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Spain's domestic workers and carers to get landmark labour benefits

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Spain's domestic workers and carers to get landmark labour benefits
The reform means domestic cleaners and carers in Spain will be able to claim unemployment benefit, with employers required to make the relevant contributions as of October 1st. (Photo by Mauro Pimentel / AFP)

Spain is to extend labour benefits to hundreds of thousands of domestic cleaners and carers, meaning they can no longer be dismissed without justification and they can claim unemployment benefits, the government said Tuesday.

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The move came some six months after the EU's Court of Justice (CJEU) said Spain was discriminating against domestic workers by failing to offer them social protections, with women overwhelmingly affected.

Spain is "settling a historic debt with domestic workers," Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz said after the government approved a legal decree to end "discrimination" against them.

The reform means domestic cleaners and carers will be able to claim unemployment benefit, with employers required to make the relevant contributions as of October 1st.

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It also means an employer can no longer dismiss a domestic worker without justification.

Domestic staff will also be covered by healthcare "protection" and will be able to access training to allow them to improve their "professional opportunities" and "working conditions", said Díaz, a member of the Communist party.

The reform was unveiled in March by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's government following the CJEU's February ruling which found that the legislation which excluded domestic workers from unemployment benefits -- "almost exclusively women" -- was "contrary to EU law".

In its findings, the court noted that "more than 95 percent" of domestic workers were female, meaning the proportion of women affected was "significantly higher" than men.

"Consequently, the national legislation places female workers at a particular disadvantage and thus gives rise to indirect discrimination on grounds of sex," it said in its February 24th ruling.

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

Spain's UGT union hailed the government's decision as a "historic step forward" and vowed to keep fighting for domestic workers who are often "of foreign nationality", notably from Latin America.

"Following years of struggle, domestic workers will be workers with rights," said Carolina Vidal López of the CCOO union.

The decree will affect some 600,000 people working in that sector in Spain, the CCOO said.

But another 200,000 who are working in the black economy without an employment contract will not benefit from this reform, it added.

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