Ruling by the European Court of Justice in Case C-16/15 of 14-09-2016

Maria Elena Pérez López vs. Servicio Madrileño de Salud (Madrid Regional Health Authority)

M.E. Pérez López was recruited to work as a nurse at the University Hospital of Madrid for the period from 5 th of February to 31st of July 2009, having signed a fixed-term contract on the grounds of “temporary and extraordinary needs in the hospital”. The said contract was successively renewed seven times, meaning that the employee worked consecutively as a nurse in the said hospital between February 2009 and June 2013, when she was informed of the decision not to renew her employment contract again.

In the employee's opinion, the contract she had signed with the Hospital was not a true fixedterm contract, since the grounds given for using this type of contract were unlawful – rather than being a merely temporary need of the Hospital, it was a permanent need. The employee took legal action to have the fixed-term contract declared null and void before the Madrid Administrative Court no.4. For its part, the Court referred the matter to the ECJ, requesting a ruling on whether Spanish legislation which allows the successive renewal of fixed-term contracts in the healthcare sector infringes the framework agreement on fixed-term work, under which the Member States must introduce measures to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts. 

According to the ECJ, the successive renewals of this employee's fixed-term contract were not based on temporary needs of the hospital. Conversely, there is a structural deficit of health professionals throughout the healthcare sector in the Madrid region.

Since Spanish legislation does not provide for limits on the number of renewals of fixed-term contracts, the insecure situation of employees is perpetuated by allowing the use of fixed-term contracts in order to cover permanent needs.

Accordingly, the Court found that Spanish legislation on this matter infringes the framework agreement on fixed-term contracts.