On September 10, the Brazilian Public Labor Prosecutor Office published the Covid-19 Workgroup’s Advisory Note number 17/2020 (Nota Técnica 17/2020 do GT Nacional Covid-19).
The Note establishes remote working policies to be observed in the new workplace environment. The guidelines have been developed to ensure safe and lawful labor conditions under the new work modalities arising from changes imposed by the pandemic. The seventeen articles relate to principles developed through other legislation, mostly related to social and workers’ rights in the virtual environment.
The Note reinforces the importance of employers establishing and describing, in contractual amendments, labor conditions under the remote work regime. Time management is considered crucial as not only is it related to the formal employment contract, but it also impacts on a worker’s physical and mental health. As such, topics related to work duration, structure and responsibilities must be addressed to create legal certainty for both parties.
Employers must also identify if work ethics and conditions are respected. Since certain structures, including the physical work environment are no longer under employer’s direct surveillance, companies are expected to apply additional effort to monitor and provide adequate conditions. The guidelines also give special attention to matters such as privacy, the right to “disconnect” and mental wellbeing.
Substantial attention has also been given to conditions in the Brazilian labor market. Discrepancies between the population’s access and ability to adapt to new technologies has been taken into account and employers must support employees in adapting to the technologies and integrate the new workforce into the remote working context.
In summary, the recommendations from the Public Prosecutor Office to employers are:
- Respect digital ethical principles, preserving space for employees to maintain privacy and autonomy to carry on activities from home.
- Make labor contract changes for those employees for whom remote work has not previously been defined. Employers must bear in mind issues related to mental health, employee’s capacity to handle technology and enhance cooperation during the term of remote work.
- Take into account conditions related to ergonomics, task organization, network access, interpersonal relationships in the workplace and feedback. The employer must cover the employee's expenses arising from these matters.
- Where telemarketing services are offered, provide adequate conditions and technologies for employees, assuring they have a fair amount of rest and capacity to fully develop their functions.
- Offer adequate technical support.
- Offer clear and objective advice to employees regarding the prevention of diseases in general, physical or mental, related or not to work.
- Respect working hours as personal and professional spaces tend to conflict during periods of working at home.
- Provide for digital etiquette models, respecting the “right to disconnect” and preventing virtual harassment, of any kind.
- Respect the worker's right to privacy, potentially creating a digital pattern that prevents any violation of personal rights.
- Obtain the worker's consent before exploiting its image and/or voice in digital platforms.
- Observe terms established during the emergency measures relating to the pandemic, communicating, as soon as necessary, any impacts on working conditions.
- Ensure adequate communication channels that enable the notification of any event that violates a worker’s personal rights.
- Encourage self-care policies to prevent COVID-19, as well as ensuring adequate isolation of the patient and communication to health authorities.
- Observe legislation that protects older workers when setting out working conditions, respecting both limitations and rights of older workers.
- Observe disability legislation when granting work opportunities and defining work tasks.
- Control working hours, including the time the worker has spent in rehabilitation programs.
- Cooperate with policies that support outplace of workers who have been dismissed due to the automation of working processes or technological barriers.