Equal rights for domestic workers is now (and finally) a reality

Almost 10 years ago Royal Decree Law 1620/2011, of November 14, was approved, which updated the regulation of the special employment relationship of people employed in the family home and paved the way for Spain to ratify Convention 189 of the Organization International Labor Act on domestic work of 2011. Although both standards have meant progress in equal labor rights and social security for family domestic workers, two of them remained outside legal protection:

  1. The compensation for unfair dismissal, which was substantially lower than that of the rest of the workers.

  2. Unemployment protection, a right they completely lacked.

The Royal Decree Law approved by the Council of Ministers this Tuesday, September 6, ends both inequalities and ensures that people who work in the family home have the same rights as other workers.

According to the latest data from the Active Population Survey, there are 545,700 people, 89% of them women, while those affiliated with social security place their figure at 368,848 people employed in the family home, more 95% of which are women. The gap between both figures indicates the high volume of informal employment that exists in the sector.

The fact that the majority of workers are women means that the equality of rights entailed by the Royal Decree Law approved today is also an advance in gender equality in the labor market.

Causes of dismissal and compensation

To begin with, in the event that domestic workers are dismissed and their dismissal is considered unfair (unjustified), compensation will be 33 days of salary per year of service and not 20 days of salary per year of service.

Second, a series of “objective” causes are established for which the employment contract can be terminated:

  1. Decrease in income of the family unit.

  2. Modification of the needs of the family unit.

  3. “A behavior of the worker that bases in a reasonable and proportionate way the loss of trust of the employer”.

In all three cases, compensation will be, as it was before, 12 days of salary per year of service, but the causes in which this is possible are very significantly limited. dismissalespecially the last one.

Before, the employer could freely withdraw from the employment contract for the sole reason of having lost confidence in the person employed in their home; now this is only possible when there is behavior that, in a reasonable and proportionate way, can be understood as causing the loss of trust.

The Salary Guarantee Fund (FOGASA) will pay, as it does with respect to other companies, compensation for dismissal of people employed in the family home when the employer is insolvent.

After almost 10 years, and after the judgment of the High Court of Justice of the European Union of February 24, 2022 considered its lack as discrimination against women, the right to unemployment protection of people employed in the family home.

With a regime similar to that of other workers and without any specificity beyond a bonus of 80% in unemployment contributions to be paid by the employer. This is a very important incentive so that family units do not see in the payment of such contributions an increase in the cost of work in their home and so that, therefore, the new regulation does not lead to a loss or no growth in employment in this sector.

Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov

Other measures

Two more measures complete this Royal Decree Law. The first is to safeguard the health and safety at work of domestic workers. The Occupational Risk Prevention Law of 1995 had excluded them from its scope of application. Now it is expressly recognized that “working people have the right to effective protection in terms of safety and health at work, especially in the field of prevention of violence against women.”

The second is related to those people who work in the family home less than 60 hours per month. Here a measure of Law 27/2011 is recovered, which forced employers to contribute to social security for workers regardless of the length of their working day, and which had been abolished in December 2012.

As of January 1, 2023, it will be the employers who, again, and as other companies do, assume the obligations of registering and contributing for the people employed in their household. A measure whose purpose, above all, is to make informal employment legal, something that is especially necessary in this sector of activity.

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