with the registration and reporting requirements of that country.

In international cross-border working situations, taxation is not only regulated under domestic law but also double taxation treaties. As these rules reflect the special situation between two states and are the result of negotiations between them, it follows that these rules vary from one double taxation treaty to another. Regarding social security, domestic law, EU community regulations and international social security conventions must be taken into account when assessing which country the employee belongs to and what social security contributions are to be paid in that country. Normally, an A1 certificate would have to be obtained for social security purposes; such certificate states which country’s social security insurance system that the employee belongs to.

It is recommended to seek guidance from an independent tax counsel regarding international cross-border work situations to assess the tax consequences in each case.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Teleworking employees have the same rights and obligations as any other employees, which implies that no reduction in salaries or benefits is admissible, in principle. Under Portuguese labour law, employers cannot reduce basic remuneration unless there is a demotion, which must be, in any case, expressly authorised by both the employee and the Authority for Working Conditions (ACT).

Reducing or cancelling any other payments to remote workers would be deemed discriminatory, and therefore illegal, except for situations where valid grounds could justify it.

Moreover, concerning reducing or suppressing benefits, the fact that benefits have been granted regularly over the years may lead to their qualification as acquired rights of the employees and part of employees’ remuneration, which would mean restrictions on the termination, reduction or alteration of such payments.

During the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, there was debate over whether employees were still entitled to a meal allowance if they were teleworking, since the cause for payment would cease to exist (ie, employees would no longer be forced to spend money on out-of-home meals). However, the government clarified that, under the special compulsory teleworking regime (whenever the nature of the functions being performed was compatible with it), employees retain the right to a meal allowance, based on the principle of equal rights for on-site employees and teleworkers. It is now fairly and widely accepted that such meal allowances cannot be withdrawn based on the circumstances of teleworking employees.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper

The employer is not entitled to unilaterally reduce the employee’s salary or other employment benefits unless provided for in the individual employment agreement or a collective bargaining agreement. Hence, such a measure would require an agreement between the employer and the employee. If the employer implements unilateral salary deductions, the employer may be held liable to pay damages for a breach of contract. Moreover, there is a risk that the employee can claim that the deductions imply an unlawful termination of employment, which could make the employer liable to pay both compensation for losses sustained (capped at 32 months’ salary) as well as general damages.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

No, vaccination against covid-19 is not compulsory in Portugal, not even for so-called risk groups such as medical personnel or social workers. For the time being, employers cannot force employees to be vaccinated or ask them to provide information on their vaccination status; they can only generally recommend vaccination. Without the Portuguese parliament passing a law making vaccination compulsory, no private or public entity can force its employees to get vaccinated.

Furthermore, to implement a compulsory policy, employers would most likely have to obtain vaccination certificates from their employees, which would be unlawful under the provisions on privacy and health data protection established in the Portuguese labour law.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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There are no statutory regulations regarding vaccination requirements in Sweden. However, an employer cannot compel an employee to get vaccinated, and as a main rule, a refusal by an employee to get vaccinated does not constitute a basis for termination of employment. A requirement by an employer for employees to get vaccinated has not been tried legally, but the possibility to demand an employee to get vaccinated is likely very limited. That being said, pursuant to the Work Environment Act, employers must take all necessary measures to avoid risks of injury or ill-health at work. If no other measures than the vaccine are available to ensure a safe environment (eg, other protective measures such as social distancing, wearing face masks or cleaning are deemed inadequate), and if the business cannot eliminate the risk of infection through other protective measures such as working from home, it may be justified to require employees are vaccinated to work from the office. A refusal to get vaccinated by the employee may in such a case have consequences for their employment; for example, the employer may be entitled to move the employee to another position. Such measures shall only be taken if there are special reasons for doing so, based on the needs of the business. The nature of the business will be of importance when making such a legal assessment; for example, if the nature of the work performed justifies such a requirement (health workers in certain medical fields). The legal assessment must thus be made based on the circumstances in each case.

It is important to note that a refusal does not automatically mean that the employer may terminate the employee. The employer must observe the formal rules in the Swedish Employment Protection Act and ensure that there is “just cause” for termination. This would, inter alia, include an obligation to review and offer the individual any free positions within the company the employee is qualified for (and for which the employee doesn’t need to be vaccinated for work environment reasons) before termination of employment can come into question and the threshold for just cause for termination may be reached. 

Last updated on 24/01/2021

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Employers cannot require employees to provide information regarding their health – namely but not exclusively regarding their vaccination – except when it is strictly necessary and relevant to assess their suitability for work and the stated purpose is provided in writing to employees. Please note that even in such cases, health data would be provided to the occupational doctor – ie, not directly to the employer – who in turn can only communicate to the company an employee's fitness to perform their role.

Therefore, it is unlawful to make entry to the workplace conditional on employees having an optional vaccine such as covid-19, both from a labour and a data protection perspective. Such behaviour can be deemed a very serious breach of labour laws, leading to penalties, orders to cease such conduct, and damages under general civil law principles.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper

Requiring employees to be vaccinated in the office may render discrimination claims from employees unable or unwilling to take the vaccine due to characteristics protected in the Swedish Discrimination Act. As mentioned above, an employer cannot compel an employee to get vaccinated. However, the employer must take all necessary measures to avoid risks of injury or ill health at work according to the Work Environment Act. If no other measures than a vaccine are available to ensure a safe environment (where other protective measures such as face masks, safe distancing or similar are deemed inadequate), it could be argued that it is justifiable to ask employees to be vaccinated to work from the office or continue homeworking until the rate of infection has gone down, if this is necessary and proportionate to ensure a safe working environment.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

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Portugal

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  • at Cuatrecasas

No, there are not.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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There are no such requirements for any sector. There are currently no recommendations from relevant Swedish authorities that employers should treat unvaccinated employees differently to vaccinated employees.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

See question 9.

In addition to the rules for processing employee’s health data, from a personal data perspective, the processing of special categories of data (vaccination data qualifies as health data) is generally forbidden unless one of the exceptions foreseen in article 9 (2) of GDPR applies. Therefore, this processing would only be lawful if this data is necessary for preventive or occupational medicine or for assessing the working capacity of the employee.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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Medical and vaccination information relating to an individual constitute health data, which is considered a special category of personal data under article 9 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The main rule is that the processing of such data is prohibited, unless there is an applicable exemption to process the data (for example, that processing is necessary for the employer to fulfil their obligations and exercise their special rights within labour law and in the areas of social security and social protection). From a general employment law perspective, however, it does not appear necessary for the employer to register or draw up lists of employees’ immunity in any way to fulfil an obligation or right within labour law and in the areas of social security and social protection.

Article 9.2 (i) GDPR offers another exemption to the general prohibition to process special category data: it may be lawful if the processing is necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, such as protecting against serious cross-border threats to health or ensuring high standards of quality and safety of health care and medicinal products or medical devices. However, such processing must be based on EU or member state law, which normally does not apply for “ordinary” businesses.

To summarise, the opportunity for employers to lawfully process employee medical data and data on vaccination under the GDPR is very limited.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

According to the Portuguese Labour Code, teleworking employees have the same rights and duties as other employees, namely concerning working conditions, health and safety, and medical care arising from work accidents or occupational illnesses. Employers must also be mindful of the isolation of remote employees by ensuring regular contact with the company and other employees.

Employers are responsible for the identification and management of risks in teleworking and on-site work alike. When addressing the health and safety risks of remote working, employers must pay particular attention to psychosocial risks and ergonomic factors.

Employers must organise, in specific and adequate terms, and with respect for employee privacy, the means necessary to fulfil their responsibilities regarding health and safety at work. Employers must provide employees with good working conditions both physically and psychologically; and carry out occupational health examinations before the implementation of the teleworking policy, and annual examinations thereafter to assess the physical and mental aptitude of employees to perform their work, the impact of the activity and the conditions in which it is provided on their health, as well as any preventive measures that may be appropriate.

Employees must give access to the place they telework to professionals designated by their employer to evaluate and control the health and safety conditions at work, at a previously agreed time, between 9am and 7pm, and within the employee’s working hours.

Employers must also keep insurance companies informed of the specific workplace of remote or teleworking, to ensure that their policy will cover any work accident that might occur.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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  • at DLA Piper

Under Swedish law, employers have overall responsibility for the employee’s work environment and must take all necessary measures to prevent employees from being exposed to risks of injury or ill-health. This responsibility lies with the employer irrespective of whether the work is performed at the office or remotely. Employees, however, also have an obligation to participate in work environment management and should participate in the implementation of any measures necessary to achieve a good working environment, as well as draw attention to potential safety risks. A close dialogue between the employer and employees is important, and often even more so where the work is carried out remotely.

The employer’s management of the working environment should be conducted systematically, ensuring that it fulfils applicable rules and regulations for a good work environment. This systematic management should include risk assessments of the business, active measures, and follow-ups in respect of the work environment. Furthermore, employers must, as a main rule, implement adequate action plans and policies to ensure a safe working environment. In companies with many remote workers, it is generally a good idea to set up clear guidelines for remote-working routines (eg, regarding support, communication and physical equipment).

Last updated on 24/01/2022

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Before the pandemic, teleworking and remote working were rather infrequent, hence there was little guidance on what specifications should be considered in terms of health and safety at work when employees were not onsite.

When teleworking became mandatory during a large part of the pandemic, employers had to consider many new health and safety challenges: particular attention was paid to equipment and conditions at home, with many companies paying for office chairs, monitors, and other tools compatible with ergonomic standards. Also, due to the isolation and stress of successive lockdowns, employers enhanced their focus on mental health and well-being.

In terms of legal discussion, there was a significant debate around work accidents when employees are working remotely, due to the lack of specific provisions in the law.

With the new teleworking law, it was clarified that the legal policy for compensation for accidents at work and occupational illnesses applies to teleworking. The law considers the relevant ‘workplace’ to be the one chosen by employees to usually carry out their activities and ‘working time’ as all time during which, demonstrably, employees are working.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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Employers’ legal responsibility for their work environment, as such, has not been impacted by the pandemic. However, in practice, employers have been forced to quickly adapt to the new situation and face new challenges due to the pandemic. As many employers have not had any routines regarding the work environment beyond the physical workplace, it has been important to assess what risks there are concerning employees physical and mental health and how they can be minimised.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
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As far as Portuguese labour law applies to employment relations, health and safety obligations on employers are the same for employees working on-site, from home, remotely, or “mobile” employees, with the latter understood to be employees working in more than one place or travelling frequently as part of their job.

What differs is the evaluation of health and safety risks according to the specific circumstances of each employee (ie, even though the employers’ obligations are the same irrespective of the type of employee, the assessment and specific measures to be applied to ensure compliance will vary in accordance with the way each job is performed).

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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An employer’s legal responsibility is the same irrespective of whether the work is to be performed primarily from home or remotely. However, an employer’s ability to control and assess an employee’s working situation is naturally more limited for remote workers and places great demands on the employer’s systematic management of the work environment. Risk assessments must be conducted regularly and the employer must foresee what risks can arise in different situations. Furthermore, the dialogue between an employer and employee is important so that the employer is informed of any issues regarding the work environment.  

Last updated on 24/01/2022

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

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Portugal

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According to the Portuguese Labour Code, employers must provide good working conditions, both physical and mental. Health obligations should be understood holistically, encompassing both mental and physical health and wellbeing. Since these obligations apply to employers regardless of the type of employment relationship, they will also include teleworking and remote-working employees.

In practical terms, this implies that, when the health and safety services assess risks, they will identify and analyse those specific to the circumstance of not working onsite, such as stress, fatigue, or sedentariness.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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An employer’s systematic management shall include both psychological and social circumstances that have an impact on the work environment. This also means a general obligation to regularly assess working conditions and to be attentive to employees’ wellbeing. Managers and workers with supervisory functions shall be aware, in the day-to-day business, of warning signals indicating mental health issues, such as increased absences from work, silence and fatigue at work or high activity on email or the telephone outside working hours.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

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Portugal

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During the pandemic, the government created a special and simplified lay-off system, aimed at maintaining jobs in companies that were totally or partially closed due to the imposition of the law. Under this system, employers could, in short, reduce the normal working time (daily or weekly) or suspend employment contracts.

Within this system, employers could reduce remuneration within certain limits: employees could earn at least two-thirds of their regular monthly remuneration, with a minimum amount of 635 euro in 2020 and 665 euro in 2021 and a maximum limit of 1,905.00 euro in 2020 and 1,995.00 euro in 2021.

Payments to employees were made by the employer, who received aid from Social Security corresponding to 70% of the costs. Employers were also exempt from social security contributions regarding employees under the simplified lay-off regime.

Other measures allowed for the reduction of salaries, namely extraordinary support for the progressive resumption of activity for companies with a temporary reduction of normal working times, which applied to companies not subject to facility closures, but that still had losses of 25% or more in a calendar month prior to the calendar month of the initial application or extension, compared with the same month of the previous year or 2019, or compared with the six-month average prior to that period.

Regarding the hours not worked under this scheme, employees were entitled to compensation of 80% of their gross pay paid by employers. If this sum represented a monthly amount lower than the employee's normal gross pay, the amount paid by Social Security would increase to cover the difference, capped at 1,995 euro.

Seventy per cent of the said compensation was borne by Social Security, with the employer responsible for the remaining 30%. Where the reduction in working time was more than 60%, Social Security support corresponded to 100% of compensation.

Please note that accessing these and other state support measures – not only labour and social security-based relief, but also some tax measures and tenancy benefits – meant employers could not terminate employment contracts based on collective or individual dismissal during the period they availed of said benefit and within 60 or 90 days after its end. Some support measures also forced employers to maintain current employment levels and limited, among other things, the right to terminate employment contracts by agreement (ie, in such cases, employers would have to repay the benefit that they were granted, either partially or entirely, depending on the situation).

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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In April 2020, new legislation enabled employers affected by temporary and serious financial difficulties that could not reasonably have been foreseen or avoided (eg, due to the coronavirus situation) to reduce their employees' working hours and receive financial support from the Swedish government. The government covered three-quarters of the cost for the reduced working hours and the employer and employee shared the cost of the remaining quarter. For employers to receive support, the employer must have made use of other available measures for reducing labour costs, such as terminations of personnel not permanently employed and not regarded as being critical to business operations. The  possibility of receiving financial support under this legislation ceased to exist in September 2021.

New legislation on financial support has been proposed to apply from December 2021 to March 2022 for employers that have lost at least 30% in revenue. Affected employers will be able to receive support of 70% or 90 % (depending on the size of the company) of their fixed costs, such as salaries and rent, that they are unable to cover.  

The rules for termination of employment are the same regardless of the covid-19 situation. To terminate an “employment until further notice” under Swedish law, "just cause" is required. Just cause can either be related to personal reasons (eg, poor performance and misconduct) or redundancy. It is significantly more difficult to terminate an employee due to personal reasons (reasons relating to the individual employee) than due to redundancy. In general, termination due to personal reasons is considered a last resort by the courts. Redundancy on the other hand is deemed, as a main rule, to constitute just cause for termination of employment and there is no general obligation under the Employment Protection Act (EPA) to justify the redundancy (eg, with financial information or similar). The employer, however, must observe material and formal rules laid down by the EPA concerning redundancy terminations (as well as termination due to personal reasons).

Last updated on 24/01/2022

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

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Portugal

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Until the pandemic, unions in Portugal were not particularly focused on remote-working and teleworking employees or their working conditions and rights.

Nevertheless, during the pandemic, unions played an important role in shaping the contours and content of the special teleworking regime, namely through pressuring the government to address or clarify some key issues, such as the payment of meal allowances and other expenses to teleworking employees, but also to report some misconduct, such as illegal monitoring of teleworking employees.

Employers did not give unions a particularly relevant role in the adoption of covid-19 measures; the simplified lay-off regime meant there was a duty to consult with trade union delegates and workers’ councils, when applicable, but not to negotiate with the unions.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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In Sweden, the same rules and regulations regarding employment protection also apply to remote workers. Therefore, few measures have been taken by unions or worker associations in this regard. However, worker associations and unions have actively encouraged employers to allow remote working to protect workers from covid-19 and create a safer working environment.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

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Portugal

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No, this level of intervention regarding remote-working and telework arrangements is not available to unions.

At the most, unions can ask for information on general teleworking regimes that employers may wish to agree with employees under the general guidelines of the Portuguese Labour Code, since unions are entitled to be informed about decisions that are likely to trigger substantial changes in the organisation of work or employment contracts.

Nonetheless, please note that collective bargaining agreements may introduce specific terms regarding teleworking and remote-working regimes.

Last updated on 13/07/2022

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Sweden

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If an employer is bound by a collective bargaining agreement, the employer, as a main rule, should request and conclude trade union negotiations before implementing an obligation to work remotely. Trade union representatives can present their views on this arrangement in the negotiation. However, a trade union cannot alter or veto the employer's homeworking arrangements (assuming that the collective bargaining agreement does not prohibit remote working). That being said, a trade union may take action if there are deficiencies in the working environment for employees working from home.

If the home-working arrangement is voluntary for employees, there is generally no obligation to perform trade union negotiations. The trade union, however, has a right to be informed about any changes relevant for employees under section 19 of the Swedish Co-Determination (in the workplace) Act.

If there is no collective bargaining agreement in place for the employer, there is no obligation to request trade union negotiations. Depending on the individual circumstances (eg, if it is a permanent solution and if the employment agreement allows for such a change of workplace) an agreement with the individual employee may be required for the employer to impose an obligation to work remotely on employees.

Last updated on 21/09/2021