We say goodbye to 2020 without much sadness. Quite the opposite. We do so with the hope and the excitement that 2021 will be a friendlier year to everyone and, in the labor law arena, given the choice, if not less prolific in legislative developments – since they are needed to modernize our obsolete labour law system – at least with an approach more in line with the reality lived by companies and their employees in Spain, i.e. more in keeping with their needs and the challenges we face economically and socially. In this post, by way of a recap of the year, we refer to some of the main labour law issues we have faced in 2020, compiled in the Digital Collection that we have prepared in the Garrigues Labour and Employment Department, which reflect the complexity and intensity of a year that, finally, is coming to an end.
Without a doubt, 2020 has tested all of us, both personally and workwise. Even more so, if possible, for professionals who manage people and labor relations at companies. At the beginning of 2020, it was impossible to imagine what we were going to face in short order, but we soon saw the huge impact of COVID-19 on labor relations, which led to the approval of a large of rules, instructions, interpretational guidelines, etc.
Firstly, the primary objective of labour law advisory services consisted of addressing the effects of the lockdown not only through existing legal mechanisms but also, especially, through any others that were gradually approved relating mainly to collective suspension of employment contracts or with collective reductions in working hours or with what has been named recoverable paid leave. Telework, in the absence of legal regulation until the recent Royal Decree-law 28/2020, of September 22, 2020, on remote work, has also been one of the main problems that companies have had to solve in cases where work could be carried out remotely.
Afterwards, labor law advisory services were focused on companies’ need to adapt to the new situation existing after the declaration of state of emergency and the general lockdown of the population, assessing the existing possibilities for reorganizing their resources after the approval of certain restrictions on terminating contracts or the requirement to maintain jobs in certain cases. Furthermore, companies had to deal with previously unaddressed issues, relating mainly to the return of employees to workplaces after the state of emergency finishing for which neither the legislation or the case law envisaged legitimate solutions. As a result, it became necessary to face issues relating to tracking processes and geolocation, immunity passports, the implementation of technology to prevent and detect infections in the workplace, the taking of temperatures to access workplaces, the conduct of health surveys, etc.
The pandemic and its continuing effects have also led to the implementation of communication technologies in collective bargaining processes, with the development of electronic and virtual negotiation processes as well as electronic attendance at trials and conciliation hearings. Against this backdrop, the use of tools for personal identification and for the electronic signing of documents remotely has taken on special importance.
In addition to the above, other pre-existing trends have continued, such as the fostering of gender equality and the fight against the pay gap, as well as processes aimed at the conversion of self-employed workers into employees, particularly within the scope of certain business activities.
In view of all the above, it is clear that there has been little time for boredom, at least in the labor law sphere, in 2020. From this blog, I want to acknowledge to all the Human Resources and people management professionals who, throughout the year, have given the best of all of them in a tough environment.
It does not seem that 2021 will be less demanding, but undoubtedly the experience gained in 2020 will be a valuable tool to overcome the challenges yet to come. To assist in this, in the next post we will analyze some of the topics and trends that will be in the limelight in 2021.