Domestic service in Portugal

By Dr. Eduardo Serra Jorge [email protected]

In his column, Lawyer Eduardo Serra Jorge from lawyers firm Eduardo Serra Jorge & Maria José Garcia – Sociedade de Advogados, R.L., will be addressing legal issues affecting foreign residents in Portugal.

Contracts for domestic service in Portugal are ruled under the Decree-Law n.º 235/92, and are defined as ones by which a person remains obliged to another to render her/his regular housekeeping services with a view to meeting the general or specific needs of a family, being paid by and under the direct orders of the employer.

Within the terms of the law, housekeeping services are, namely, preparing meals, washing and ironing, house cleaning, child and elderly care or gardening, as well as all other services closely allied to those mentioned.

Domestic services contracts can be agreed for an undefined period of time, in which case there is no need for further formalities, or with a fixed or open written term, if there is a transitional or temporary situation or the parties agree to do so.

The domestic service contracting parties can also agree on having accommodation and/or food included within the terms of the contract, and it can be a full or part-time contract.

If the contracting parties don’t agree to exclude or reduce the legal trial period, there is always a 90-day probation, during which time either party can end the contract without notice, or give any reasons, with no compensation payable.

If the worker has accommodation provided by the employer, she/he has the right to have daily rest and meal breaks, but only without prejudice to the surveillance and care functions that the worker is obliged to carry out.

Both a house worker and one who doesn’t have accommodation has the right to enjoy a weekly rest day, with legal preference for this to be a Sunday.

The domestic service worker also has the right to 22 working days paid holiday per annum.

If a contract is due to expire within less than a year, she/he will only have the right to two working days for each month worked.

A Christmas bonus corresponding to 50% of the monthly payment, at least, has to be paid by December 22 each year.

And as soon as a worker completes five years service with the employer, then she/he has the right to receive 100% of their monthly payment as the Christmas bonus.

A contract can be revoked by both parties’ agreement. It can also end when its term expires or even by both parties if there is a legal cause to do so.

If the worker wants to end the contract, she/he has to give the employer two weeks’ notice for each year of service, up to a maximum of six weeks.

The worker has to be registered with the Social Security services, as this is the only way the worker can benefit from social support in the advent of, for example, an illness or if unemployed.

However, since it is up to the worker to choose whether she/he pays to the Social Security on her/his real wage or on a conventional retribution basis, you should be aware that the worker will only benefit of unemployment support, if the contributions to the Social Security are made on a real wage basis.

Dr Eduardo Serra Jorge is founding member, senior partner and CEO of lawyers firm Eduardo Serra Jorge & Maria José Garcia – Sociedade de Advogados, R.L., created in 1987. He can be contacted at his Faro office at Gaveto das Ruas Pedro Nunes e José de Matos, 5 R/C, on telephone +351 289 829 326, Fax. +351 289 829 327 or email [email protected]. Alternatively, please visit www.esjmjgadvogados.com