Brazilians vote for remote working, but the legislation presents challenges for employers

There is a notebook on the sofa in the living room, and besides the sofa there is a pair of brown slippers.

Sometimes important transformation trends need an external trigger to prove their right to exist. That is what recently happened to remote working during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

As international studies have already proven, the health crisis has suddenly helped the adoption of remote working by most companies around the world. Especially those that would likely have never implemented a home office policy, as they did not believe in working from home. And during several months of confinement the experience apparently changed the mind of many business leaders.

However, employers in Brazil need to follow some particular rules prescribed by the national labor law. Especially regarding interns and apprentices, the situation seems delicate.

Positive effects of remote working

It is true that, over the last four years, more and more companies have started to allow remote work. They found that their employees were happier when given the choice between working from home or at the office. This working model is usually called “hybrid”. Additionally, the “2017 State of Remote Work” report by Owl Labs has shown another benefit of having a more flexible workplace mentality. According to the report, companies with remote-friendly options saw 25% less turnover than those that did not.

Even so, when researchers asked employees around the globe in 2018 about their working situation, the result was not really satisfying. 44% of the respondents stated that their employer did not provide the option of working remotely.

What Brazilians say about working from home

The coronavirus pandemic greatly changed the previously existing working landscape, especially in Brazil. The research firm Gartner found in a global study, that 77% of the Brazilian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) switched to home office during the last months. In doing so, Brazil presents the highest proportion of people in remote work among the analyzed markets. On global average 59% of the SMEs took this action, according to the survey.

“We noted that Brazil has followed a global trend of rapid adaptation to remote work. In general, workers want to continue with this possibility, and companies will have to get used to and prepare for it”, said Luca Rossi, one of the researchers.

Indeed, this trend has also manifested itself in other national surveys. In July, the University of São Paulo published the study “Satisfaction and Performance in Migration to the Home Office” with approximately 1.300 respondents. The vast majority approved the experience of working at home. “That was a surprise. We expected a relatively critical view of remote working”, explained the study’s coordinator, Wilson Amorim.

Brazilians are changing their habits

Following the results, 70% of the Brazilians would like to continue working in home office, against 19% who would not. 11% were indifferent. Those who know the living conditions in the country a little better, might be surprised by these numbers. Especially in large cities like São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, apartments are quite small and, usually do not offer a specific space for working at home. However, Amorim has pointed out three hypotheses to explain the positive result.

For one, to be working while the environment is marked by unemployment can already be considered a relief factor. Another point could be the insecurity regarding the personal health situation. Remote working naturally reduces the risk of contagion. Finally, he has highlighted the “earned” time of not facing traffic on conventional workdays.

Some Brazilian companies have already adapted and embraced the new mentality. The fintech Nubank, for instance, already closed its office in São Paulo right in the beginning of the pandemic in March and will not open its doors until the end of the current year. Their entire team is working remotely. Another company in the media spotlight these days is the BriviaDez agency located in different Brazilian cities and Lisbon.

According to its CEO, Márcio Coelho, the company had already initiated a transformation into a nomadic culture. “With everyone at home, we passed this important test of our culture”, he commented in an article for the Brazilian newspaper Exame. So, the company also changed its recruitment policy: People now can apply for new positions from all over the world, as they will not need to work in the office personally.

What the Brazilian labor law says about remote working

Importantly, employers in Brazil need to follow some particular rules prescribed by the national labor law. Otherwise they may be condemned to pay high penalties. During the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, the Brazilian government had established Provisional Measures (MP 927) with special home office rules. The employer could oblige the employees to work from home, including interns and apprentices.

However, in mid-July, these Provisional Measures expired, and it seems that, currently, there will be no prolongation. Since then, the employer can not determine remote work for all employees in a unilateral act. According to the Consolidation of Labor Laws (in Portuguese: CLT), the employer should form a mutual agreement with each employee individually about remote working.

Regarding interns and apprentices, the situation now is more delicate. Some labor lawyers state that it is no longer possible to include them in the company’s home office policy. But others defend the opposite. According to the Brazilian center of internship Nube, the legislation does not prohibit this practice. “But it requires that the company offers conditions to the trainee for social, professional and cultural learning, under the terms of the legislation”, said its labor lawyer Karolen Gualda Beber. What exactly this means is yet to be defined.

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