Topic 4 The basics of the country’s labour market and the risks of labour

The labor market is based on well-defined principles and rules. Of particular interest to the provision of work by foreign citizens and especially by migrant women from third countries, we would like to highlight the following aspects:

  • Right to equality in access to employment and at work;
  • Prohibition of discrimination;
  • Prohibition of harassment;
  • Equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex.

The worker or job applicant has equal opportunities and equal treatment in access to employment, to professional training or careers and to working conditions, and specifically may not be benefited or harmed, deprived of any right or exempted from any duty on the basis of ancestry; age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, family situation, economic situation, education, origin or social condition, genetic heritage, reduced work capacity, disability, chronic illness, nationality, ethnic origin or race, territory of origin, language, religion, political or ideological beliefs, and union membership.

It is the state’s responsibility to ensure access to these rights.

Failure by the employer to comply with the obligations leads to fines being imposed on the employer.

The injured employee or job applicant has the right to claim compensation for the damage suffered.

four person holding each others waist at daytime photo – Free People Image on Unsplash

The employer may not practice any direct or indirect discrimination with regard to any of the above factors.

When the employer adopts discriminatory behaviors, they will pay the respective fine to the state and will have to compensate the employee for the damage caused.

The greater vulnerability of some workers, for example migrant workers, and in particular women, may encourage harassing behavior by employers and company employees.

The practice of harassment is expressly forbidden by law.

The law defines harassment as any practice in employment or in access to employment intended to disturb or embarrass a person, to affect their dignity or to create a hostile, degrading, humiliating or destabilizing environment for them.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature intended to disturb or embarrass a person, to affect their dignity or to create a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

The employer is liable to pay large fines if it fails to act appropriately or to implement the code of conduct to eliminate harassment practices.

The victim has the right to claim compensation from the employer for damages suffered and has the right to terminate the employment contract with just cause, the law guarantees the victim compensation of between 15 to 45 days of monthly remuneration for each year of the contract’s duration.

The exclusion or restriction of access of a job applicant or worker on the basis of sex to a particular activity or to the professional training required for access to an activity constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex.

It is forbidden to discriminate on the basis of sex in job advertisements or job offers, in professional training, in working conditions, as well as in remuneration and performance evaluations.

The practice of discrimination based on sex leads to the application of high fines to the employer

The risks of labour exploitation

The risks at work in Portugal are especially linked to situations of accidents at work and occupational diseases.

It should be noted that it is mandatory for the employer to take out workmen’s accident insurance for all employees who perform work contracts, as well as to communicate, on the date of the contract, the respective policy.

As for self-employed workers, they must take out a personal accident insurance policy to prevent the risk of accident. 

Workplace accident insurance is mandatory. The employer is liable personally or the company with its assets, when they do not own them or when they do not cover all events, or all remuneration earned. There is a special regime for the reparation of work accidents and professional illnesses.

With regard to the elimination of risks that may lead to occupational diseases, the law implements the obligation of occupational medicine consultations.

If the worker suffers an accident at work, the accident must be reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which takes over the judicial process.

When the accident results in death, the Authority for Working Conditions also accompanies the process.

The Occupational Accident and Occupational Disease Compensation System is essentially based on the payment of compensation to injured workers.

Migrants have a tendency to occupy positions denominated as “three Ds” because they are “dirty, dangerous and difficult“.

According to Ramos & Patricio (2015) the Office of Strategy and Planning of the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity of Portugal (GEP/MTSS) recorded in 2008 that around 19.6% of the identified work accidents occurred in the civil construction. Foreign workers have a higher accident rate in this sector, corresponding to 25.8%.

  • they have longer working hours and work weekends + they are less likely to take holidays or sick leave;
  • have more monotonous, demanding and dangerous jobs, namely their activities are more exposed to chemicals or dangerous substances
  • they accept jobs below their qualifications and lower wages;
  • they have less attractive shifts.
  • more unfavourable wage relations
  • working hours and work weekends + less holidays or sick leave
  • more difficult working conditions: more monotonous, demanding and dangerous jobs, namely with activities that are more exposed to chemicals or dangerous substances
  • more easily jobs acceptance below their qualifications
  • less attractive shifts
  • poor housing conditions
  • for fear of unemployment
  • they are not informed about safety conditions and labour protection rights
  • they face language and cultural difficulties

For instance, in domestic work, migrant women are affected by problems of exposure to environmental risks, ergonomic risks and health risks associated with strenuous work leading to frequent muscle pain, and also by psychosocial problems.

  • domestic employers
  • different traffickers/smugglers
  • other members of the migration industry

According to Góis (2019) the majority of Portuguese exploitation cases are associated with labour exploitation. Workers in the agricultural sector are the most exposed ones.