After 10 months with a caretaker Government in Spain and therefore a limitation of its most important powers (in particular, promoting legislative and political initiatives), a new legislature has now commenced in which we are therefore likely to see the implementation of changes to legislation that will affect a number of areas of Spanish law, including employment law and labor relations.

At present, it is impossible to say what slant these changes will take, let alone their specific content, since it will depend largely on the relevant consensus that must be reached by the various political forces.

In this scenario, the think-tank “FIDE” issued a report on December 1, 2016 under the title “In support of a new regulatory framework for employment law”, which proposes a consensual regulation of employment relations with a view to creating jobs and increasing high-quality work, productivity and competitiveness.

The report provides a total of 55 conclusions based on contributions by experts on the subject, split into a general section and 5 basic areas of labor legislation, excluding social security matters.

In general, the group of experts considers that the legal framework in Spain governing labor relations (and in particular, the cornerstone legislation in this field of law: the Workers’ Statute) needs a systematic and in-depth review that, in the interests of legal certainty, must be the result of a political agreement or consensus, in which social stakeholders should play a major role. Another main feature of the reform should be its technical accuracy and exact compliance with European Union legislation.

As far as contracts are concerned, the conclusions focus on the need to maintain indefinite-term contracts as the ordinary, standard contracts in labor law and on the need to include effective methods in labor law legislation to control and deter undue and fraudulent use of temporary contracts. The legal framework should also bear in mind topical aspects (globalization, new technologies, etc…) that break with the traditional ideas of the workplace and working hours.

The report also concludes that collective bargaining should play a leading role in the labor relations system, that it should be guaranteed by law and that it requires strong and qualified negotiators. The report proposes that collective bargaining agreements be regulated through formulas that encourage collective bargaining, that its provincial scope be extended and that effective mechanisms be implemented to provide a negotiated adaptation of the law to the real needs of businesses.

The report addresses the need for effective, negotiated, two-way internal flexibility mechanisms, that enable employment conditions to be brought into line with business reality (flexibility and competition) and employees’ need for a work-life balance.

In relation to dismissal, the report considers it necessary to avoid the use of disciplinary dismissal to adjust the volume of employment and to:

  • Design functional and coherent channels for dismissals on objective grounds.
  • Adapt Spanish legislation on the calculation of collective layoff thresholds and severance in the event of termination of temporary contracts to recent decisions by the ECJ and
  • Consider using the Austrian capitalization fund as a benchmark.

Finally, regarding the representation and participation of employees, the conclusion is reached that it is advisable to readjust the “dual channel of representation” of employees at companies and to reconsider the choice of workplace as an electoral unit of reference.

The content of this post is simply a summary of the report, but we recommend a careful and close analysis of the entire report. We will have to wait and see how things progress in the next few months in order to see whether or not the legislators apply the recommendations of the group of experts that participated in the work group at FIDE’s request.

Ignacio Esteban Ros

Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department