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Employee Rights in Portugal

General Employee Rights in Portugal

Employment agreement

Generally, Portuguese employment contracts do not need to be in writing. However, for some types of arrangements (fixed-term, part-time, and secondment contracts, as well as agreements with foreign employees) the law requires a written document.

Within 60 days from the start of the employment, the employer has to inform the employee in writing about working conditions that include: 

  • employer's identification 
  • workplace
  • job position
  • terms and relevant grounds
  • the date that the contract starts and becomes effective 
  • annual leave 
  • notice period
  • hours of work 
  • employee's pay 
  • any collective bargaining instruments
  • employer's accident insurance policy and employee's compensation fund.

Restrictive covenants are not enforceable under Portuguese labour law, and non-compete agreements or clauses are enforceable only if the activity of the employee is likely to cause harm to the employer. Payment of a non-competition compensation amount should be agreed in advance and complied with.

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Employees are entitled to receive a monthly payslip from their employer (either hard copy or online) with details of their remuneration. The employer must keep payroll reports for at least five years and may be audited.

Working environment

Employees in Portugal have the right to work in healthy, safe and hygienic conditions, which must be guaranteed by the employer. The employer must comply with the preventative principles, guidelines and rules relating to safety, hygiene and health at work. 

Employers are obliged to ensure:

  • Measures preventing any technical work accidents from happening
  • Employee training, information, and consultations on workplace safety
  • Internal or external health and safety services 

Each employee is entitled to a work accident risks insurance. The employer sets that up and informs the relevant regional service of the Authority for Working Conditions (ACT- Autoridade para as Condições do Trabalho).

The employer must implement appropriate company healthy and safety (H&S) activity at work. This includes organising and keeping appropriate H&S services and other preventive measures, like ensuring risk exposure assessments and the performance of tests and other actions on occupational risks and health monitoring.

The employer must have an internal structure that provides for:

  • First aid
  • Fire fighting
  • The evacuation of employees in situations of grave and imminent danger

Home Offices

Employees working from home have the same right to a healthy and safe environment, which their employer should provide. Employers are responsible for the installation, maintenance, and costs associated with home offices, such as workstation and tools.

Employees should make sure they work from an appropriate, safe and comfortable workstation that includes an ergonomic chair, footrest, elevated computer screen to meet the eyes, suitable light avoiding glares, a room exit without obstructions and cables, which are covered.

Regardless if working from home or the office, employees are entitled to regular health and eye exams, as well as appropriate equipment to protect their eyes.

Rights during pregnancy

Pregnant employees who have recently given birth and/or are breastfeeding are entitled to:

  • Exclusive initial parental leave of the mother paid at 100% and compulsory six weeks leave after childbirth. The mother may take up to 30 days of initial parental leave before the birth
  • Leave at clinical risk for the pregnant employee or the unborn child for as long as, on medical prescription, it is deemed necessary to prevent the risk, without prejudice to the initial parental leave
  • Leave for interruption of pregnancy of between 14 and 30 days, on presentation of a medical certificate
  • Time off work for antenatal consultations and preparation for childbirth for as long and as many times as necessary
  • Time off work for pregnant employees, employees who have recently given birth or employees who are breastfeeding, for reasons of protecting their safety and health, where the employer cannot assign them any other duties, the daily amount of the allowances being equal to 65 % of the reference salary
  • Daily dispensation for breastfeeding
  • Exemption from overtime
  • Exemption from working hours organised according to a system of adaptability, time banks or concentrated working hours
  • Exemption from working night shifts

The daily amount of the allowances is 65% of the reference salary if the employer is unable to assign the employee other tasks. An employee who has been relieved of night work must be granted a compatible daytime work schedule whenever possible. If that is not possible, they must be relieved from work.

Violation of the provisions on parenthood constitutes a misdemeanour with the Labour Conditions Authority (ACT) acting in the private sector and the Ministries' Inspections in the public sector and cumulatively the General Inspection of Finance (IGF).

Employee Protections in Portugal

Protection from harassment

Employees are protected from any form of harassment during hiring or employment. Harassment is seen as any undesirable behaviour that either intends to or directly affects the person's dignity, as well as creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or destabilising atmosphere.

Particular attention is placed on extending protections from any form of sexual harassment. That is seen as any undesirable behaviour of sexual nature, whether verbal, non-verbal or physical, that has harassment as its purpose or result.

A candidate or employee can take a civil action to seek compensation for any act of harassment under the Portuguese Civil Code. In addition, the employer can be subject to an administrative proceeding and be fined.

Protection from discrimination

According to the Portuguese Labour Code, an employer cannot discriminate, directly or indirectly, based on:

  • Ancestry
  • Parentage
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Marital status
  • Family situation
  • Genetic heritage
  • Reduced work capacity
  • Disability
  • Chronic disease
  • Nationality
  • Country of origin
  • Ethnic origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Political or ideological convictions
  • Union affiliation

A candidate or employee who has been a victim of discrimination will have to indicate who the individual/s that have discriminated them are. In turn, if any differences in the employee's working conditions are present, the employer will have to prove that they didn't result from discrimination and give an explanation. The protection against discrimination covers all parts of the employment contract - from hiring to training and promotion, and extends to work conditions, pay and termination. Employees who have been discriminated against are entitled to compensation for any damages.

Protection in the case of a business transfer

If the company undergoes a business transfer, existing employment contracts transfer automatically to the new employer. Employees retain the length of service provided to the former employer, which must be recognised by the new employer.

The employee retains the former employer's rights and obligations under the employment contract before the transfer. The employee has to agree to any changes to the terms and conditions of employment. 

Employees are protected against dismissal before and after a business transfer. However, if the employee refuses to perform work for the new employer, they are in breach of contract and could be dismissed. The only exception is if the new employer is not providing them with work, which gives employees the ability to resign with just cause and claim compensation.

Protection against dismissal

Pregnant workers, those given birth in the previous 120 days or ones breastfeeding, as well as employees on paternity leave, are protected from being dismissed.

In all other cases, employers must follow a standard and documented disciplinary procedure before terminating an employment contract, first informing the employee, giving them a chance to defend themselves to then issuing a dismissal decision letter.

Protection during pregnancy

Pregnant employees whose work duties might put the pregnancy at risk have the right to an alternate arrangement for work. The employer must:

  • Provide alternative working conditions
  • Offer a compatible workplace 
  • Protect the employee from risk exposure

Alongside the above, pregnant employees are also exempt from having to work night shifts, overtime or in concentrated working schedules. They also have the right to work leave to attend prenatal medical appointments, as well as breastfeed.

Personal information protection

The Portuguese Labour Code contains several provisions regarding employee's right to privacy, including data protection, biometric data, medical test and exams, remote surveillance and correspondence, and access to information using the company's means of communication.

Personal data of employees in Portugal is protected by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Under GDPR, employers must comply with the following principles when handling the personal data of employees:

  • Use personal data reasonably, lawfully, and in a transparent manner
  • Process the data only for specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes
  • Obtain data for lawful purposes only and refrain from using for anything else
  • Ensure it is accurate, relevant, and up to date
  • Ensure it is not kept for longer than necessary
  • Ensure it is kept secure.

Organisations should have a Privacy Statement, which employees can easily access explaining what data is held and what it is used for. Since employees are allowed to access their data, employers need to have in place a procedure for how these requests are handled within one month. 

Under GDPR legislation, employees have the right to:

  • Receive information about the collection and processing of their data
  • Access the personal data, and supplementary information held about them 
  • Have their data corrected if there are mistakes or inaccuracies
  • Have their data erased 
  • Restrict the handling or use of their data if they consider it is unlawful or the information is inaccurate
  • Challenge the use of their data for direct marketing, scientific or historical research.

Required Employee Benefits in Portugal

Professional training

Each year, employees have a right to receive a minimum of 40 hours of learning to enhance professional growth and relevance in their field. If hired on a fixed-term contract, employees are entitled to a minimum number of hours proportional to their agreement.

The employer may provide this annual training for up to two years in advance, or defer it, as long as the training plan so establishes. The employer must provide training to at least 10% of the company's employees each year.

Employees may use the hours of professional training not provided by the employer to attend professional training at their initiative (including during working hours). At the end of the training, the employee must receive a certificate. Depending on the type of training, the certificate may need to be added to the National System of Qualification (Caderneta Individual de Competências nos termos do regime jurídico do Sistema Nacional de Qualificações).

If an employer terminates an employment contract for whatever reason, they have to pay compensation for the number of missing training hours.

Christmas and holidays subsidies

In Portugal, annual salaries are divided into 14 payments instead of the standard 12. The extra two salaries are provided as a Christmas bonus paid by the 15th of December and a holiday bonus paid before the employee's annual leave (usually June).

Employers need to sign a written agreement with each employee stating that 50% of the Christmas and Holiday allowances will be paid in 12 times, along with the monthly retribution. The remaining 50% will still be due on the dates stated in the paragraph above. It is not possible to include the allowances 100% in the 12 months retributions.

Unemployment benefits

Workers who have contributed to social security are entitled to one of three kinds of unemployment benefits due to the involuntary loss of employment (initiated by the employer):

  • Unemployment benefit (Subsídio de Desemprego
  • Social unemployment benefit (Subsídio Social de Desemprego)
  • Partial unemployment benefit (Subsídio de Desemprego Parcial)

Unemployment benefits can be awarded for between 9 and 38 months, depending on the employee's age and the number of years they have worked and made social security contributions. To be eligible for unemployment benefit, an individual must have either worked at least 365 days consecutively or made voluntary contributions for two years. Those who are eligible will receive 65% of their average earnings for the first 180 days.

To qualify, the worker must meet the following conditions:

  • Live in Portugal
  • Be involuntarily unemployed
  • Have capacity and availability for work
  • Be registered for a job search at the employment office in your area of residence

The social unemployment benefit comes into place if the individual doesn't meet the 365 days of work requirement. In that case, they can avail of the social unemployment benefit if they have worked 180 days in the past 12 months. The benefit is also awarded, at a later date, to people who are still unemployed when the period for payment of the unemployment benefit expires.

Partial unemployment benefit, on the other hand, is awarded if the individual has managed to find a part-time job after losing their full-time employment. It's paid from the time the part-time job begins until the end of the period during which the individual was entitled the full unemployment benefit. It corresponds to the difference between the unemployment benefit the employee was receiving plus 35%, and the pay for the new part-time job.

Dismissal during the trial period:

  • Employees can only access unemployment benefit in situations where the employment contract ends during the trial period, with a guarantee period of 120 days, once every two years from the date of termination of unemployment benefit.

Redundancy payment

Employees who are terminated due to collective dismissal or redundancy are entitled to severance. The amount an employee will be paid depends on their seniority within the company.

Since 2011, severance entitlements have been reduced from 30 to 20 days of pay per year of service. The current severance maximum in place since 2013, is either 12 times the employee salary and seniority pay or 240 times the statutory minimum wage. In case of a fixed-term or temporary contract this is increased to 18 times the employee's salary and seniority pay. This means that when calculating severance, whether the employment existed before 2013 or 2011 respectively will impact the amount. The compensation can not exceed 20 times the minimum national monthly wage (€700 as of November 2019). 

The Compensation Fund (Fundo de Compensação do Trabalho) and the Guarantee Fund for Work Compensation (Fundo de Garantia de Compensação do Trabalho - FGCT) can be used to finance severance payments partly and is applicable in situations of both individual and collective dismissals.

Justified absences

Employees have the right to be absent from work for the following reasons:

  • Marriage: 15 consecutive days off
  • Family death:
    • 20 days: children, stepchildren and spouse, person in partnership or in common economy
    • 5 days: mother, father and in-laws
    • 2 days: grandparents, great-grandparents, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
  • Union functions or worker's commission: from 5 hours to 4 days
  • Parental assistance: 30 days a year for a child accident or illness (if under the age of 12) or for children with a long-term illness or a disability
  • Exams: people pursuing education have the right to 4 days off per class, per year to prepare for exams.
  • Running for public office: days off following the relevant electoral law
  • Other absences authorised or approved by the employer or which, by law, are considered justified

These days are fully paid and come on top of the holiday entitlement. They are topped at 30 days per year.

To learn about all statutory benefits, as well as how leading employers top that, download our Portugal benefits benchmark infographic.

Job Security


Although not mandatory, employees have the right to set up work councils.

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