Portuguese Catholics fight to bring back the “work-free Sunday”


Southern Europe


A shopper passes cheese at a supermarket. Photo EPA, Neil Hall

A Catholic organisation in Portugal wants to revive the idea of a “work-free Sunday”.

The Liga Operária Católica (LOC/MTC) said to Ecclesia that the “work-free Sunday” is a necessary measure to protect the lives of families.

“The fight for a work-free Sunday, more than fair, is necessary, so that there is family life for everyone! So that families, all workers, can live together and fraternize and build a fairer and more solidary world,” the organisation said.


LOC also said that the day is intended to reflect on how twenty-first century consumption habits are infringing on the lives of both families and workers.

“In telework, the border between professional work time and free time is poorly defined and the working conditions and the quality of life of the worker have been worsened.”

Little choice

While much of Portugal sees the Sunday as a rest day, many businesses continue to keep their doors open. Retail and service sector workers are often left with little choice in taking off Sundays in their schedules. According to Belzuz, a law firm that operates in Spain and Portugal, current labour laws state that an employee can designate one “rest day” in the week. However, in many cases, the “rest day” cannot be on a Sunday, where it is “not required to close or suspend its operations for a full day during the week or obliged to close or suspend operations other than Sunday.”


The complex nature of Portugal’s labour laws has led to the intervention of its Supreme Court. According to a 20minutos report from last November, the Supreme Court released parents from the responsibility of working on weekends, including Sundays. However, the law only applies to parents of children under the age of 12 and in cases where the employee is not irreplaceable. Still, the ruling makes it difficult for companies to prove that an employee’s absence is “essential” enough to maintain the company’s operations.

The Court’s ruling is based on a grievance from an employee who worked at a shopping centre near Lisbon. She was responsible for taking care of her children while her husband worked. However, if both would be called in to work, her children would be left alone at home. After writing a letter to her company, the company accepted her request but could not make any guarantees if she had to come in to work. Later in 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in her favour.



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