Nov 17, 2021Portuguese government mandates work-life balance

As governments across the globe respond to pandemic-induced labour market transformations, Portugal has introduced a law to make it illegal for managers to text their employees outside of work hours. The move reflects a wider shift in the value people place on work and leisure.

Avinash Akhal

With ever-changing labour markets across much of the world, legislation is coming into play that promotes employees’ work-life balance. Portugal has passed an employment law that makes it illegal for managers to text their employees outside of work hours. The policy was introduced along with other employment laws that aim to improve work-life balance as well as attract digital nomads. Additional policies include banning work-monitoring systems and enforcing bi-monthly meetings between employees and managers. However, not all employment laws passed through Parliament. For example, the ‘right to disconnect’ policy, which allows employees to switch off work devices, didn’t pass. "The pandemic has accelerated the need to regulate what needs to be regulated," says Ana Mendes Godinho, Portugal's Minister of Labour and Social Security.

Portugal’s updated work policy responds to worker wants – such as people’s employment situation aligning more with their needs and better delineation between their work and personal lives. The pandemic has completely changed how people view and experience work – only 12% of office workers globally want to return to pre-COVID-19 office working. Indeed, workers expect employers to be more flexible, those in London want to be compensated for the cost incurred by commuting, and others want to leave the world of work altogether. The shift in perspective provides an opportunity for companies to rethink internal operations and branding – moving away from a culture of hard work and long hours and more towards achieving a work schedule that aligns with worker needs. For example, Arup has introduced a work policy that lets employees work at any time during the seven-day week.

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