They say that the main challenge for working people today is trying to achieve a work/life balance. It can be hard when the boss expects you to work superhuman hours in the office and then still answer emails or calls on the phone once you escape to the sanctuary of home – or a local bar.
This is becoming normal the world over, but in Brazil the government has tried to address the problem. Just before Christmas last year, president Dilma Rousseff signed federal law 12.551. The change to employment law in Brazil proposed that people who work overtime away from the office should be paid for it.
Many commentators have been shocked by this move. The left argues that it is essential to be paid if the boss expects workers to be checking their Blackberry email at home, the employers just want to avoid paying any extra, and the fatalists just argue that we have long ago lost any distinction between work and home life.
There are some points to remember regarding this ruling. The rule just changed so there is no case law yet to set precedents and boundaries on what employers and employees can expect as the effort required for payment – is it answering a single email or dedicating a block of time to fixing a problem?
Because of the law change, sensible companies will start addressing issues of work/life balance in a positive way before fighting over these issues – it makes more sense to get the problem into the open and to reinforce to employees that they have a right to switch off and not answer email when they are not at work.
And where some companies do end up paying additional fees for their team to offer urgent out-of-hours support it will either be passed on to the client as an urgent support cost, or it will just be absorbed into the general cost of servicing that client. Don’t forget that Brazilian IT companies are not competing in the low cost sector, they are generally hired because they are very good at what they do so it’s my feeling that the overtime ruling will not affect business for Brazilian IT firms.
That’s good news for the employees, who can now feel more comfortable about asserting when they will and will not work, and for the companies who are not likely to lose business despite the international scaremongering over Brazil and this attempt to charge for Blackberry time.
Photo by Carlos Almendarez licensed under Creative Commons