Article updated with the latest measures as of 05/02/2021
Covid-19 has had, is having and will continue to have a major economic, labour and social impact.
To minimise the possibilities of contagion and slow the spread of the pandemic, measures have been adopted to freeze economic activity, restrict mobility, and order the population to shelter in place. These measures have serious consequences for the economy and jobs.
In this context, the Spanish Government has adopted several urgent and extraordinary measures to protect people during this health crisis, including, in particular, the following:
- Reinforcement of occupational hazard prevention measures for people who continue to provide in-person services.
- Prioritisation of home working as a formula for job retention during the first state of emergency.
- Specific work-life balance rights to enable the adaptation of the number and distribution of work hours for workers with family responsibilities.
- A specific furlough scheme due to force majeure and for economic, technical, organisational and production-related causes to enable fast and agile temporary workforce adjustments.
- Increased unemployment protection for employees, self-employed workers, workers with temporary contracts and domestic workers who have experienced a loss of activity or had to reduce their activity due to Covid-19.
By means of Spanish Royal Decree 463/2020, of 14 March, declaring the state of emergency, and more than 22 royal decree-laws containing labour measures, a parallel legal-labour system has been created to regulate labour-related measures in the context of Covid-19.
The speed, urgency and exceptional nature of the health crisis partially explain the need to adopt such a large number of labour regulations
Whilst the speed, urgency and exceptional nature of the health crisis partially explain the need to adopt such a large number of labour regulations, the situation is compounded by the lack of planning, rigour and responsibility on the part of the Spanish government, as witnessed by the eleventh-hour publication of regulations in the Official State Gazette (BOE), just minutes before they enter into force; transitory provisions given three different wordings in the span of just two weeks; groups left unprotected despite the promise to ‘leave no person behind’; and technical criteria of the General Directorate for Labour involving questionable interpretations and generating an endless string of doubts.
- What occupational risk prevention obligations do companies have to employees in relation to Covid-19?
- What occupational risk prevention obligations do companies have to employees working from home?
- Could a lack of occupational risk prevention measures in relation to Covid-19 result in business liability?
- Can companies take employees’ temperatures? Can they require them to get vaccinated against Covid-19?
- What special work-life balance rights do people with family responsibilities have?
- Is remote working compulsory in the ‘third wave’ of the pandemic?
- Can a furlough due to force majeure be followed by a furlough based on economic, technical, operational or production-related grounds?
- Can a furlough be implemented due to new restrictions imposed by the health authorities?
- What are the consequences of breaching the commitment to maintain jobs? Does it affect the lawfulness of possible dismissals?
- Can a company dismiss an employee for causes related to the pandemic? How would such a dismissal be classified? What does the case law say?
The following Guide with 100+30 questions and answers on labour measures in response to Covid-19 is being published to address these questions. It aims to be a systematised tool for understanding the most important labour measures adopted in the context of the current health crisis, with questions and answers to them that will surely shape the present and near future of labour law.
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