New paid leave periods aimed at improving work-life balance approved in Spain

The new regulation reduces the disadvantages affecting the professional careers of workers that take care of family members and other dependents
New paid leave periods aimed at improving work-life balance approved in Spain
June 29, 2023

Royal Decree-Law 5/2023, of June 28 (published in the Official Gazette of the Spanish State on June 29) (the "RDL"), includes a diverse number of developments of a commercial (Legal Flash | 10 key aspects of the new legal system for structural changes), tax, public and labor nature.

Among the labor measures adopted, the RDL amends several precepts of the Workers Statute (the "WS") and the Spanish Labor Procedure Act to transpose into Spanish law Directive (EU) 2019/1158, on work-life balance for parents and carers.

The main developments, entering into force on June 30, are summarized below:

Acknowledgment of domestic partner

  • To benefit from the work-life balance rights recognized under existing law, it includes other forms of cohabitation other than marriage (domestic partner), and family members up to the second degree of consanguinity of domestic partner.
  • Other rights have been extended, including those related to the marriage leave of 15 calendar days, which now also applies to domestic partners, the adjustment of working hours, leave granted to carers, and leave of absence.

Extension of the adjustment of working hours

  • The RDL broadens the right of workers to adjust their working hours if they need to take care of children over the age of twelve, their spouse or domestic partner, family members up to the second degree of consanguinity, as well as other dependents when, in this last case, they live in the same house (article 34.8 of the WS).
  • The process for the worker and company to negotiate the adjustment of working hours is reduced from 30 to 15 days and, if the employer does not state any objections within this period, the request will be considered granted.
  • Under the new act, the worker can return to the pre-adjustment situation under the following terms:
    • The worker will be entitled to return once the agreed or stipulated period concludes, or when the grounds given for the request no longer exist.
    • In all other cases, if there is a change in circumstances that justifies it, the company can only refuse the requested return if there are objective and reasoned grounds for doing so.
  • The new regulation applies to adjustments of working hours that are currently in force.

New types of paid leave

  • Carers’ leave: paid leave has been extended from two to five days for serious accidents or diseases, hospitalization or surgery without hospitalization requiring home rest for the spouse, domestic partner or any family member up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity who, for reasons of age, accident, disease or disability requires home rest. This includes blood-related family members of domestic partners, as well as any person who lives with the worker in the same house and requires effective care from the worker (art. 37.3 b) of the WS).
  • Urgent situations: workers are given a new right to take time off from work for force majeure situations where necessary for urgent reasons related to family members or cohabitating persons, in the event of a disease or accident that requires immediate presence. This paid leave is given for a number of hours equivalent to four days per year, as provided under the applicable collective agreement or, failing that, the agreement between the company and the workers’ representatives

Contract suspension due to parental leave

  • Employment contracts suspended during parental leave: a new cause for employment leave is approved, entitling workers to take parental leave—until the minor reaches eight years of age—for up to eight weeks (new art. 48 bis of the WS).
  • The worker can take this leave by giving 10 days’ notice. The leave will not be restricted by any other types of leave relating to work-life balance.

Simultaneous exercise of work-life balance rights

  • If a worker requests an adjustment of working hours (art. 37.4 of the WS) or a leave of absence (art. 46.3 of the WS), the company may limit the rights being exercised simultaneously if the leave is requested by two workers for the same reason, but it must offer an alternative plan.

New grounds for declaring dismissals null

  • The RDL affords greater protection against dismissal, establishing that dismissal for objective or disciplinary reasons will be null if carried out during the adjustment of working hours under article 34.8 of the WS. It also includes the new work-life balance rights granted in it among the grounds for declaring dismissals null.

We will pay close attention to the practical application of all these measures and the need of companies to integrate these new rights for workers and possibly regulate them internally-in line with the EU Directive-to ensure they are able to provide a better work-life balance without jeopardizing the professional careers of carers. 

June 29, 2023