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Portugal Blocks Out of Hours Work Calls. Could More Countries Follow?

​It turns out it is OK to leave your boss hanging, in Portugal at least. In fact, a new Portuguese law bans employers from contacting their workers outside of their regular hours, whether that's by phone, message, or email. But how this law can be implemented in reality?

Employers must now respect the privacy of their workers and not intrude on periods of rest or family time. The new law says that any violation to this rule constitutes a serious offence and could result in a fine. And Portugal isn’t the first country to implement this type of regulation. A similar rule around work emails came into effect for French workers in 2017. The changes are part of new legislation that regulates working from home. Other measures include ensuring employees have the appropriate tools to do their job remotely and reimbursing workers for additional expenses incurred at home, such as an increase in energy costs.

But these changes may come with some challenges for employers. For those who work flexibly, how can outside of working hours be clearly defined? What if an employee likes to get their work done late at night, and this clashes with their boss’s schedule? The answer may lie in building systems that support a clear line between work and downtime. For example, an email system that doesn't allow messages to be sent after a defined time of day or corporate phone lines that switch to a messaging service between certain hours.

One thing is for sure, the way we think about and engage with work is changing. The topic of employee experience is in the spotlight more than ever before, and, amid the great resignation, workers have even more choice about how and where they work. The change in Portuguese law is unlikely to be the last of this type of legislation that we see. But can other countries learn anything from Portugal’s experience? And can we identify ways to improve or update this approach to work-life balance to support the needs of both employers and workers?

Sick of your boss intruding on your downtime? Or feel like you’re permanently glued to your work emails – even during evenings and weekends? When work becomes all-consuming it’s easy to reach your breaking point. You could pack up and move to Portugal. Or you could head over to the Kelly website and find a role that gives you room to breathe. Check out our current vacancies now.