Decree-law no. 79-A/2020 of 1 October (herein “DL no. 79-A/2020”), foresees that any company (private sector) with 50 or more employees, located in specific territorial areas (as may be defined from time to time), and whose employees are providing work at the company premises must be assigned with precise clock-in and clock-out hours, as a way to avoid that all employees have the same entry and exit working hours, and thus preventing people from gathering at the company’s facilities – entrances and exit points. In these companies, the employer is responsible for organising employees in permanent groups or teams, in order to certify that each employee only has physical contact with a fixed and limited number of fellow employees, and that they are always restricted to a specific limited group. Rest breaks and lunch hours should also be organised according to the assigned groups, with each team adopting a differentiated schedule. Along with these measures, preference may be given to remote work, whenever possible.
The employer is granted powers to shift employees’ working hours, within a one-hour range limit, except in cases where that would be materially detrimental (causing severe damage) to the employee. The employer may operate working hour adjustments up to once a week. Certain groups of employees – considered to be in more vulnerable situations (including, pregnant, puerperal or breastfeeding mothers, employees who are underage, employees who suffer from reduced work capacity and those affected by disability or chronic disease, as well as employees looking after children under 12) – are protected against these changes and may not be affected (against their will). All such exempt employees will not be subject to having their working hours adjusted without being required, if they oppose to such changes, to provide evidence that the intended adjustment would be materially detrimental.
Meanwhile, a government resolution was issued on 14 October (Resolution of the Council of Ministers no. 88-A/2020, hereinafter RCM no. 88-A/2020) stating that the territorial scope of the restrictive measures set forth in DL no. 79-A/2020, includes the Metropolitan Areas of Lisbon and Oporto. These may, meanwhile, be extended to other areas.
In any case, RCM no. 88-A/2020 declares all territory to be under protection status – calamity level – for the period between 15 October to 31 October, and foresees a number of restrictive measures on opening times for shops and services, the maximum number allowed for public gatherings and other restrictive measures applicable to all of Portugal.
In all cases, employers are under the obligation to ensure safe and healthy conditions at the workplace, adequate to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to minimise the risks associated therein. Although encouraged, working remotely is currently only mandatory where compatible with job functions in specific cases; e.g., where working premises and work organisation does not allow for the full implementation of the preventive measures recommended by the health authority.
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