Spain: Latest developments in working life Q1 2019

The government’s efforts to achieve equality in terms of parental leave, a new decree to tackle precarious work and the approval of thousands of new public sector posts are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Spain in the first quarter of 2019.

Parental leave extended to eight weeks

The government approved a Royal Decree-Law (6/2019) in early March, which aims to ensure equality in terms of parental leave. The new law extends paternity leave from five weeks to eight weeks. New fathers will therefore have almost two months of leave, the first two weeks of which must be taken immediately after the birth of a child (or adoption and care of a child under 12 months of age). The remaining six weeks can be distributed throughout the first 12 months.

This increase in paternity leave is part of the government’s plan to ensure that paternity leave is equal to maternity leave by 2021. Based on this plan, paternity leave will be extended to 12 weeks in 2020 and to 16 weeks in 2021. This will result in parental leave that is equal and non-transferable for both parents, which will officially be known as ‘birth permissions’.

Decree to fight against precarious work approved

In March, and after informing social partners, the government approved a package of measures designed to improve the position of particularly vulnerable groups in the labour market and fight against precarious work.

One of these vulnerable groups is unemployed people over the age of 50, who experience higher rates of long-term unemployment and whose number increased during the economic crisis. To help these workers, the government has reinstated an income subsidy for those over 52 years of age (the age was raised to 55 years in 2012 by the People’s Party government). This subsidy consists of a monthly payment of €430 that the unemployed worker receives until they find a new job or retire.

Other measures included:

  • new fiscal incentives for companies to hire long-term unemployed people, particularly women
  • employment incentives aimed at transforming temporary contracts for seasonal agricultural workers into open-ended contracts, or to encourage the hiring of long-term unemployed people
  • bonuses to incentivise employers in the tourism sector to maintain employees on fixed-term contracts beyond the high season months
  • a new regulation on registering the working time of employees in an effort to curb the abuse of non-paid overtime work by companies

The regulation on registering working time gives companies two months to record the start and end times of the working day for each employee. These records must be kept for four years and be accessible by the employees, their representatives or the Labour Inspectorate. The implementation of the registration system is left to collective bargaining between companies and trade unions or, failing that, the discretion of the employer.

Government approves thousands of new public sector posts

In March, the government approved the largest public employment offer since Spain became a democracy in the 1970s. The offer consisted of 33,793 new positions, including making 5,254 temporary positions in the justice, health and education sectors permanent. Most of the new jobs are in the General State Administration (20,781), the State Security Forces (5,561) and the Armed Forces (1,814).

The government stated that the increase would provide certainty to public employees whose working conditions worsened because of the 2008 economic crisis. It would also help to counterbalance the increasing average age of public employees and the fact that large numbers are retiring each year (more than 51% of today’s public employees are expected to have retired by 2029).

Commentary

The Spanish parliament rejected the 2019 budget law proposed by the Socialist government in February 2019, which led to a call for early elections on 28 April. Without the budget, the government will not be able to implement all of the proposals it previously announced in relation to the labour market and social policy (although it has been approving several measures).

The government was also unable to reverse the 2012 labour market reform because it could not secure a sufficient majority in parliament.

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