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Brazilian labor law explained

The History of Labor Law in Brazil

Brazilians began to concern themselves with social rights in the 1930s when, in this country with a rural tradition, a class of workers emerged, many of them from European immigration (Italians), whose spirit of struggle for the conquest and defense of rights has influenced the action of public authorities.

The evolution of Brazilian society towards urbanization and industrialization coincided with the strengthening of central power, to the detriment of federation and democracy. This is how social rights appeared in Brazil with the dictatorship of Getulio Vargas from 1937 to 1945, the great turning point having been the adoption of the Consolidation of Labor Laws-CLT and the creation of the labor judiciary. , which still apply today.

The archaic situation of the countryside, in the hands of the ancestral oligarchy of Brazil, did not allow rural workers to be included in the social reforms of the 1930s-1940s. Also excludes servants and self-employed workers. It will be necessary to wait for the military dictatorship so that social measures in favor of rural workers are adopted, in 1973. As for domestic workers, their situation will be officially recognized, partly first in the constitution of 1988, but especially with a recent law from 01.06.2015

The labor law that applies today in Brazil therefore comes from dictatorial governments. The economic and social reality has of course evolved a lot since the 1940s towards the mobility and diversity of companies for an overhaul of labor laws to be initiated. It started with Law 13.467 of July 13, 2017.


Being an employee is not a choice, but a factual situation. That is to say, when a natural person is (i) in a situation of subordination; (ii) for a service rendered on a continuous basis and (iii) receiving remuneration, then she will be considered an employee, who must be subject to the CLT and benefit from the corresponding rights.

The CLT is a very rigid legislation, adopted at a time of industrialization and under an authoritarian and very paternalistic regime. Its provisions are binding and leave very little room for negotiation between employer and employee.

Each employee/employee has a work book which traces their trajectory with the various employers and the evolution of their positions and salaries.

The working week is fixed at 44 hours, including eight hours a day from Monday to Friday and four hours on Saturday.

In compliance with the provisions of the CLT, each professional category concludes collective agreements with employers, but the room for negotiation is very small.


The world of work has changed a lot since 1943. Industry has lost its importance in the face of the tertiary sector, small businesses are taking up more space to the detriment of large industries. The need to be mobile and to change employers and positions frequently has become essential. A reform of the CLT has therefore been discussed for two decades and a first step has been taken with law n.13.467, of 13.07.2017.

This new law relaxed some important rules and enhanced agreements between employers and employees.

However, it is the subject of many questions, even of dispute, mainly within the Labor Courts whose judges present contradictory positions. We must therefore still wait for new standards and case law to clarify the matter.

Here are the main points of the 2017 reform:

Before November 2017

From November 2017

1 – Agreements and law

Legislation is essential on the agreements concluded between unions, employers and employees

Certain questions dealt with by the CLT may be the subject of negotiations between employers and employees which will prevail over the laws.

2 – Working time

8 hour working day; weekly duration of 44 hours; monthly duration of 220 hours.

The working day may be 12 hours, with 36 hours of rest. The durations of 44 hours per week and 220 hours per month remain unchanged.

3 – Leave

Annual leave may be divided into two periods, the shorter of which may not be less than 10 days

Annual leave may be divided into three periods; the longest must be at least 14 days and the shortest cannot be less than 5 days

4 – Free Justice

Justice is free for those who earn less than two minimum wages or declare not having the conditions to pay

Justice is free for those who receive less than 40% of the INSS ceiling and for those who prove not to have the means

5 – Intermittent work

Not regulated by the CLT, which only provides for the partial regime

Contracts per hour of service become legal and social rights are guaranteed to workers employed under this modality.

6 – Union contribution

It is deducted from the salary of all employees, whether unionized or not

It becomes optional

7 – Remote work (home office)

Not covered by the CLT

Is covered by the new law which provides for negotiations between employer and employee about the responsibility for costs related to the functions

8 – Part-time work

Weeks of up to 25 hours are permitted, with no overtime

Up to 30 hours per week with no overtime; up to 26 hours per week with the possibility of 6 additional hours

9 – Pregnant and breastfeeding women

The CLT determines the removal of any pregnant or nursing employee from any unsanitary activity, operation or place.

Removal of pregnant women only in the case of activities considered unsanitary to the highest degree. During breastfeeding, the removal of unhealthy activities, regardless of the degree of unhealthiness, is subject to a medical certificate.

10 – Exclusive Autonomous

Not provided for by the CLT

Creates the figure of an exclusive autonomous, who can provide services to a single employer on a continuous basis, without an employment relationship being established


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