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Working from home: What we know about Spain’s new ‘teletrabajo’ decree

This week the Spanish government established a draft bill that regulates remote working, a practice that has become widespread during the Covid-19 crisis.

Working from home: What we know about Spain’s new 'teletrabajo' decree
Home office in Sella on the Spain's Costa Blanca. Photo by Euan Cameron on Unsplash

The outlines of the decree, that still needs to be ratified by unions and business associations, will outline the rights of the employee when working from home and the responsibilities of the employer.

“This puts us at the forefront of European legislation,” Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz told a press conference on Tuesday.

Working from home was rare in Spain before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, but is now a reality for 20 to 30 percent of all employees, several studies show.    

Here’s what we know about the new agreement so far:

What is considered “working from home”?

The legislation will apply to all employees who spend at least 30 percent of their time working from home – the equivalent of one day and a half per week – for at least three months.

Who can do it?

All home working arrangements should be voluntary on the part of both employers and employees and a worker could not be sacked for refusing to do so. It will require the negotiation of an agreement between both parties.    

Businesses cannot force employees to work from home and for those that do, they must cover the costs incurred.


Photo by Windows on Unsplash

 

What’s that about covering expenses?

Employers will also have to cover the cost of equipment, tools and other expenses while the employee is working from home, such as electricity, internet and phone bills, IT kit and ergonomic chairs.

Checks and monitoring

Businesses will be able to adopt “measures to check and monitor” that their staff are fulfilling their work obligations, the Expansion business daily said without elaborating as to how these checks will be carried out.

Will workers’ rights remain the same?. 

Staffers will retain their right to a private life, including the right to disconnect, the government said.

Those who do work from home cannot be penalized in terms of financial retribution, post occupancy, working hours, training or promotions, the decree said, recognising that a teleworker must maintain the same rights as before.  

When will the new regulations come into force?

It won’t be immediate. The regulation has been introduced via decree but this doesn’t mean it becomes immediately effective from the date of being published in the Official State Gazette (BOE).

This is because a “transitional provision” has been entered into the decree to cover the “extraordinary circumstances” of the coronavirus crisis and means that some of the regulations are suspended, for example it won’t be mandatory for a formal agreement to be signed before working from home can start.

  

Vocabulary you need to know: 

teletrabajo / trabajo a distancia/ trabajo remoto: Working from home 

trabajo presencial: Working in the work place (as opposed to from home)

gastos asociados: expenses you can claim for working from home

la negociación colectiva: collective bargaining 

un acuerdo detallado por escrito: Detailed written agreement which must be signed between employer and employee regarding conditions for working from home

READ ALSO: 

Self-employed in Spain: What you should know about being 'autónomo'

 

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Do I have to take most of my annual leave in August in Spain?

Many Spanish companies still expect their workers to take their holidays at specific times of the year, primarily in August, right in the height of summer when many hotels are fully booked. So what are your rights, are you obliged to take your vacation in one particular month?

Do I have to take most of my annual leave in August in Spain?

While it’s your right as an employee to be able to take holiday days, do you have to take them when your company wants you to take them, or are you able to choose and have more flexibility?

Despite August being one of the hottest months in Spain and the one month of the year when many official companies and offices shut up shop, not everyone necessarily wants to take their break at the same time as everyone else.

Taking your holidays in August means less availability in hotels, overcrowding and more expensive transport and accommodation. If you don’t have children who are off from school during the summer months, then you may wish to take your vacation days at another time of the year, when it’s less busy and cheaper.

To answer the question it’s important to know the details about what the law says about how paid time off is taken, requested, imposed, or granted.

What laws or regulations dictate the rules about paid holiday time?

There are three different sets of rules and regulations, which are responsible for regulating the laws on vacation time in Spain. 

Firstly, you need to look at the Spanish Workers’ Statute, which includes rights, duties and obligations applicable to all salaried workers in Spain.

Secondly, you need to be aware of the collective sector and/or company agreements, which may dictate the rules for a particular industry for example.

Thirdly, you need to look at the contract, which you signed with your employer when you started working for them. This sets out your individual circumstances and the rules you must abide by.   

Workers Statute

As a general rule, all employees are subject to the Workers’ Statute. Holidays are part of this and are the subject of article 38. These conditions can never be contradicted by individual companies and are set as a guaranteed minimum. 

The minimum number of holidays in Spain is 30 calendar days per year. This equals two and a half days per month worked, in the case of temporary contracts. The statute states that vacations must be taken between January 1st and December 31st in separate periods, but one of them must be for at least two weeks. They are always paid and cannot be exchanged for financial compensation.

The period when you can take them is set by a common agreement between the employer and the worker, in accordance with what is established in the collective agreements on annual vacation planning. If there is disagreement, the social jurisdiction is resorted to.

At a minimum, the company must offer vacation days at least two months before the beginning of the holiday period, so that the employee has time to organise and book.   

When the planned time to take vacations coincides with a temporary disability, pregnancy, or childbirth, you have the right to enjoy the vacations at another time, even after the calendar year is over.

Collective agreements on vacations  

Your sector’s collective agreements may also help to answer this question. These aim to improve upon the basic and general rights that are included in the Workers’ Statute. They seek to adapt the rules to each type of industry or company. They could, for example, set out extra vacation days, which are greater than the standard 30 calendar days. 

You will need to find out what your specific sector or company’s collective agreement is. There is a possibility that your sector or company has mandatory summer vacations for the month of August and in that case, you can choose vacation dates, but only within this month.

Your work contract 

Lastly, you will need to consult your individual contract which you signed with the company when you were hired.  As well as the minimum conditions set out in the Workers’ Statute, your contract sets out your particular agreement with your employer in terms of holiday duration, the work calendar and other details.

Therefore, you should state in your contract whether you have to take your holidays during August, or if you’re free to take them at other times of the year.

If after consulting these three sets of regulations and there are still in doubt or in disagreement with your company about vacations, such as having to take them during the month of August, you should consult a lawyer specialising in labor law. They should be able to give you an answer specific to your situation.  

Can I appeal or disagree and what are the consequences? 

To appeal or express disagreement with what is proposed by the company, there is a period of 20 business days from when the vacation schedule is sent out, after which time you don’t have the right to show that you disagree.  

Companies can proceed to disciplinary dismissals due to abandonment of the job if you decide to take vacations that have not been granted or agreed upon with your employer. To avoid this type of problem, always make sure you have a record in writing of your request for vacation time and subsequent approval by the company.

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