EU rules Spain’s treatment of domestic workers is discriminatory

European Union judges on Thursday ruled that there is no valid reason for Spain not to offer domestic workers in the country the right to unemployment benefits as is the case for other contract employees. 

spain domestic workers rights
Many domestic workers in Spain are still not given work contracts by their employers. Photo: JOSEPH EID/AFP

The Court of Justice of the European Union on Thursday February 24th ruled that the Spanish system is discriminatory against its domestic workers, contrary to EU laws and indirectly sexist in that it particularly affects women.

“This exclusion entails a greater lack of social protection for domestic employees, which translates into a situation of social abandonment,” the high court statement published on Thursday reads.

Although the ruling is non-binding, it’s a win for domestic workers in Spain who for decades have been forgotten by authorities and usually forced to work in the underground economy.

The decision by the EU courts follows an appeal in 2019 by a domestic worker in Spain who wished to contribute taxes towards future unemployment benefits, only for the country’s Social Security agency to reject her request under the premise that Spanish law doesn’t allow it.

In 2011, Spain approved the current special regime for domestic workers, which recognised some labour rights such as access to sick leave but continued to deny other basic worker benefits such as unemployment payments.

Despite this, a third of the 536,100 domestics (mostly foreign women) who work in Spain are still not signed up to Spain’s social security system, according to the country’s 2021 Labour Force Survey. Two out of every three have earnings around the minimum wage bracket.

READ ALSO: What changed for families who have a domestic worker or cleaner in Spain in 2021

In February 2021, Spain’s Labour Ministry sent out around 45,000 letters to households with empleadas del hogar (domestic workers) warning them that they have to properly register their employees in Spain’s social security system and make the right contributions (cotizaciones), as well as ensuring they are paying them at least the minimum wage.

It’s not the first time the Court of Justice of the European Union calls out Spain’s labour laws as discriminatory as in 2012 they ruled that access to Spain’s more generous contributory pension system indirectly discriminated against women as there are a far higher number of women in part-time jobs in the country.

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Primark grows its empire in Spain with 8 new stores and 1,000 jobs

Irish fast fashion retailer Primark has announced it will invest €100 million into its stores in Spain, opening 8 shops in new locations and creating 1,000 jobs in the process.

Primark grows its empire in Spain with 8 new stores and 1,000 jobs

The popular low-cost clothes chain has said they will open eight new stores over the next two years in Spain, as well as refurbishing its existing ones. 

Up to €80 million will be spent on opening the new shops, while the remaining €20 million will go towards upgrades and improvements in other stores.

Spain is already Primark’s second largest market after the UK.

The ambitious plans will also create 1,000 new jobs, bolstering the local economy and bringing Primark’s total workforce within Spain to 10,000.

The company owned by Associated British Foods (ABF.L) has said that it will open its first store on the Canary island of Lanzarote as well as its first in the Spanish enclave of Melilla and one in Toledo.

There are also plans to open new stores in Lorca and Jaén over the next two years, as well as three more in the region of Madrid.

Madrid is already home to eight Primark stores including the retailer’s flagship 12,400-square-metre store located on the emblematic Gran Vía, next to Primark’s Spanish headquarters.

The Primark store in Diagonal Mar in Barcelona is also due to be refurbished and extended.

Carlos Inacio, the director general of Primark Spain, said of the move: “We are proud to announce a significant investment in our store portfolio and long-term growth of Primark Spain. This exciting expansion plan will create employment, positively impact the local communities we are opening in and bring Primark stores closer to our customers across Spain”.

Primark has said that it will also continue with its commitment to half the carbon footprint across its stores by 2030 by installing LED lighting in its Spanish shops, as well as other improvements.

The low-cost fashion chain has also been trialling new concepts across Spain by opening up food and drink outlets within its stores.

This year, Primark opened a frozen yogurt stand Llaollao in its Marbella store, as well as a Granier café in its Seville store. Primark Granada and Palma have Llaollao stands during the summer months.

The retailer has opened three new stores in Spain in the last 12 months, including in San Sebastián, San Fernando and Girona.

Primark opened its first store in Madrid in 2006 and currently has 56 stores in 42 cities across the country. These are not only located in big cities like Barcelona and Madrid, but also smaller ones such as Logroño, Vigo, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Orihuela and Tarragona.

The retailer recently announced an investment of £140 million for its UK stores as well as an investment of €100 million in the French market.