Why workers in Spain have a legal right to a Christmas hamper

Why workers in Spain have a legal right to a Christmas hamper
A typical Christmas hamper sold by El Corte Ingles in Spain. Photo: elcorteingles.es
The tradition of giving workers a ‘cesta’ to take home at Christmas is long established in Spain.

Usually containing wine, olive oil, cured meats, luxury tinned products and sweet treats such as Turrón and Polverones, the Christmas hamper is a treat that employees have come to expect.

In fact, the cesta is such an entrenched tradition in Spain that at some companies it's written into the union contract.

And last year workers won a court case arguing that is not an act of generosity on the part of employers but a right that should be awarded to all employees.

Spain’s Supreme Court in papers made public in December 2019, declared Fujitsu Technology Spain had been wrong to cancel the seasonal perk – a move it made in 2013 as the country struggled in deep economic crisis.

The decision to suspend the hamper could be allowed in the context of a one-off emergency austerity measure but should not have been suspended indefinitely.

The ruling said that the Christmas hamper tradition had been so longstanding that employees had come to expect it, meaning it had become an acquired right.

The ruling stated that “given the repetition over time of its delivery to the entire staff” the yuletide gift had become “a beneficial condition of the labour contract that cannot be considered merely an act of generosity on the part of the company”.

Fujitsu Spain had been delivering hampers since the unit was founded in 1973, with the exception of 1997, when vouchers were handed out instead.

Workers unions had accepted the one-off measure in 2013 but complained in subsequent years when the box of treats failed to appear.

The court ordered Fujitsu to deliver an extra compensation hamper to its 1,600 workers this year meaning employees can expect a double delivery.  

While the judges said the ruling did not automatically mean all companies must provide hampers at Christmas, it is the fourth time that the Supreme Court has ruled that the delivery is a contractual condition.

This year with companies unable to throw the usual corporate parties over Christmas as big gatherings are banned due to the pandemic, the sales of seasonal gift baskets are expected to boom.

Many employers are expected to reward their workers after a difficult year with a more elaborate hamper than usual in order to compensate for the lack of Christmas parties.

 “A big chunk of the budget from cancelled Christmas dinners has gone to Christmas gifts. That includes companies that are doing it for the first time this year,” said Moises Barroso Barrios, commercial director of gift company Rojas Barrios told Reuters. “This has given us a big boost.”

Pepa Alarcon, marketing director of Lotes de Espana company – one of the leaders in the sector – said one reason employers were sending gift baskets was to maintain motivation among staff, most of whom were working at home.

“As they cannot get together they have decided to go for the Christmas parcel. The idea is to get together while keeping a distance,” Alarcon told Reuters.

And the value of the average order of gift baskets has risen from €30-40 last year to €50-60 in the run up to Christmas 2020.

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