After almost a year of pandemic, the time has come to talk about carnival for 2021: how will Brazil's biggest festivity take place and how will it affect labor and employment relations? Will the workers continue to perform their activities normally? What should companies do?
First of all, is Carnival a holiday or not? There are two types of holidays in Brazil: civil and religious. Civil holidays are those established in federal, state, and municipal law. Religious holidays are made up of reserved days provided for by municipal law, not exceeding four in number, including Good Friday.
Carnival, despite being a tradition in Brazil, is not a national holiday. There is a carnival holiday only in places where state or municipal law establishes it. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, for example, Law No. 5,243/08 establishes Tuesday during Carnival as a state holiday.
In locations where Carnival is not a holiday, employers may adopt the measure they prefer in relation to their employees, always respecting the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement applicable to their employees.
Due to the pandemic, however, several cities have yet to define whether to hold or postpone Carnival. The festival will not take place in certain locations this year, and in others it may still be cancelled or postponed.
In certain localities, on the other hand, municipal and/or state authorities have already issued decrees canceling Carnival days as optional day-offs for public agencies. The São Paulo City Government, for example, by means of Municipal Decree No. 60,060/2021 defined that there will be no optional day-offs on February 15, 16, and 17, 2021. According to the City Government, the adoption of the optional day-off corresponding to the days of Carnival and Ash Wednesday would potentially encourage the agglomeration of people in public and private spaces, in the opposite direction of what is recommended by the health guidelines and protocols.
In any case, we emphasize that the fact that Carnival is or is not optional day-off for the purposes of the Public Administration does not affect labor and employment relations in the private initiative. This is because, for companies, what must be taken into consideration is whether or not there are state and/or municipal laws or regulations establishing Carnival as a local holiday, regardless of whether it is optional day-off.
Thus, if it is not a local holiday, companies have four alternatives:
- Grant employees day off, on a voluntary basis, without the need for offsetting, on the date initially scheduled or on the date of the festivity to be established by the local authorities.
- Grant day off on the date initially scheduled or on the date of the holiday to be established by the local authorities, with corresponding offsetting for hours not worked, by means of individual agreement or hours bank, provided that the limits for offsetting provided for by law and the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreement are complied with.
- Offset in advance the hours not worked due to Carnival, with flexible days off because of the uncertainty regarding the date, to be fixed via individual agreement or hours bank, provided that the limits on hours offsetting provided for by law and the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreement are complied with.
- Require normal work from employees, subject to the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
*Information updated on February 2, 2021.