The Ombudsman sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Social Security, in which she requested consideration of solutions for employees in the telework regime who are faced with situations that are incompatible with the demands of their family lives, in particular when they have dependent children or children under 12 years of age studying at home.
In the letter, the Ombudsman suggests to the Government that, within the context of the present suspension of in-person educational and teaching activities due to the COVID-19 disease pandemic, it should examine the possibility of extending two already existing measures to these workers: 1) they are covered by the exceptional regime of justified absences from work and are entitled to the corresponding financial support; or 2) the children of these workers may benefit from childcare in educational and pre-school education establishments, similarly to what occurs in the case of children or other dependents under the care of workers in essential services.
The initiative of the Ombudsman arose after receiving various types of complaints, essentially from public education teachers and call centre workers, who have in common the important circumstance that they have in their care children or other dependents under the age of 12 years, some of whom are months old, whose due and necessary assistance is clearly affected in this regime of telework.
The teleworking regime, by rule mandatory when compatible with the work activity, may collide with the unpostponable assistance to a child or other dependent under 12 years old, or, regardless of age, with a disability or chronic illness, dependent of the workers. On the other hand, this assistance, due to its scope and continuity, proves to be, in many cases, an impediment to adequate work performance. Seen from both perspectives, at stake are fundamental rights of workers, such as the right to conciliate professional and family life, the right to the protection of the family as a fundamental element of society.
To read the letter click here [in Portuguese only].
Source: Office of the Provedor de Justiça, Portugal