Brazil’s new overtime law is hard work for enforcers - Monocolumn | Monocle


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2 February 2012

It would be a dream for overworked employees everywhere: that checking emails or answering phone calls after working hours might be considered overtime. But this could become a reality thanks to a new law in Brazil.

Brazil’s Superior Labour Court is looking to take up a new law this month that will allow employees who check emails or answer phone calls after work to apply for overtime. 

In theory, it seems like a good idea to let employees relax and get away in the era of 24-hour technological slavery. But employers aren’t jumping up and down over the idea of shelling out more cash on employees’ wages in a place where the cost of hiring workers is already high. 

But, in a country where labour laws are already extremely complicated – with new guidelines being piled on top of existing ones – there’s a big question mark around how this new law will be enforced. 

Surely employers can’t be expected to keep track of every time an employee checks an email or answers a call after work. And how will employers be able to verify these answered calls and checked emails? Another question remains about how much employees should charge for this kind of overtime.

So if employees can’t check emails and take phone calls after work, what is one to do? In Brazil’s biggest city, São Paulo, work is what people do to fill the time. Especially in a place where the skies are constantly grey and the local shopping centre doubles as a beach for landlocked urban dwellers. What do all those workaholics stuck in one of São Paulo’s infamous traffic jams do as they slowly inch through rush hour? Check emails on their smart phones, naturally. 

But, if this new labour law is enforced, it will be interesting to see if employees take advantage of it, or if it will simply get lost in the system like so many others.


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