24 Feb End of absence-based layoffs: the first of many labor reforms by the new government
Following the Constitutional Court’s confirmation of the legality of objective dismissal for absences at work, the Government, in order to protect workers, has repealed by Royal Decree-Law the article of the Workers’ Statute that established this option. According to the Government, this is the first of many reforms in the labor sphere to be sought and implemented during this legislature, and which will have a significant impact on the national economy.
The Spanish Cabinet approved on 18 February 2020, by means of Royal Decree-Law 4/2020, the elimination of Article 52 d) of the Workers’ Statute, which allowed the termination of an employment contract on objective grounds if there were a certain number of excused absences within a given period of time. This is a matter of recent importance due to the Constitutional Court’s ruling 118/2019 of 16 October 2019, as well as the ruling of the ECJ of 18 January 2018 (Ruiz Conejero case), which confirmed the legality of this type of layoff.
The lifting of this provision was prompted by the Ministry of Labor and Social Economy in an effort to secure the fundamental rights of working people, especially those who are chronically or long-term ill, disabled or caring for dependents.
The Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, states that “there was and is collective concern to be dismissed precisely when we are more vulnerable (ill)”, so this repeal not only prevents workers from being terminated, but will also mean that they especially are protected.
Since this has been approved by the Government by means of a Royal Decree-Law, in order for it to enter into full force, it must be approved by Parliament within one month. In the face of such a scenario, the following cases may arise: the Royal Decree-Law may be validated and continue to be in force or, on the contrary, it may be repealed, which would have the same effect as if it had never been approved.
The Minister also said that it was the first of many reforms in the field of employment, since other issues such as hiring, layoffs and especially subcontracting, which will have a huge economic impact on all types of companies, will be addressed later. The aim of all these reforms is to carry out an in-depth review of the entire Workers’ Statute in order to “adapt it to the 21st century”.