Football Clubs in Brazil adopt emergency labor & employment measures to confront the coronavirus crisis

Since March 2020, the Brazilian Federal Government has been adopting several measures aimed at reducing the impacts caused by the SARSCoV-2 coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Considering that the professional athlete contract is a type of employment agreement, measures related to labor relations can be applied to soccer players, since they are employees of their Clubs.

Two Provisional Measures (No. 927 and 936) were issued to expedite, simplify or eliminate administrative procedures as well as to provide employers, such as Football Clubs, with flexibility to negotiate certain labor rights, as follows:

1. Proportional reduction of hours and salaries for a period of up to ninety (90) days: in such measure, employers must respect the employees’ hourly-wage value. It is important to point out that the employee will have job stability/tenure during the salary reduction period and for an equal period after its term. There is no need for a collective agreement for employees who earn (i) R$3.135,00 or less per month; or (ii) more than R$12.202,12 and have superior/university degree (the employer cannot impose/oblige them to accept the agreement – a negotiation, in fact, must take place). However, it is mandatory with respect to employees who earn between R$3.135,00 and R$12.202,12 per month, exception being made to the reduction of working time and salary of 25%, which might be established by means of an individual agreement. If the employer decides to establish different percentages for the reduction, a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) must be entered.

2. Suspension of the Employment Agreement for up to sixty (60) days, which may be divided in two (2) periods of thirty (30) days each: the conditions mentioned above are also mandatory. It is important to mention that the employee’s work is prohibited, even partially or remotely. Football Clubs with annual gross revenue above R$4.8 million may only suspend the employment agreements by paying a monthly compensatory aid to their employees/players in the amount of at least 30% of the respective salaries during the suspension period.

3. Development of activities at a place other than the employer’s headquarters (Teleworking): nothing prevents administrative work from being done/performed at a distance. For athletes, functional training, for example, can be done remotely.

4. Collective vacation or anticipation/advance of individual vacation periods and federal, state, district and municipal non-religious holidays: this is the simplest and most adopted measure, because it demands only that the employer notify the employees with at least 48 hours in advance and coordinate/align the procedure with the HR/payroll department.

Some Football Clubs have already announced that they are adopting the above-mentioned measures. Santos Futebol Clube reduced the salary of all its employees, including players and coaching staff, by up to 70%, for April, May, and June. Sociedade Desportiva Palmeiras said it will apply, in May and June, a 25% salary reduction in the football department, which includes players, coach, manager and director. The Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama, in turn, announced that it will suspend the group’s employment contracts between May 1st and June 1st.

Unfortunately, with the interruptions in domestic and international competitions, there are those who do not even have the financial means to adopt such measures. Club Esportivo Sergipe, for example, took a drastic step and terminated the current employment agreements of all players in the Club.

Many Brazilian clubs are facing deep financial difficulties and some of them have accumulated a few months of back wages. The difficulties are immense and using all the legal possibilities available in the legislation can be essential for the survival of those Clubs.