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La religion sur le lieu de travail

Three main articles of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic (CRP), 1976, address the subject of religion in the workplace. Article 41, on freedom of conscience, religion and worship, states that such freedoms are inviolable (41/1), that no one can be persecuted or deprived of rights because of their religion (41/2), or asked by any authority about their convictions or religious practice (41/3). Article 58 declares that everyone has the right to work, and article 59 establishes that all workers, regardless of their religion, among other things, have the right to the remuneration of their work, to a workplace providing conditions for social dignity, to rest and leisure time, and to assistance and fair reparation when they are the victim of a work-related accident or occupational illness.

An obligation of the employer to balance between the freedom of religion of his employee with his own rights as an employer follows from the provisions of the CRP. Conflicting rules should be solved according to the principle of practical concordance.

The Portuguese Labour Law, law n.º 7/2009, with its many amendments, does not include any specific provision concerning the consequences of exercising religious freedom or religious activities. However, it protects the employee’s freedom to choose their religion, through the protection of the privacy of private life (art. 16) ; it forbids to advantage or disadvantage an employee for religious reason, through the right to equal access and treatment in the workplace (art. 24), and it forbids dismissal for religious motives (art. 381). The Labour Law corresponds to the Catholic tradition and culture, for instance, in regard to the weekly rest day. A great part of the Catholic Church’s symbolic days are also official “compulsory” holidays (art. 234) : Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Corpus Christi, Assumption of Mary, and Christmas, among others.

In the field of religion in the workplace, the Law of Religious Freedom, law 16/2001, introduced important changes for members of other churches and religious communities than the Catholic church. Article 14 guarantees the employees and agents of the State and other public entities, as well as contract workers, the right, on request, to suspend work on the day of the weekly rest, on the days of festivals and during hourly periods that are prescribed for them by the denomination that they profess. However, these rights are guaranteed under certain conditions : employees shall be working according to a flexible schedule ; they shall be members of a church or registered religious community that has presented to the Minister of Justice the aforementioned days and hourly periods of religious significance, and they shall fully compensate for the respective work period.
In Portugal, there have been no significant judicial conflicts over the issue of religion in the workplace.

For further reading : CANAS, Vitalino, "State and Church in Portugal", in ROBBERS, Gerhard (ed.), State and Church in the European Union, 3rd ed., Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden, 2019, pp. 483-510.

D 12 novembre 2018    AHelena Vilaça AJorge Botelho Moniz

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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