Are you really going to work 37.5 hours a week? The accounts are not so clear

Are you really going to work 37.5 hours a week?  The accounts are not so clear


that the Spanish work fewer hours for the same salary It is a reality that will materialize starting this year, when the Government has committed to reducing the maximum working day from 40 to 38.5 hours per week this year, to reach 37.5 next year. But bringing this political promise to the concrete reality of each worker is much more complex than it seems. In fact, many employees They will not even notice a change in their daily work day.

Although the second vice president and Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, did not spare criticism of the proposal agreed by Más País to implement the 32-hour day in Spain, has ended up leading this debate (coinciding with the integration of the training founded by Íñigo Errejón into the Sumar platform) with a more concrete proposal, but also ambitious: that the Spanish leave an hour before work every day. Once this was achieved, she would begin to look at herself at 32 hours.

As a result of this promise, Díaz agreed with Pedro Sánchez, without the mediation of social dialogue, to reduce the maximum legal working day without a salary reduction to establish it at 37 and a half hours per week. A forceful figure that means reducing the weekly total by two and a half hoursalthough you are only equivalent to half an hour a day of earnings for a full-time worker who works five days a week.

But this gap between Díaz’s promise and the arithmetic of working hours is just an appetizer of how complex it is to apply a schedule so that workers really perceive it in their working hours. The key is that article 34 of the Workers’ Statute establishes the maximum duration of the ordinary work day “as weekly hours of effective work on average on an annual basis.”

That is to say, whether it is 40 hours like today or 37.5 hours, that limit is still the result of dividing the total annual hours distributed among the weeks worked in the year. This gives enormous flexibility to sectoral agreements to distribute hours in very different ways, as long as the weekly average does not exceed the legal limit (and, of course, respect breaks between days).

In fact, Article 35 itself clearly regulates the role of collective bargaining between employers and unions and even the exceptions and modifications that can also be agreed with the Ministry of Labor for specific sectors. Adaptations, by the way, always downward, because they affect sectors with greater effort, hardship or risk.

From hospitality workers who concentrate their weekdays into three or four days, to factories who work in shifts, to conventional office workers who let them leave on a Friday at noon, the case list is complex, and the variants are very numerous. Although many workers are not aware of it.

A deceptive day

The way in which the debate has been formulated has led many citizens to internalize that the weekly working day is the true reference, when it comes to an average on an annual count. In reality, no one knows how the reduction in work time will benefit them because, whatever the vice president says, It will depend on the negotiation agreement by agreement and even company by company..

As an example, let’s ask someone who works eight hours five days a week if they prefer to leave half an hour early or keep their schedule four days and work 5.5 hours on Friday, or accumulate them in a day off every three weeks… Or even see your vacation extended. It is the sectoral or business agreements that will determine the formula in the end. Or so it should be.

The unions themselves are aware that this flexibility is key to maintaining the productivity of companies and preventing the reduction in working hours, which they are the first to defend, from having perverse effects on activity, employment and even prices. But also so that it is perceived as a clear and perceptible benefit for workers.

The complexity of this debate between companies and staff has led the social partners to jointly stand before Labor to demand that it not touch the annual calculation of effective hours. This is what the law says today, but they have no guarantees that Díaz will respect it. Ultimately, she needs her political agreement and the slogans she has generated not to be diluted in the multiple labor realities of our country.

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