Almost one year on from the enactment of Law 13467/17 (the labour reform), early feedback suggests that the reform has proved to be an effective and positive change. In particular, the reform has increased the use of remote workers, reduced the imbalance of power between employers and employees, made union contributions voluntary and reduced the number of labour-related lawsuits.
When the labour reform came into force, it amended the provision requiring employees to pay annual contributions to relevant unions, instead making union contributions optional. After the reform was enacted, more than 15,000 lawsuits were filed to challenge union contribution-related matters. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the end of mandatory union contributions was constitutional.
The recent labour and employment reform enacted in Brazil has introduced important changes to labour and employment relations. One of the principal changes is the introduction of arbitration for the resolution of employment disputes. Although the changing law requires a change of mindset, employers should take advantage of it and begin to consider the possibility of instituting arbitration for certain employment contracts.
In Brazil, employees who work overtime are entitled to statutory premium pay at one-and-one-half times the regular rate. In the past, the courts often voided compensatory time off agreements and granted overtime payment claims to employees on the grounds that their employer had failed to comply with legal requirements. However, the 2017 labour reform introduced more flexible requirements, which should curb litigation on compensatory time off agreements and encourage their use.
The discussion regarding the legal nature of awards is not new to Brazilian labour courts, especially because amounts paid as awards could be considered salary, obliging the employer to include the award in the employee's salary and pay him or her every month or include this amount as a basis for determining the employee's labour rights. The legislative branch has tried to clarify this matter, defining the legal nature of awards, as well as the concept and legal criteria for their application.
The use of outsourcing has historically been uncertain in Brazil, particularly in relation to the outsourcing of a company's core business. However, once in force, the labour reform will create a scenario of greater legal certainty for outsourcing because it expressly authorises the outsourcing of any activities, including a company's core business.
According to a precedent established by the Superior Labour Court, the acquiring company is not liable for the labour debts of other companies within a corporate group that encompasses the acquired company, provided that the entities – at the time of the transaction – were creditworthy or economically viable, except in the case of bad faith or fraud. However, a recent reform to the Labour Code will enter into force in November 2017 and may change the existing understanding in this regard.
The need to modernise the procedural rules applicable to the labour procedure has long been a concern in Brazil. As such, it was well known that labour relations were being modernised and that the law did not satisfactorily account for this progress. In light of this, the newly enacted Law 13,467/2017 will introduce, among several changes not seen in prior legislative amendments, equal treatment of litigating parties and greater legal certainty for both litigating parties and Brazilian society as a whole.
The recently approved labour reform has amended several articles of the Labour Code and Laws 6,019/1974 (temporary employment), 8,036/90 (severance fund) and 8,212/1991 (social contributions). The legislation still protects the constitutional rights of workers. However, it seeks to modernise labour relations by creating rules and defining concepts which allow workers, companies and unions to have more freedom to negotiate their rights.