Nights, weekends and bank holidays will no longer be safe for any employers who systematically flout their staff’s rights, says the Social Security office.
High tourism season means exploitation is more likely to occur as workers are given temporary contracts in bars, shops, hotels and restaurants, among other businesses which have only a skeleton trade out of season.
Work inspectors will be checking nobody is on the job more than the European Union’s permitted maximum of 48 hours per week and that they have regular breaks, and that all staff have proper job contracts covering their full hours.
An illegal practice to avoid labour costs is to only mention part of staff’s hours on their contracts, paying them the balance cash in hand, in order to save Social Security and employer tax contributions which, combined, come to around 50% on top of an employee’s take-home pay.
This means the employee does not benefit from his or her full pension contribution and any dole money payable will be reduced to reflect the hours stated in the contract.
Some unscrupulous employers even take on workers on a cash-only basis, meaning they have no pension or dole contributions being paid on their behalf and are not insured to be on the premises.
Inspectors will be looking out for abuse of temporary job contracts – the practice of a constant turnover of staff every few months, or employees being given a string of short-term contracts even though their role is considered permanent, another way some employers use to reduce the amount they have to pay in the event of redundancy and to curtail workers’ legal rights.
Given the Spanish economy’s high dependence on tourism, seasonal lay-off contracts are common, so legislation exists to protect those who return to the same employers after periods of downtime.
Anyone who has worked for a firm for 18 months within a three-year period, or two years continuously, is considered a permanent employee in terms of labour rights and redundancy pay, even if their continuous two years has been on temporary contracts.
Since the financial crisis, a very high number of firms pay no more than the minimum wage – currently, €855 per month, or €735.90 where workers receive a double salary at Christmas and in August – and work inspectors will be checking nobody is earning less than this, which would be illegal.
President Pedro Sánchez wants to increase this to €14,000 a year – although he has not clarified whether this will be net or gross – as soon as possible, but at least before the year 2020.
In line with the European Union’s Social Charter, all member States’ minimum wages should be no less than 60% of the average wage which, in Spain, is a gross figure of €1,878.10 a month, meaning the minimum salary should be at least €1,126 a month.
Inspectors will, additionally, be looking to clamp down on the practice of companies’ taking on staff but insisting they become self-employed, in order to save the firms’ labour costs and not to have to pay sick leave or holidays.
Those whose entire professional work is for just one company or at least 75% with the same firm, who provide a regular, consistent service for a set monthly figure is classed as ‘false self-employed workers’, and have been rapidly rising in number since the financial crisis.
The new minister for work and pensions, Magdalena Valerio, has announced a crackdown on the practice, which leaves staff with no employment rights in order to save costs for their companies.
Along with her plan to align self-employed workers’ Social Security stamp with their actual income rather than its being a fixed monthly fee of €278.08 irrespective of earnings, she has announced steps to be taken to combat the ‘false self-employed’ system.