Working Hours and Telework Expense: Remote Work Challenges For Brazilian Employers
November 17, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has
forced many companies to review their organizational and staffing strategies in
Brazil. There is, however, limited guidance for Brazilian employers on
how to manage the approximately 8 million people who are working
remotely. We will look at the current regulations and best practices on
working hours and cost related to telework through a case study of Bradesco's
Bank's teleworking collective agreement.
“Telework” vs. “Working
from Home” – The Basics in Brazil: The Brazil
Consolidation of Labor Laws (CLT) defines two types of remote work: physically
working from home and teleworking – the latter was included in the 2017 labor
reform bill. Telework constitutes activity performed predominantly
through information systems, such as computers or telephones. “Working
from home” does not require the same use of technology in Brazil. For
instance, a tailor hired by an employer to produce garments from their house is
considered “working from home” and not “teleworking”.
The distinction between
“teleworking” and “working from home” in Brazil is important. Per the
CLT, people “working from home” have the same rights as those who work on-site,
including working hours control, overtime payment and hour bank (compensation of accumulated payable hours). In contrast,
telecommuting employees can be excluded from the CLT's chapter on working hours
with certain exceptions.
Although the laws give
employers freedom to manage their teleworkers’ work schedule, a well-established
and consistent workplace policy around working hours remains a good practice.
Employers’ access and control of working hours, with considerations of
flexibility and ability to disconnect, cannot only protect the health of
workers, but also mitigate the risks of legal claims and union challenges.
For example, In Bradesco
Bank’s agreement, the company agreed to adopt a new HRIS system to record
working hours for teleworkers. In addition, any work activity during break
periods was prohibited or, if they occurred, were properly counted as overtime.
Telework Expense: There
are no provisions in Brazilian Labor Laws regarding an employer’s obligation to
compensate employees for teleworking expenses (electricity, internet, and
telephone). These terms are typically decided through negotiation between
employers and unions or employees.
However, companies might
consider providing financial support to create adequate work infrastructure and
to prevent legal disputes. Reimbursements or monthly cost allowances to
individual employees are options for employers. It is important to note
that both strategies can create internal accounting and taxation
An alternative to
regulating the individual payments to employees is through collective
bargaining agreements with trade unions. For example, Banco Bradesco, in
addition to regulating remote work hours, provides for an annual payment of
Real 1,080 (USD $198.70) to employees for their telework expense. Notably,
according to a framework recently developed by the Brazilian government to
regulate public sector workers, such expenses will be paid by the workers
themselves, if they choose to work from home. This could be a new trend transferred
to the private sector when an employer is not willing or able to offset those
Multiple draft bills related to remote work are in the process of being
proposed as it becomes permanent in some industries. Companies in Brazil must
adjust their employment operations to comply with newer law, as well as meeting
their workers’ needs.