Read in Catalan

Agreement has been reached in Spain between unions, the employers' association CEOE and the Pedro Sánchez government to extend the crucial payment schemes which have provided welfare benefits to millions of workers in firms temporarily closed by the coronavirus crisis. These temporary layoff plans (ERTOs in Catalan, ERTEs in Spanish), which were to expire this month, are now to be extended until the end of September. Among the features of the extended plans are provisions for help to companies and workers who are forced to close by a second wave of Covid-19.

The ERTO scheme, set to be approved by the Spanish cabinet this Friday, will continue the assistance for workers and companies until September 30th, despite the demands of the business community to extend the plan until the end of the year. As many as 3.3 million workers in the Spanish state - 15% of the country's workforce - have been dependent on these schemes for their income during the Covid-19 crisis.

Employers association CEOE, the most reluctant to accept the new provisions, finally gave their "unanimous support" to the proposal, but said they will continue to work so that "in September we can address how it will deal with the last quarter of the year, always with the desire shared by the parties that all possible activity will have been recovered by then".

Terms of the agreement

Two measures stand out in the agreement: the ability of companies who have declared ERTOs justified by the force majeur of the pandemic to continue receiving assistance from the scheme if they have not yet returned to business activity, and the provision for companies forced to close again due to a resurgence of the coronaviruses to benefit from these procedures as well.

Workers currently receiving unemployment payments on the scheme will continue to receive the same amount until September. However, companies will have to fund a gradually increasing amount of the workers' social security payments over this period. 

In the case of companies that are currently active but are forced to close in the months ahead as a result of a resurgence of the virus, they will be allowed to take advantage of an ERTO of force majeure, making them exempt from 80% of their workers' social security payments for companies of less than 50 employees, and 60% for those with more than 50 employees, sources in the negotiation told Europa Press.

A further series of restrictions will apply to companies with workers on ERTO schemes: they will not be able to demand overtime, carry out outsourcing, or hire new workers.  

The measure used to "ban" companies from sacking workers during the crisis - the requirement to pay dismissed workers compensation of 33 days' wages per year worked, instead of 20 days as normally - will also be extended until September 30th. And the prohibition on suspending temporary contracts will continue, so that, in practice, workers in this situation will be obliged to have their contracts extended.   

For the self-employed

In addition, the Spanish government reached an agreement this Thursday to extend the special benefit measures in place for those self-employed people whose business activity has fallen greatly. It will continue to be possible for freelancers to access assistance if their turnover has fallen by 75% compared to the same period last year. However, to qualify for this help, the income of the recipients must now be less than 1.75 times the minimum wage, that is, about 1,662 euros a month.