There are several thousand unions and umbrella organisations in Brazil which are supposed to support full-time workers. The Brazilian Trade Union Federation (Central Unica dos Trabalhadores) has made protection of employees and health policies one of its top priorities. Yet as most employees in Brazil work without an official work contract they have no access to the support of a labour union.
Since labor laws are statutory in nature, labor contracts must fit squarely within their narrow parameters. Employment contracts cannot deviate from the law in any way that waives, releases, or circumvents a worker’s rights. Some employers get creative and choose to frame the relationship as that of an independent contractor, rather than an employee. However, structuring the relationship in that manner has little effect if a Labor court finds that the independent contractor was in fact performing activities of an employee as legally defined. Courts will consider variables such as work hours, place of work, subjectivity to the employer’s administrative rules, reporting requirements, and compensation, among others, in determining whether the individual is indeed an independent contractor or in fact an employee. Unfortunately for companies, courts tend to favor protecting the employee and usually grant whatever statutory benefit for which the individual has petitioned. Employee Wages and...