Portugal: Flexible forms of work: 'very atypical' contractual arrangements

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 04 March 2010



About
Country:
Portugal
Author:
Heloísa Perista & Jorge Cabrita
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Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Although non-standard employment has not been a major topic in the academic debate in Portugal, the current policy debate on the labour market regulation is putting a large emphasis on some of these forms of employment. This debate, namely among social partners and policy makers, has been generally framed by a wider discussion about precariousness versus job security.

Available statistics on these non-standard forms of employment are still rather limited thus not allowing for a full picture of the Portuguese reality. Nevertheless, the figures presented in the report provide some evidence about the incidence, transitions and working conditions of some non-standard forms of employment.

1. Definition and trends

1.1 Please describe the incidence of the following forms of employment that go beyond non-standard employment in your country, including any upward or downward trends over the past five years, plus, if relevant and appropriate, a brief explanation of the labour market context:

  • Very short part-time contracts (less than 10 hours per week)

  • Short fixed-term contracts, of either less than six months, less than three months or less than one month

  • employment without formal written contracts, (based on oral contracts)

  • “zero hours” contracts/on-call work, where workers can be called upon at short notice to go into work. Do these contracts guarantee a minimum number of working hours a week? Do these contracts offer a fixed hours pattern or can the employer vary working hours?

  • any other forms of employment that are considered to be non-standard in your country (excluding regular part-time, temporary agency work and economically dependant work).

The only form of non-standard employment which may be analysed in Portugal through statistical information is very short part-time contracts. All the other referred non-standard forms of employment cannot be analysed through the available information.

According to the Personnel Records data (Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity) for 2006, employees with a regular weekly working period lower or equal to 15 hours represent 32.7% of the employees working part-time, corresponding to 1.5% of all employees (figure not much different from the 1.6% figure recorded in 2005).

The figures from the Work Orientations III - 2005 module of the ISSP, reveal that 1.9% of total respondents (working at the time the survey was applied) declared to work less than 15 hours per week. This figure was slightly higher in the case of female respondents (2.7%) than in the case of male respondents (1.4%).

The figures from the Statistics Portugal’ labour force survey also provides information on those declaring to usually work 10 hours or less per week. According to this source, there is no clear trend regarding this specific working time (see graphic 1): around 2% of the employed population usually work 10 hours or less in a weekly basis.

Graphic 1 – Percentage of the employed population with a normal working time between 1 and 10 hours per week, 1998 - 2005

Source: Statistics Portugal, Labour force survey, 1998-2005.

As a final note on this topic, reference should be made to the fact that part-time work in general is not very relevant in Portugal: according to 2006 Labour Force Survey data, 7.4% of employed men and 15.8% of employed women have part-time work.

1.2 What is the legal framework surrounding these types of employment– has it changed over the past five years, possibly in reaction to trends? Please note that this CAR does not include undeclared work.

Since 2003 all labour relations are regulated by the Labour Code, approved by the law no.99/2003. The code has a whole section dedicated to part-time work which defines the notion of part-time work: corresponds to a normal weekly period of work lower or equal to 75% of the complete period of a comparable situation, i.e., it defines an upper boundary not a lower one. It also defines the conditions in which a part-time work contract may be celebrated or changed, as well as the applicable working conditions. It basically announces the general regime provided by law or collective agreements should be applied to part-time work.

1.3 Is there any data on the transitions between:

  • non-standard forms of employment and standard forms of employment, and

  • non-standard forms of employment and unemployment/inactivity?

In other words, can non-standard forms of employment be seen as a stepping stone to more standard forms of employment, or perhaps conversely can non-standard employment contracts lead to inactivity?

Although there are no specific data regarding the non-standard forms of employment, the labour force survey figures provide evidence that transitions from fixed-term contracts to any other situation are much more unstable than in any other type of contract. The main trends are a growth of the maintenance of fixed-term situations (71.5% in 2000 to 76.58% in 2004), decreasing situations of transition from fixed-term to permanent contracts (16.23% in 2000 to 8.75% in 2004) and growth of the transitions to unemployment which can be explained by a period of economic contraction and less jobs creation (5.03% in 2000 to 9.05% in 2004%).

Table 1 - Transition rates in employment by type of contract, 2000 and 2004
  2000 2004
Employees with permanent contract to:    
Permanent contract
Fixed term contract
Self-employed (isolated)
Unemployed
Inactivity
     
Employees with fixed-term contract to:    
Fixed term contract
Permanent contract
Self-employed (isolated)
Unemployed
Inactivity
     
Self-employed (isolated) to:    
Self-employed (isolated)
Permanent contract
Fixed term contract
Unemployed
Inactivity

Source: Statistics Portugal, Labour Force Survey, 2000 and 2004, in Centeno, L. G.(2006).

Note: Self-employed (isolated) refers to those individuals which are self-employed but not employers, i.e., not employing other people.

1.4 How prominent is the academic/policy debate on non-standard employment in your country? Please briefly summarise the content of the debate.

Non-standard employment, as defined for this report, has not been a major topic in the academic debate. On the contrary, the current policy debate on the labour market regulation is putting an emphasis on some of these forms of employment. The views of policy makers and social partners on these issues are not quite coincident, as mentioned in detail in section 5.2.

2. The nature of the work carried out by those in non-standard employment

2.1. The nature of the work

  • the sector

  • the type of enterprise (size etc.)

  • the type of activity (eg low-skilled jobs such as cleaning, or high-skilled jobs such as IT consultant roles or jobs in creative arts)

There are no data available regarding the nature of work.

2.2. Work organisation

  • working hours (eg. unsocial working times, rather than working hours)

  • shift patterns.

There are no data available regarding the nature of work.

3. Consequences of non-standard work on working conditions

  • pay

  • working hours

  • exposure to risks and accidents at work

  • work-related health problems (including problems related to mental health) and occupational illnesses

  • Social consequences such as a lack of job security

  • training and career development opportunities

  • job quality: is the content of the job interesting and/or does it require the worker to possess a certain level of knowledge and skills?

  • Employment rights (equality, non-discrimination, right to collective bargaining). Are there any control mechanisms to ensure that these rights are not being breached? Are there any mechanisms to ensure that employees can lodge complaints about breaches of employment rights?

Data from the Work Orientations III – 2005 of the ISSP provides evidence in what concerns job security, perception of income, opportunities for advancement, working hours vs. money earned, if the job is interesting and job satisfaction.

Individuals employed full-time seem to feel more secure than part-time workers. A higher percentage of respondents working full time consider having a secure job when compared with those working only 34 hours per week or less. Although the percentage of those working less than 15 hours per week agreeing or strongly agreeing that their job is secure is higher than of those working between 15 and 34 hours, the proportion of respondents strongly disagreeing is significantly higher, covering almost one quarter of total.

Table 2 – Job security by employment status, 2005 (%)
Respondents stating their agreement/disagreement with the expression “my job is secure”.
  Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
Employed - full time (35 or more hours per week) 27,3 36,4 12,8 17,4 6,1
Employed - part time (between 15 and 34 hours per week) 7,2 34,4 24,6 25,6 8,2
Employed - less than 15 hours per week 13 34,8 18,6 10 23,7

Source: ISSP, WO III; Cases Weighted. Figures refer only to respondents stating they were working for pay at the interview date.

As for the perception that respondents have in what relates to their income, those working less than 15 hours per week have a worst opinion than their counterparts. Almost four fifths disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that their ‘income is high’.

Table 3 – Perception of income by employment status, 2005 (%)
Respondents stating their agreement/disagreement with the expression “my income is high”.
  Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
Employed - full time (35 or more hours per week) 2,2 14,4 28,8 37,5 17,0
Employed - part time (between 15 and 34 hours per week) 4,6 3,1 30,8 41,5 20,0
Employed - less than 15 hours per week 0,0 0,0 22,7 36,4 40,9

Source: ISSP, WO III; Cases Weighted. Figures refer only to respondents stating working for pay at the interview date.

Individuals working less than 15 hours per week also seem to have fewer opportunities for advancement in their jobs than those working more hours. In fact, over 55% does not agree or strongly disagree that their opportunities for advancement are high while none strongly agree.

Table 4 – Opportunities for advancement by employment status, 2005 (%)
Respondents stating their agreement/disagreement with the expression “opportunities for advancement are high”.
  Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
Employed - full time (35 or more hours per week) 8,8 28,6 24,9 27,1 10,6
Employed - part time (between 15 and 34 hours per week) 4,8 22,2 30,2 28,6 14,3
Employed - less than 15 hours per week 0,0 17,4 26,1 34,8 21,7

Source: ISSP – International Social Survey Programme, Work Orientation III Module, Cases Weighted. Refers to respondents stating working for pay at the interview date.

When choosing between ‘working more time and earn more’, ‘working the same number of hours and earn the same’ or’ work less time and earn less’, respondents working less than 15 hours per week present the highest percentage of those preferring the first option. Surprisingly, 5% of those in that category would work even fewer and earning less money.

Table 5 – Preference on working hours vs money earned, 2005
Respondents stating their preference on working hours vs money earned
  Work longer, earn more money Same number of hrs, same money Work fewer, earn less money
Employed - full time (35 or more hours per week) 48,6 47,9 3,5
Employed - part time (between 15 and 34 hours per week) 65,6 34,4 0,0
Employed - less than 15 hours per week 80,0 15,0 5,0

Source: ISSP – International Social Survey Programme, Work Orientation III Module, Cases Weighted. Refers to respondents stating working for pay at the interview date.

For respondents working less than 15 hours per week their job seem to be less interesting than in the case of those working more hours. The percentage of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that their job is interesting is higher for the two categories working more hours while respondents working less hours present a higher percentage of those strongly disagreeing. Using these figures as a proxy of job quality, it seems that those working less hours have lower quality jobs.

Table 6 – ‘My job is interesting’ by employment status, 2005 (%)
Respondents stating their agreement/disagreement with the expression “My job is interesting”.
  Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
Employed - full time (35 or more hours per week) 28,9 45,5 15,8 7,9 1,9
Employed - part time (between 15 and 34 hours per week) 14,1 45,3 31,3 9,4 0,0
Employed - less than 15 hours per week 9,1 45,5 27,3 4,5 13,6

Source: ISSP – International Social Survey Programme, Work Orientation III Module, Cases Weighted. Refers to respondents stating working for pay at the interview date.

Paradoxically, and despite all the previous considerations, individuals working less than 15 hours per week seem to be more satisfied with their job than those working between 15 and 34 hours and almost as satisfied as full-timers. Over three quarters of the first group are satisfied (fairly, very and completely) with their job.

Table 7 – Satisfaction with main job by employment status, 2005 (%)
Respondents’ satisfaction with main job
  Completely satisfied Very satisfied Fairly satisfied Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied Fairly dissatisfied Very dissatisfied Completely dissatisfied
Employed - full time (35 or more hours per week) 14,3 28,5 36,7 16,3 2,9 1,2 0,2
Employed - part time (between 15 and 34 hours per week) 6,2 13,8 41,5 35,4 3,1 0,0 0,0
Employed - less than 15 hours per week 13,6 13,6 50,0 18,2 4,5 0,0 0,0

Source: ISSP – International Social Survey Programme, Work Orientation III Module, Cases Weighted. Refers to respondents stating working for pay at the interview date.

4. Impact on health and safety

  • what are the main health and safety issues for workers in non-standard employment?

  • are there any control mechanisms to ensure the health and safety of these workers?

  • what is the role of the labour inspectorate?

  • what mechanisms exist to ensure that employees can lodge complaints relating to health and safety?

No data available regarding the consequences of non-standard employment for the health and safety of workers. However, the National Strategy for Safety and Health at Work 2008-2012 identifies precarious workers, in general, as one of the most vulnerable groups to which public awareness raising campaigns aiming at developing and consolidating a prevention culture should be addressed.

5. Views and actions of policy makers and social partners

5.1 Have there been any actions taken by policy makers and/or social partners to change the regulatory framework surrounding non-standard forms of employment, or to encourage the growth or decline of any particular practice?

In July 2008, the government presented a legislative proposal in order to introduce some changes in the Labour Code and its regulations. This proposal introduces a new form of work contract called intermittent work. This type of contract can be used by companies which activity is discontinuous or with variable intensity. In this case, the parties can agree that the work provided (by the worker) can be discontinued by one or more periods of inactivity.

A novelty also introduced by this proposal is the special cases of very short duration work contract. The proposition states that the fixed-term contracts in seasonal agriculture activities or tourism events, of duration no longer than one week, does not have to exist in its written form. However, the employer must communicate the contract celebration to Social Security through an electronic application.

It is also proposed that the definition of part-time work corresponds to any weekly working time periods inferior to full-time in a comparable situation. Presently, part-time corresponds to a weekly normal period of working time less or equal to 75% of the weekly normal full-time period of work.

Finally, this legislative proposal also includes a whole new section dedicated to temporary work, in which all the specificities of this type of contract are defined.

This legislative proposal is currently under discussion.

5.2 What are the views of policy makers and social partners on these issues?

The publicly available views of the social partners on this legislative proposal come from the Trade Union Confederations, CGTP-IN and UGT. Their perspectives on these matters differ.

In terms of the intermittent work contract, the two main Trade Union Confederations showed opposing analysis. CGTP-IN considers that this proposal does not bring any advantages to workers and even creates a greater imbalance between the parts: it ends by increasing the precariousness of the workers during the inactivity periods; workers will not be able to subsist during the inactivity periods (the proposal is to pay 20% of the salary); and it is a way to employers get cheap labour. UGT, on the other hand, agrees with the proposal because it allows increased agility in hiring mainly to seasonal activities, which are often illegal, defines lower limits for the contract duration and assures the workers’ rights during the inactivity periods.

Again, regarding the special cases of very short duration contracts for seasonal agricultural activities and tourism events, the two main workers representative organisations show opposite views. UGT agrees with the proposal because considers that are established adequate safeguards in order to guarantee the exceptional character of this type of contract, namely the compulsory information to Social Security and a maximum annual duration for these contracts. CGTP-IN shows greater reserves based on the consideration that most agriculture activities are naturally seasonal and most tourism companies are dedicated to carrying out events. Therefore, the majority of agricultural or touristic companies correspond to the ‘special cases’ foreseen by the proposal. Moreover, CGTP-IN stresses the fact that employers are exempt from written work contracts, the indication of the work place and normal period of work and also from justifying the use of this type of contract.

According to CGTP-IN, the proposal that any period of working time inferior to full-time is considered as part-time will allow situations of supposed part-time on which the working time is very near full-time and with a proportional reduction of retribution. This meaning that employers will have the possibility to choose reductions of the working hours lower than 25% of the full-time without having to pay in full and, therefore, constituting an ‘expedite’ form to lower costs. On the other hand, UGT agrees with this proposal but underlines the need to reconsider the existing incentives to this form of employment.

Finally, UGT welcomes the inclusion of temporary work regime in the Labour Code because it contributes to an effective articulation between the precarious forms of employment and, therefore, allows a more effective combat to precariousness. CGTP-IN, by the contrary, considers that this inclusion will reduce or even suppress some workers’ rights and, consequently, benefit the employers.

6. Commentary by the NC

Back in 1997, a study was published approaching ‘Atypical Forms of Employment and Labour Market Flexibility’. According to this study, when atypical forms of employment emerge, they are not covered by the legislation in force or by social security. Therefore, they can marginalise and constitute sources of discrimination (Faria Vaz, 1997). The study grouped the ‘part-time, temporary jobs (including seasonal work, fixed term contracts and temporary agency work) and self-employed workers’ as the atypical forms of work, which nowadays have become more and more common in the Portuguese labour market.

Since then most of the debate, both academic and political, has evolved around concepts/realities such as flexibility and security in the labour market, flexicurity, labour law rigidity, and employment forms such as part-time, temporary agency work and economically dependant work. This debate, namely among social partners and policy makers, has been generally framed by a wider discussion about precariousness versus job security.

References

  • ACT, National Strategy for Safety and Health at Work 2008-2012, MTSS, 2008. Available at: http://www.igt.gov.pt/downloads/content/EN_SST_2008-2012.pdf (PT)

  • Centeno, L.G. (coord.) et al., Flexibilidade e Segurança no Mercado de Trabalho Português [Flexibility and Security in the Portuguese Labour Market], DGEEP, MTSS, Cogitum Collection no. 25, Lisbon, 2006.

  • Cerdeira, M.C. (coord.) et al. As Novas Modalidades de Emprego [New Forms of Employment], Ministry of Labour and Solidarity, DGEFP, Interministerial Commission for Employment, Employment Note-books Collection no.24, 2000.

  • CGTP, Legislative proposal no.216/X approving the alteration of the Labour Code – Evaluation,

  • Available at : http://www.cgtp.pt/images/stories/imagens/2008/09/apreciacaoroposta216.pdf (PT)

  • Faria Vaz, Isabel, As Formas Atípicas de Emprego e a Flexibilidade do Mercado de Trabalho [Atypical Forms of Employment and Labour Market Flexibility], MQE.CICT, Lisbon, 1997.

  • Labour Code, Approved by the Law no.99/2003, Available at: http://www.mtss.gov.pt/docs/Cod_Trabalho.pdf (PT)

  • UGT, Statement on the legislative proposal no.216/X approving the alteration of the Labour Code, Available at : http://www.ugt.pt/parecer_09_09_2008.pdf (PT)

Heloísa Perista & Jorge Cabrita, CESIS - Centro de Estudos para a Intervenção Social

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