The future of work in the post-pandemic: a legislative opportunity

Ana Bruno & Associados, Sociedade de Advogados, RL | View firm profile

The Portuguese Government presented “The Green Paper on the Future of Work” on March 31, 2021, putting it under discussion since then.

This decisive step in the change and modernization of Portuguese labor legislation arises in the context of a wider discussion on the answers that have to be given to a set of questions that have only become more pressing (or visible) in the face of the COVID-19 disease pandemic. The International Labor Organization and the OECD have produced, in recent years, several reports and literature on the future of work, mainly in terms of technological changes, environmental sustainability, demographic concern (aging population), and combating social inequalities.

Each of these four pillars of the future of work brings its own challenges and questions, whose answers must always be given, firstly, at a legislative level, so that they are internalized by economic agents and put into practice through their own initiative.

The guidelines in the Green Paper go far beyond the suggestions for legislative discussion – and, within this, beyond what we could describe as occasional developments in existing labor legislation -, however, we must highlight those related to the future of employment, new ways of providing work and employment relationships.

With regard to the dynamics of job transformation in Portugal, the need to regulate the new forms of work associated with the digital economy, namely the work developed on digital platforms, teleworking and digital nomadism, is accentuated; in addition, a discussion is opened up to the admissibility of figures such as redeployment or the relocation of workers within the scope of promoting networking between organizations and companies and the so-called shared economy.

Regarding remote work and teleworking, it is the Government’s intention to deepen and improve the regulation of teleworking in its different dimensions, adopting as an essential principle of this form of work provision the agreement between employer and worker, and densifying the legislation in this matter, particularly the possibilities and modalities of adopting hybrid models that combine face-to-face and distance work in the framework of the employment relationship. In addition, the intention is to explore the potential of teleworking for integrated territorial development, through the creation of jobs at a distance, particularly within regions with lower population density, promoting the progressive widespread access to digital media and tools, as well as to skills to use them.

With regard to work through digital platforms, which by nature is very decentralized and within a regulatory framework of great precariousness and independence of the respective providers, the intention is to regulate it and create a contributory and tax system adapted to this new reality, and in particular to create a presumption of employment that makes the distinction between the employed and the self-employed more clear and effective.

Finally, and in what we believe to be the topic of greatest interest, a special focus is given to the topic of digital nomadism, a phenomenon that, although not recent, is positioned as an attractiveness factor for qualified professionals who can find in Portugal the ideal conditions to develop their work – not only for employees of third parties, but also and above all in a perspective of self-employment. The main guidelines of the Green Paper in this matter are to position Portugal as a country of excellence to attract Digital Nomads, reinforcing the country’s communication and promotion strategies; regulate a fiscal framework and a system of access to specific social protection for digital nomads, promoting solutions for their better integration in Portugal; identify and study initiatives, national, regional and local, to increase the potential for receiving remote workers in the country and enhance the recovery of disabled public spaces and infrastructures, as well as other projects that may contribute to the potential of attracting these professionals to the country and its’ different regions; and improve the national network infrastructure, particularly outside large urban centers and in the interior of the country, in order to enhance areas of lower population density and make them more attractive to remote workers.

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