The future of work is flexible: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal move in to provide remote work guidelines

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Farai Mugabe, Content & Research, The HR Congress


After the pandemic the world of work has significantly changed. Companies are now shifting to more flexible work models and human resources practices are becoming more similar across different countries despite contextual differences such as national cultures and national laws. Some countries have already developed a legal framework for remote work.

A new world emerged out of COVID-19 which challenged commonly held beliefs and disrupted business models.1 Though the future is uncertain, we are sure that the world will never be the same. The world of work has significantly changed—social values, the ‘why’ of work, employee attitudes, and how work is done have changed after the pandemic. Companies are now moving towards more flexible work models that make them leaner and more competitive.2 The new era of work is flexible, digital, and agile.3 Belgium, Netherlands, and Portugal are some of the countries that have moved to develop a legal framework for remote work. 


Portugal enacted a legal act that provides rules on remote work, effective on 1 January 2022.4 The amendment had a detailed emphasis on regulating remote working options on remote work guidelines and flexible work arrangements. Employers and managers are not allowed to contact their employees outside working hours in Portugal. If they do so (employers and managers), they face a fine.5

New laws in Portugal also laid out that companies should contribute to expenses that workers would have incurred as a result of switching to remote working. These costs may include internet and electricity. The laws also spelled out key mechanics of remote work, such as remote work duration, employees entitled to work remotely, remote worker duties, and remote worker rights.  

The Netherlands 

The Dutch House approved making working from home a legal right earlier this month (July 2022). The law still requires a nod from Senate. Under the new regulations, employers are compelled to consider requests to work from home from employees as long as their professions allow it.6 Currently, employers in the Netherlands can reject a request for remote work without providing a reason. The new law, however, requires employers to provide a reason for rejecting a request to work remotely.6


Belgium passed a law that allows civil servants to switch off work emails, texts, and phone calls received after working hours without fear of reprisals. Social changes and acceleration of digital transformation have resulted in changing employee attitudes and expectations. According to a study, more than 80% of Belgian employees indicated they would prefer to work from home at least twice a week. The new law is set to support the assertion that “flexibility is king.” Employees in Belgium and across the world now favor flexible working arrangements that allow them to pursue their interests outside work.7

These recent developments show that International Human Resource Management is moving towards convergence. This is a state where human resources practices move towards becoming more similar across different countries despite contextual differences such as national cultures and national laws. HR practices across different organizations are also moving towards institutional isomorphism. This is a situation where HR practices become more similar with some unique contextualization at the unit level. This is largely driven by the changing nature of the environment, globalization, digital transformation, and global talent mobility.8 

Like Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” One way to create the future is to share ideas and learn from others.9 The HR Congress is hosting events on employee experience, culture, and leadership which will allow HR leaders to converge in shaping the future of work. 

1Resetting your employer brand to enhance employee experience in times of the great reflection, by Farai Mugabe, HR Congress

2Does your company have flexible work arrangement policies? by Lisbeth Claus, HR Congress

3Born to move: How flexible work arrangements can drive talent retention in times of the great escape, by Farai Mugabe, HR Congress

4Portugal: Parliament Approves Law to Amend Telework Regime in Labor Code, by Elizabeth Marin under the supervision of Eduardo Soares, Library of Congress

5Portugal makes it illegal for your boss to text you after work in ‘game changer’ remote work law, by To Bateman, Euronews

6Dutch House Approves to Make Work From Home a Legal Right, by Diederik Baazil and Pablo Fernandez Cras, Bloomberg

7Right to disconnect: Why working late is becoming a thing of the past in Belgium, by Johnny Wood,and%20emails%20at%20all%20hours.

8Institutional Isomorphism due to the Influence of Information Systems and Its Strategic position, by Abhipsa Pal and Abhoy Kumar Ojha, ACM Digital Library,normative%2C%20through%20which%20isomorphism%20occurs.

9The best way to predict the future is to create, by Peter Durcker, Brainy Quote

Written by: Mihaly Nagy

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