EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Spain’s new clocking-in laws for workers

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Spain’s new clocking-in laws for workers
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Spain has introduced measures forcing companies to record the working hours of employees, but what's it all about and who does it affect? Here's what you need to know.

Earlier this year Spain’s Socialist government brought in a new law that requires employers to keep proper track of working hours, effectively bringing back the practice of clocking in and out, so that overtime hours can be measured.

Why bring in this law? 

The measure was introduced in one of the last acts by Pedro Sanchez and his government before parliament was dissolved ahead of the April 28 election.

It is designed to “help correct the situation of precariousness, low salaries and poverty that affects many workers who suffer abuse in their working day,” according to the wording of the decree.

The latest data reveals that an estimated 2.6 million work hours a week account for unpaid overtime, according to a workforce survey published in El Pais.

Until now, the obligation to record working hours only existed for part time workers and to register extra hours worked to qualify for overtime.

The measures are designed to uncovering the excess hours worked by those mainly in the trade, hospitality and construction sector, which is where exploitation is most concentrated.

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As a worker the big advantage is that the new regulations will put an end to overtimes without remuneration. It also guarantees the right to digital disconnection – not having to read or respond to emails, whatsapps, calls etc outside of working hours – and ensures that there is a minimum 12 hour break between working hours.

May 12th deadline:

The Royal Decree was passed by the Council of Ministers on March 8 with companies given the deadline of May 12th to enforce the clocking in system or face potentially steep fines.

But the government complained that no-one had taken the Royal Decree seriously and have issued guidelines this week to help make obligations clear.

Who does it affect?

According to the decree, every single business, regardless of the size must accurately record working hours of each of its employees.

A record must be kept of the start and end of every working day for each employee, even if they do not work in an office but are travelling, working from home or remotely.

The law requires that records are kept for four years, and must be supplied on request to inspectors, union reps, or even the employees themselves.

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The new guide issued by the Ministry of Employment explains that senior management are not required to sign up to the scheme but all other workers must – including middle management – even those who have a clause in the contract that they are expected to be available outside regular working hours.

The law is murky regarding 'autonomos'. Those who are registered self-employed but employ other people do have an obligation to keep records, but if you work for yourself, you are exempt. 

What about flexitime?

In theory, those who have arranged “flexible” working hours won’t necessarily be affected as long as they can establish a means to record the actual hours worked.

What are the penalties?

Businesses that fail to comply will face fines ranging from €626 to €6,250 but the penalty structure is not well defined and will be up to the discretion of inspectors after consideration of the size and nature of the business, number of employees and turnover.

Recording working hours will be the responsibility of the employer and not the employee, so it will be the company that face fines.


Unions, although generally positive about the protection offered by the new laws, have complained that workers are not required to sign off on their working hours as recorded by employers.

Others argue that it is hard to classify exactly when work starts for some people, is it when they start they commute? Or what about break times?

Esther González Arnedo, a professor at EAE Business School warned that such a rigid system could backfire. 

“In no other country in Europe is there such a rigid norm today. With the digitalization of work, there is increasing flexibility which allows boss and worker to decide how to carry out their work without needing to see each other, much less to sign in.

“For companies, it could bring additional effort and investment, while for the worker, it will mean a return to a type of control that did not exist before and that reduces autonomy and flexibility.”

How will it work?

It is up to the company to negotiate with its employees to establish a means of recording the working hours. Clocking in /clock out machines won’t be necessary as the ministry insists that there are ways to record the hours digitally.

Apps have been developed to monitor working hours and companies are coming up with different ways to keep track.

Drop us an email, or comment below,  and let us know how your company is doing it. 





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