Draft statute for self-employed workers approved

The Self-Employed Workers’ Statute has been presented to the Council of Ministers as a draft bill following its approval by the trade unions in September 2006. An ad hoc expert committee has drawn up the draft statute in consultation with the associations that defend the interests of over three million self-employed people, representing almost 20% of the active population. Although it does not satisfy everyone, the statute meets traditional demands of this group and forms part of the Socialist Party’s electoral programme. The draft bill has received mixed reactions from the social partners.

On 29 September 2006, the Union of Professionals and Self-Employed Workers (Unión de Profesionales y Trabajadores Autónomos, UPTA), affiliated to the General Workers’ Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT) and the National Federation of Self-Employed Workers (Asociación de Trabajadores Autónomos, ATA) have approved the Self-Employed Workers’ Statute, which was subsequently presented to the Council of Ministers as a draft bill for further discussion. However, the Spanish Federation of Self-Employed Workers (Federación Española de Autónomos, CEAT), affiliated to the Spanish Confederation of Employer Organisations (Confederación Española de Organizaciones Empresariales, CEOE) and the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (Confederación Española de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa, CEPYME) have rejected the draft. Moreover, the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) has criticised some substantial aspects of the text and the bargaining process which based on consultation between the associations rather than the trade unions.

An ad hoc expert committee has drawn up the draft statute in consultation with the associations defending the interests of over three million self-employed workers, representing almost 20% of the working population in Spain. Despite the mixed reactions to the draft statute from the social partners, the statute forms part of the Socialist Party’s electoral programme as it meets the traditional demands of self-employed persons.

Content of future statute

The main features of the new statute include the following:

  • establishing rules concerning occupational risk prevention for cases in which workers use raw materials or tools belonging to others;
  • defining economic guarantees for self-employed workers who are subcontracted. The main company is responsible for debts of contractors to self-employed workers;
  • converging the economic contributions of self-employed workers with those of regular employees;
  • outlining specific rights for ‘dependent self-employed workers’ (those who receive 75% of their income from a single client or company), such as 15 days’ holidays per year and compensation for unjustified suspension of contract;
  • considering the possibility of early retirement in high-risk professions;
  • designing a compulsory public contributions system for involuntary termination of work, which will be developed in a subsequent legislative bill;
  • establishing procedures for resolving disputes out of court and placing self-employed workers within the sphere of social law;
  • bringing the Special System for Self-employed Workers in line with the General Social Security System, thus providing:
    • protection against temporary incapacity,
    • protection against industrial accidents or occupational illness for ‘dependent self-employed workers’,
    • reductions in the contributions of persons who carry out another activity for which they contribute to the General System, persons under the age of 30 years who start to work with a self-employed parent, self-employed street traders and door-to-door sales persons;
  • drafting a list of collective rights: the right of association, such as the right to carry out collective activities to further professional interests, and recognition of the representativeness of the associations of self-employed workers;
  • setting up the State Council of Self-Employed Workers formed by representatives of associations, trade unions and employer organisations.

Reaction of social partners

Both CC.OO and CEAT believed that there was no need to regulate the activity of self-employed workers beyond the existing regulations. CEAT, which is an organisation formed mainly by small self-employed entrepreneurs, claims that this statute responds more to political than economic needs. It argues that the statute considers self-employed workers as employees, which will lead to the unionisation of the activity of self-employed entrepreneurs. The federation also considers that disputes between self-employed workers and clients should be governed by civil or commercial law. CC.OO has widely criticised the regulation of ‘dependent self-employed workers’, claiming that it is a contradiction of the terms used to define this group. The confederation believes that the representation of this group should be the exclusive responsibility of the trade unions, because they are partly employees.

Furthermore, CEAT claims that this type of employment divides the labour market and weakens the Workers’ Statute. In addition, CC.OO considers that the rights and duties of workers should be established in the work contract signed by the self-employed person. For its part, ATA denies that the regulation of the situation of ‘dependent self-employed workers’ is an incentive for employers to allow employees to become self-employed. In addition, it claims that the statute provides this increasing group of workers with a regulatory framework that recognises their labour relationship and defines their rights.

Next steps

After the draft bill is signed, the Self-Employed Workers’ Statute must be approved by the Council of Ministers. It will then be presented to the Economic and Social Council (Consejo Económico y Social, CES), and subsequently to the General Council of the Judiciary. Finally, it is expected to be put before parliament in March 2007.

Mari Luz Castellanos, CIREM Foundation

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