Portugal: Latest working life developments Q3 2018

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New measures regarding equal pay and parliamentary debates on labour law reform are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Portugal in the third quarter of 2018.

New measures approved on right to equal pay

On 21 August, a new law was approved aimed at establishing equal pay rights. Law no. 60/2018 introduces measures to promote remuneration equality between women and men who perform equal work or work of equal value. Under the new regime, in the first half of each year, the government will publish (i) general and sectoral information about differences in remuneration between women and men, and (ii) an assessment of the differences in remuneration between women and men per company, occupation and qualification level, based on the Personnel Records ( Quadros de Pessoal).

After receiving this statistical information, the Labour Inspectorate will require the employers to deliver an evaluation plan of the differences in remuneration between women and men, to be implemented in the following 12 months. This plan builds on the evaluation of job components, based on objective criteria, common to men and women, in order to exclude any discrimination on the grounds of sex. At the end of this 12-month period, the employer shall inform the Labour Inspectorate about the outcome of the implementation of the plan. The differences in remuneration that are not justified by the employer will be deemed discriminatory.

Upon a request from the employee or the trade union representative and at the hearing of the employer, the body competent to act in the field of equal opportunities between women and men may issue an opinion on pay discrimination on the grounds of sex. This opinion will be delivered to the applicant and to the Labour Inspectorate. Any differences in remuneration that are not justified by the employer will be deemed discriminatory.

The new regime will enter into force on 21 February 2019.

Parliament starts discussions on labour law reform

On 18 July 2018, the Portuguese parliament approved (in general terms) Bill no. 136/XIII, presented by the government of the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS). The proposed law reflects the commitments of the tripartite agreement signed a month earlier by all social partners, with the exception of the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers – National Trades Union (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses – Intersindical Nacional, CGTP-IN). The announced aim is ‘to combat precariousness, to reduce the levels of labour market segmentation and to promote a greater dynamism of collective bargaining’. [1]

The bill was approved with the PS voting in favour. The centre right parties – the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata, PSD) and the Social and Democratic Centre (Centro Democrático e Social, CDS) – abstained from voting. The left parties – the Left Block (Bloco de Esquerda, BE), the Portuguese Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português, PCP) and the Green Party (Partido Ecologista ‘Os Verdes’, PEV) – voted against the bill, arguing that some of the amendments (resulting from tripartite agreement) might undermine the proposed goals. They criticised, among other things, the proposed amendments to extend the duration of very short employment contracts, extend the probationary period for first-time jobseekers and long-term unemployed people, and the decision to allow ‘group working time accounts’ to be set at company level by company referendums organised by the employers. The CGTP-IN also criticised some of these points.

The left parties also presented proposals to amend the Labour Code that were approved in general terms on the same day, with the socialists voting in favour and the centre right parties voting against: Bill no. 904/XIII and Bill no. 905/XIII proposed by the BE, Bill no. 912/XIII proposed by the PCP, and Bill no. 901/XIII proposed by the PEV.

The detailed discussion and separate voting of these bills will take place in the last quarter of 2018.

Employer organisations have stressed that the tripartite agreement will have to be respected, and presume this will be reflected in the final parliament decisions regarding the proposed amendments.

Commentary

The promotion of gender equality remains under the public policy spotlight, with a specific focus on equal pay for equal work or work of equal value. Following the tripartite agreement in June, parliamentary discussion on the labour law reforms is underway. Final decisions on the reforms are expected to be made in the final quarter of 2018.

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