Spain’s newly elected socialist government is contemplating introducing a clause to its new clocking-in laws for workers that would see their unofficial breaks go unpaid.
The fresh guidelines, aimed largely at making sure employees get paid for overtime, could backfire against workers in that their sacred out-of-office coffee breaks will see their wages depleted.
The same would apply to any time spent outside work during standard working hours.
Spanish business groups, perhaps disgruntled by the prospect of having to cough up for the more than 2.6 million hours of overtime that up to now have gone unpaid, have supported this prospective measure.
“Spanish workers get two hours a day for various breaks: lunch, a personal phone call, to stretch their legs, to nip out for a smoke or tohave a coffee,” Spain’s employment secretary Yolanda Valdeolivas told Spanish company representatives.
“I wouldn’t have any problem with this time being rounded off and divided between effective work hours and non-effective, unpaid time.”
Critics have called the proposed measure “one-dimensional” and “unrealistic” but Valdeolivas has responded by stating that a thorough control of effective hours at work has always existed in Spain and this is “purely a formalization of a matter of little importance”.
“We’ll give companies some time to introduce the general entry and exit control systems,” she added.
The government’s current guidelines do make a distinction between compulsory breaks and others, but this new proposal would see smokers and more restless employees bundled up with other workers who need regular breaks for more justifiable reasons.
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.