Spanish government ramps up workplace legislation in fight against Covid-19

Written on 2 Apr 2020

Following the declaration of a "state of alarm" in Spain and the issue of employment-related measures published in the Royal Decree-Law 8/2929 in response to the coronavirus emergency, the Spanish government has taken further steps to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Employment measures

 On 27 March, Royal Decree-Law 9/2020 brought in new employment-related measures to help to reduce the disruption caused by the Covid-19 emergency: 

  • Employment protection: The Royal Decree-Law establishes that neither force majeure nor economic, technical, organisational and production causes related to Covid-19 may be understood as a justification of the termination of contracts. 
  • Procedure to process unemployment: Requests for unemployment benefit for workers affected by the measures of suspension of contracts and for reduced working hours will be made directly by the employer, and not the employee, through a special and faster procedure.
  • Interruption of temporary contracts: All temporary contracts of those employees included in a procedure of suspension of contracts or reduction of working hours will be interrupted during the state of alarm.
  • Duration of the procedures for the suspension of contracts and reduction of working hours due to force majeure: The duration of the temporary procedures requested due to force majeure will be limited until the end of the state of alarm.
  • Penalty regime and reimbursement of benefits: The regulation establishes the possibility to sanction those companies that could have submitted false or incorrect applications or those that could have requested measures that were not necessary or had insufficient justification. The authorities in charge of unemployment benefits will have direct contact with the Labour Inspectorate to pursue it. In such cases, in addition to any administrative or criminal sanctions that may be imposed, the company will be obliged to pay the amounts received by the employee as unemployment benefits.

Reimbursable leave

On 29 March, Royal Decree-Law 10/2020 brought in new rules on reimbursable paid leave for employees who do not provide essential services in order to reduce the mobility of the workforce to help in the fight against Covid-19.

Lockdown and compulsory paid leave: From 30 March to 9 April 2020, employers are obliged to close their workplaces if their activities are considered non-essential. All workers whose performances are considered non-essential (excluding those employees working from home, those who are on legal leave, or those affected by temporary suspension of contracts), will enjoy a mandatory paid leave, being entitled to receive the 100% of their remuneration and with the obligation to return those hours not performed to the employer afterwards.

Good faith negotiations: In order to return the hours not performed, both parties will have to negotiate in good faith. In this sense, a consultation period of seven days is mandatory in order to reach an agreement, but if no consensual decision is made, the employer will be able to notify its decision. In any case, the return of hours will have to be performed before 31 December 2020 and will be returned gradually considering the limitation of the daily and weekly breaks, maximum working hours and rights of conciliation that are mandatory by law.

Essential activities and occupations: Although the Minister of Health has reserved the right to modify the activities that may be considered essential at any time, the activities and occupations that are currently considered essential are the following:

  • Those that will have to continue during the state of alert for the management of the health crisis situation caused by Covid-19.
  • Those involving the market supply chain and the operation of services for production centres of priority goods and services – including food, drink, animal feed, hygiene and sanitary products, medicines, or any product necessary for the protection of health – and allow for their distribution from the source of origin to their final destination.
  • Those in the hotel and restaurant sector that could provide home delivery services.
  • Those that provide services for the production and distribution of goods, services, health technology, medical material, protective equipment, health and hospital equipment and any other material necessary for the provision of health services.
  • Those essential for the maintenance of the production and manufacturing of supplies, equipment and materials necessary for the provision of essential activities.
  • Those that carry out transport services, both for people and goods, which have continued to be offered since the declaration of the state of alarm, as well as those that ensure the maintenance of transport and its infrastructure.
  • Those that provide services in penitentiary institutions, civil protection, maritime rescue, rescue and fire prevention and extinction, mine safety, and traffic and road safety.
  • Those that work in private security companies that provide security transport, alarm response, patrol or discontinuous surveillance services, and those that need to be used for the performance of security services to guarantee essential services and supply the population.
  • Those that are indispensable for the support and maintenance of the armed forces' material and equipment.
  • Those related to health centres, services and establishments, as well as those that: (a) involving the care of the elderly, minors, dependent persons or persons with disabilities; and those who work in research, development and innovation, companies and biotechnology centres linked to Covid-19; (b) animal facilities associated with the health sector; (c) the maintenance of minimum services of the facilities associated with the sector and the companies supplying products necessary for this research; and (d) those who work in funeral services and other related activities.
  • Those of animal health care centres, services and establishments.
  • Those providing services at press outlets and in public and private media or news agencies, and in their printing or distribution.
  • Those of financial services undertakings, including banking, insurance and investment undertakings, which provide essential services and activities relating to payment infrastructure and financial markets.
  • Telecommunications, audiovisual and essential computer services, and the networks and facilities which support them and the sectors or subsectors necessary for their correct functioning, in particular those essential for the correct provision of public services and the operation of the remote working of public employees.
  • Those that provide services related to the protection and care of victims of gender violence.
  • Those who work as lawyers, procurators, social graduates, translators, interpreters and psychologists and who attend non-suspended procedural proceedings.
  • Those who provide services in legal offices and consultancy firms, administrative and social graduate agencies, and external and in-house occupational risk prevention services in urgent matters.
  • Those that provide services in notaries' offices and registries for the fulfilment of essential services.
  • Those that provide cleaning, maintenance, urgent breakdown repair and surveillance services, as well as services for the collection, management and treatment of hazardous waste; solid urban waste – both hazardous and non-hazardous – waste water collection and treatment, decontamination activities and other waste management and transport and by-product removal services.
  • Those working in the refugee reception centres and in the temporary stay centres for immigrants.
  • Those working in water supply, purification, conduction, potabilisation and sanitation activities.
  • Those indispensable for the provision of meteorological forecasting and observation services and the associated processes of maintenance, monitoring and control of operations.
  • Those working for the operator designated by the state to provide the universal postal service.
  • Those providing services involved in the import and supply of medical equipment, such as logistics, transport, storage and customs transit companies (freight forwarders).
  • Those engaged in the distribution and delivery of products purchased on the Internet, by telephone or by mail trade.
  • Any others that provide services that have already been considered essential.