THE Equal Rights Law, approved on March 15 by the Spanish Parliament, was published yesterday in the Official State Gazette, and therefore came into effect at midnight yesterday.

Among its main innovations are: the creation of 13 days of paternity leave (to be added to the existing two), extendable to one month within six years; the extension of maternity leave in the case of premature births and those in which, for whatever reason, the baby has to stay in hospital after the birth; equality in electoral lists; and the boards of companies with more than 250 workers will have to negotiate plans for worker equality.

The new law also has advantages for self employed workers: exemption from Social Security payments and maternity benefits for those under 21, even though they have not paid.

The law includes European directives on equality in the workplace and the fight against discrimination and sexual harassment, and reforms more than 19 laws for access to state employment, Social Security payments and access to goods and services.

All Parliamentary parties ratified this constitutional law, except the Partido Popular (PP), who abstained from the vote because of their opposition to parity and the measure with which companies have to comply.