Spain prohibits dismissals for sick leave

MADRID: The leftist government of Spain on Tuesday banned companies from firing workers who take sick leave repeatedly, in their first reform of a contested reform in 2012 of the country’s labor laws.

“We are sending a message to our society that from now on no one who has a legitimate reason for taking a sick leave will be fired,” Labor Minister Yolanda Díaz said at a press conference after a meeting weekly cabinet.

“With this repeal we are correcting an anomaly that differentiates our country from those around us,” he added.

An article of the 2012 reform of the labor laws of Spain carried out by the previous conservative government made it easier to fire a worker for repeated failures due to health problems, even when an employee presented medical certificates that justified it.

Previously, it had been possible to fire a worker who lost a week or more of work during a period of two months if the average number of sick days taken in the previous 12 months reached five percent of the total.

The 2012 reform reduced that bar to 2.5 percent.

Introduced at the height of Spain’s economic recession in an attempt to reduce unemployment, labor law reform made it easier and less expensive to lay off workers, and also limited the power of unions to negotiate contracts in entire industrial sectors .

The International Monetary Fund said in a recent report that the reform had “improved job performance” in Spain, but critics blame it for a decrease in job security. Spain depends more on temporary contracts than any other nation in the European Union, according to Eurostat figures.

The Socialist Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his leftist coalition partner Podemos made the revocation of parts of the 2012 legislation a central part of his election campaigns.

The unemployment rate in Spain fell from a record 27.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013 to 13.8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, being the second highest unemployment rate in the EU after Greece.

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