Spain is bracing itself for probably one of the most radical shake ups to the workplace. A debate is raging after a company that stopped paying employees during smoking breaks has won a case in the country’s high court this week.
Galp, a Portuguese petrol company with a presence in Spain, said it was implementing domestic law when it began deducting time spent off-premises from employees’ working days.
The policy also includes a coffee break or breakfast with a colleague. The court relied on an earlier ruling in which it was ruled that workers do not have the right to a paid break to smoke, have coffee, or have breakfast.
The trade union that brought the case to court intends to appeal the decision. With the exception of Italy and Portugal, Spanish workers put in more hours annually than the majority of other Europeans.
A company in Spain could expect their employees to work 1,701 hours in 2018 – compared to 1,363 in Germany or 1,538 in Britain - where wages are much higher.
Recent changes to Spanish law require companies to record employees’ entrances and departures from the workplace.
The monitoring was supposed to prevent workers’ exploitation and increase flexibility in working contracted hours - not to stop people having a coffee or fag break.