Corona virus: implications for Spanish staff

What consequences does the COVID-19 have for my employees in the Spain? What are employers' obligations in respect of COVID-19? The current situation in Europe raises many questions for companies that have employees in Europe. Every country has their own measures regarding the Corona virus. At EuroDev we are dealing with European HR matters on a daily basis. Hence, we will do our best to give clear answers to some of the questions you might have. We monitor the situation and have put all information together per country. If you employ people in the Spain, you can find frequently asked questions below.

Measures announced by the government

As of March 31, there are 94,417 confirmed corona cases in Spain. 

Through April 9, the Spanish government is further restricting the operation of non-essential businesses and the movement of employees within the country. Vital businesses and/or essential services will continue and include transportation, banking, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare, among others. However, provision of some of these services – including transportation – remains limited. The nationwide State of Alarm will continue through April 11. 

Below we answer some key questions to clarify employers' legal obligations and support you in protecting your business and people.

On 13 March 2020, the Spanish Government declared the "alarm status", which as per the regulations passed on 14 March, implies among other measures the following:

  • General order to close retail commerce, with some exceptions such as food stores, drug stores or communication stores.

  • General ban on citizen's circulation rights all over the country. Employees are entitled to circulate to work, as one of the exceptions to said general ban.

  • Those business that are impacted by the order to close, will be able to carry out an expedite suspension of employment based on force majeure. For those who are not impacted, it is still necessary to carry out a prior consultation period. The Prime Minister announced on March 14 that in the next days the government will facilitate the process to carry out temporary adjustments of employment, but did not disclose when this will happen. It is expected that new measures on this point will be announced after the Government Council on 17 March.

In addition, the Spanish Government also published new regulations on the application of specific measures with regards to COVID-19, whose main regulations are the following: 

  • Measures to preserve employment: the Social Security will provide special benefits for employers to enter into permanent-intermittent employment contracts (e.g. seasonal contracts, which are entered into on an ongoing basis but only for a limited number of months per year) and which cover contracts from February to June 2020. 

  • Additionally, the Government has established that the preventive isolation, or infection, of employees due to COVID-19 must be treated as a temporary incapacity for accidents at work, regardless of whether the employees are infected during the provision of services and outside working time. This implies that the affected employees will be entitled to the relevant Social Security sick leave benefits for occupation hazards (if they meet the required conditions), which involves a payment of 75% of the employee's monthly base contribution (unless the applicable CBA provides otherwise), which will be assumed by the Spanish Social Security.

All employment and labour proceedings have in general terms been suspended for the next 15 days. 

FAQ: Corona virus and Employment Law in Spain

1.Can employers request or require information from an employee about potential or actual exposure to the virus?

Any such data must also be processed in line with the applicable privacy requirements.  Information about an employee's health (such as whether the individual has been diagnosed with the virus or is suffering from any symptoms) is sensitive personal data and accordingly additional requirements and obligations apply to the processing of such data. 

In Spain, the Supervisory Authorities have published on 12 March 2020 some guidelines for the processing of personal data in relation to COVID-19, stating that there are sufficient legal grounds in the GDPR [articles (6.1.c, e and d) and (9.2.b,I,g,h and c)] that could be applicable in this context to allow the treatment of such sensitive data, so data protection should not be used to hinder or limit the effectiveness of measures taken by the authorities, especially health authorities, during the fight against the pandemic.

2. What should employers do if employee is absent or infected?

If any employee has been exposed to or infected by COVID-19, companies must immediately inform the Spanish competent authorities, who will implement the protocols provided for this situation, such as isolation of the workplace, contact those persons related to the affected person, and so on. Competent authorities will also inform the company how to proceed. 

In any case, companies must inform those employees/customers/providers that have been in direct contact with the infected employee or with the employee who has been exposed to COVID-19.  Spanish regulations establish that in the event that there is a serious and imminent risk at work, the Company is obliged to inform all employees about the existence of said risk.  In our view, a communication via e-mail would be sufficient. 

3. What are employers'obligations where offices are partially or fully closed?

  • If the Company decides to suspend employment contracts based on force majeure causes or an official health alert, or economical, technical, productive or organizational reasons arising from the situation, the Company will not be required to pay the corresponding salaries, provided that the Company follows the specific procedure for suspension of contracts and there are real causes. However, the Company will have to keep paying Social Security contributions unless the government authorises an extraordinary exemption which has not been confirmed yet; and
  • If the Company decides to suspend work on its own initiative and it does not follow the legal procedure to suspend the contracts, the absence of the employees must be treated as paid leave. 
4. Where can employers and employees access local and national advice?

In addition to these questions, you might have questions specific to your case and company. If you are looking for answers, we are happy to help. Schedule a 15-minute call with Monique Ramondt, VP of HR Outsourcing by clicking the image below:

Schedule a call with Monique

About EuroDev

EuroDev, established in 1996 with offices in The Netherlands and France, has a single, defined purpose to help mid-sized North American companies expand their business in Europe. We have created a proven, successful business development model and since our founding, have partnered with over 300 companies to help them define and meet their European business goals. Services provided include Sales Outsourcing, HR Outsourcing and Digital Marketing. Additionally, EuroDev is home to 75 professionals from 24 nationalities, covering a total of 21 languages between them.