Workers missing out on full furlough entitlement speak out against fraudulent employers

Benefits have been less than expected for many bar workers laid off during the pandemic.
Benefits have been less than expected for many bar workers laid off during the pandemic. / ÑITO SALAS
  • Many full-time workers, especially in the hospitality sector, claim their social security payments were greatly reduced because they had wrongly been forced to work on part-time contracts

Thousands of employees who were laid off from work because of restrictions enforced by the coronavirus pandemic have claimed that they have suffered financially because they had not been working on the correct employment contracts. Many full-time employees claim that their social security payments were greatly reduced because they had been forced to work on part-time contracts.

Staff that were furloughed because of the state of alarm could apply for the ERTE, which allowed them to claim unemployment benefit after their contracts were suspended. The amount received is calculated from an average of the previous 180 days employment and workers are entitled to 70 per cent of the base salary for the first six months. This is reduced to 50 per cent thereafter. However, many people did not receive as much as they expected and most put the blame with their employers.

Sue (not her real name) has worked in restaurants on the Costa del Sol for many years and she claims that her current employer is one of many that does not comply with the Spanish work contract laws.

"My boss claims that a full contract would cost too much so he only pays the bare minimum. Because I work on a part-time contract, my social security payment was reduced because my nomina (payslip) shows less money than I actually earn," she explained to SUR in English.

Sue, a single parent, says she will most likely have to return to work on the 20-hour contract as she has no alternative.

"If I refuse to sign the contract then I won't have a job, it's a simple as that," she said.

Rob (not his real name) has worked as a full-time chef at a bar in Torremolinos for more than six years. He usually works in excess of 40 hours per week, but he claims that his contract shows that he only works 20 hours. However, he said that he was unaware of the complications this would cause with the benefit payment he received during the crisis and has hit out at his boss for "totally ignoring the wellbeing of his staff".

"You don't really think how the social security contributions affect things like unemployment benefit until something like this happens. My boss has saved thousands over the years by not offering the proper contracts. He even forces me to sign fictitious time-sheets that show far less hours than I work. I have been struggling to make ends meet and this is solely because of my employer's failure to comply with the rules: it's disgraceful," he declared.

Breaking the law

One employer, who has owned a restaurant on the coast for more than 20 years, claims that it would be impossible to put his staff on full-time contracts. The restaurateur, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he "knows he is breaking the law" but he has no option because he would simply "go out of business" if he paid the full amount for his staff.

"When I first bought the bar, we did everything by the book. It was a lot busier then and we made enough money, but over the last few years, trade has dropped off. To put all of my staff on the correct contracts would cost more than 3,000 euros a month. The law should be changed," he claimed.

Benalmádena based C & P Consultancy emphasised that, although falsifying contracts is illegal, many employers claim to have no option other than to break the law, although they expressed that they always instruct clients of the consequences should they get caught.

Depending on the professional category, a full-time contract (40 hours) costs approximately 500 euros per month: a 20-hour contract is around 220 euros, so, as gestor Christopher Pigg points out, "it's easy to see why so many employers knowingly break the law."

"It is very difficult for employers to meet these payments. They must pay wages, plus social security and insurance for each member of staff. Obviously, the more staff you have the higher the social security and insurance payments, but this is the way the social security system works in Spain. It is very expensive to employ people correctly, so many are prepared to take the chance by only offering part time contracts, which is illegal. We always advise our clients of the dangers involved, but the majority are willing to take the chance," Christopher explained