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Plans to reduce the working week continue despite criticism

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The Ministry of Labour is continuing with its intention to reduce the maximum working week in Spain. Negotiations between the Government, the unions, and the employers’ associations CEOE and CEPYME are currently continuing. Despite the Government’s desire to implement this measure as soon as possible, tension at the negotiating table has increased in recent weeks.

Recently, the Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations (CEOE) criticised the lack of “social dialogue” by the Executive to negotiate this measure. In fact, the president of the National Federation of Associations of Self-Employed Workers (ATA) and also vice-president of CEOE explained that “it makes no sense” for the employers’ association to present “objection” to the proposal of the Ministry of Labour on the reduction of the working week, if this matter is something that has already been “decided” by the Government.

So much so that the draft that the Executive has brought to the dialogue table includes in its first transitional provision the exact dates of the entry into force of this measure. The intention of the Ministry of Labour is to reduce the working week in Spain almost immediately and in two phases: first to 38.5 hours in 2024 and then to 37.5 hours in 2025.

What deadlines does the Government want to give for businesses to reduce the maximum working hours of their employees?

Although labour reforms are usually accompanied by a transitional process – of months, or sometimes more than a year – so that companies, and especially self-employed workers and small businesses, can adapt to the change and the additional costs of the measure, the draft for the reduction of working hours, in principle, does not seem to contemplate such a transition.

In fact, in its transitional provision it marks the first date of entry into force of the reduction of the working day to 38.5 hours this year and the completion of this first phase would also be in 2024. Then, the second phase would begin as soon as 2025 begins.

Maximum applicable working hours during 2024

The draft divides the entry into force of the reduction in working hours into two phases of application: 2024 and 2025. For the first reduction, from 40 hours to 38.5 hours weeks, the document says that the measure would begin to be applied from the same entry into force of the law. However, the measure is still in the negotiation phase, so it is unknown what this date would be.

Specifically, the law says that the first reduction will apply “from the entry into force of this law and until December 31, 2024.” During that period, “the maximum ordinary work week will be thirty-eight and a half hours on an annual average.” This average will be calculated proportionally.

Thus, for example, if this measure finally came into force in September and ended in December, it would be four months. During these four months, an average would have to be made so that, on average, the weekly workday does not exceed 38.5 hours.

Maximum applicable working hours during 2025

Finally, the draft also foresees the start of the second phase to reduce the maximum working day by one more hour, from 38.5 hours in 2024 to 37.5 hours per week from the beginning of 2025.

According to the document, “the maximum duration of the ordinary working day of thirty-seven and a half hours provided for in this regulation will be applicable from 1 January 2025.” Initially, once this limit has come into force, it will be maintained.

Fines of up to 10,000 euro for businesses that fail to comply with the maximum working hours

If the draft that the Ministry of Labour has sent to social agents goes ahead, as previously reported, the Government would also want to reform the sanctioning regime for all those businesses that fail to comply with this maximum number of hours per contract.

According to the Law on Infractions and Sanctions in the Social Order (LISOS), today, the transgression of the rules and legal or agreed limits regarding working hours, night work, overtime, complementary hours, is considered a serious infraction. breaks, vacations, permits, registration of working hours and, in general, the working time referred to in articles 12, 23 and 34 to 38 of the Workers’ Statute. Article 34 is what regulates the maximum working day in the Workers’ Statute.

Currently, depending on the degree of the infringement, the fine could reach 7,500 euro. Specifically, the fine will range from 751 to 1,500 euro for the minimum degree; 1,501 to 3,750 euro for the medium degree, and 3,751 to 7,500 euro for the maximum degree.

If the draft is approved, the aim is to reform this sanctioning regime and make the sanctions tougher. On the one hand, fines will be imposed for each worker hired above the permitted limit, and not for the entire workforce. On the other hand, the amount of fines will be increased at all levels and will be punishable by: at the minimum level, fines of 1,000 to 2,000 euro; at the medium level, from 2,001 to 5,000 euro and, at the maximum level, from 5,001 to 10,000 euro.

Next stage

The next formal proposal from the Government to the unions will be presented on Monday.

The second vice president and Minister of Labour and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz, announced that next Monday, July 8, the Government will make a new proposal to CEOE and Cepyme for the reduction of working hours during the negotiation table meeting.

“We are going to do what they do not do, and we are going to see what their negotiating vocation is”, the second vice president stressed in the press conference after the Council of Ministers.

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