August. Favorite month of vacation for millions of workers in Spain. The law recognizes a minimum of 30 calendar days of paid rest to all salaried persons. A right, that of paid vacations to workers, which turns 90 in 2021. In 1931, the Government of the Second Republic chaired by Manuel Azaña, with Francisco Largo Caballero as Minister of Labor, extended this right to all employees. A 1918 law had already regulated paid rest, but only for civil servants.
A century of the La Canadiense strike or how your 8-hour workday was achieved
Today paid vacations seem essential, recognized even in the Spanish Constitution, but there are citizens among our elders who were born in a Spain that did not have annual rest legislation for all workers.
“The remuneration of vacations is fundamental and it is very important that it is included in the Constitution. There were discussions about whether these days were paid with the base salary or if other concepts should be included and the Court of Justice of the EU established that the remuneration it must be the average of what the worker usually perceives, so that taking vacation days is not a disincentive “, explains Ana Belén Muñoz, professor of Labor Law at the Carlos III University of Madrid.
“And why shouldn’t the worker have the right to rest?” The Cantabrian in an article of March 1925. “In England, for example, there are many collective contracts in which the worker is granted annual paid leave, with full salary. In Finland, any worker who has worked without interruption for a year at home of an employer, has the right to a paid leave of seven working days and the workers who have worked six months have the right to four days of leave, “the publication reported.
In May 1925, La Voz de Menorca reported an “important social reform” that the Czechoslovak Government had approved: “It is about granting workers paid holidays for all categories.” In this case they were six days a year.
In Spain, civil servants were the first workers to whom this prerogative was recognized by means of a royal decree in September 1918, approved by the Government of Antonio Maura. “All the civil servants will enjoy an annual vacation of fifteen consecutive days, except when the necessities of the service prevent it”, established the law. “Officials who have obtained a license within the previous twelve months will not be able to enjoy the annual vacation,” article 38 clarified.
In the 1920s there were some workers who were accessing paid rest days thanks to agreements in certain sectors and “professional custom”, such as in banking and commerce, respectively, mentions Antonio Martín Valverde, professor of Law del Trabajo, in his article ‘The lines of evolution of the right to vacations’ (1963). “It was not uncommon, finally, for employers to adopt initiatives of graceful concession of vacations for all or part of the workers in their service,” he recalls. But it was not a right.
Holidays seven days a year
The common of the workers had to wait thirteen years, until the second Government of the Second Republic recognized the holidays paid by law to all the wage earners. Of course, of shorter duration than the legislation of 18 for civil servants: seven days for a year of work, in line with the minimum periods of the legislation of other European countries.
On May 31, Antonio Fabra Rivas, general director of Labor at that time, argued in an interview on La Calle that “the principle of paid vacations is one of the most precious demands of workers in all countries.” “The right to annually enjoy a more or less long period of paid vacations is no longer discussed anywhere,” he added, even for countries like Spain, which had not yet legislated them. “Only economic reasons are invoked to oppose its generalization.”
A few months later, in November of that year, the Minister of Labor, Francisco Largo Caballero, signed the Labor Contract Law, which established in the Spanish legal system that the strike was not a reason for dismissal and the annual paid rest of all the salaried persons, among other labor rights.
“The worker will have the right to an uninterrupted leave of seven days at least if his work contract has lasted one year. The employer, in agreement with the worker, will determine the date on which the vacation will begin. The enjoyment of it will not it supposes some discount of the salary that the worker earns. The part of the salary in kind will be paid as usual or duly compensated “, headed article 56.
Two more paragraphs completed this initial vacation legislation, which established that the worker lost the right to remuneration if during the vacation period he worked “for himself or for others” and that, in the event of dismissal attributable to the employee, he lost the right to paid vacations. If the departure was attributable “to the employer”, “the employer will have to compensate the former with the wages corresponding to the vacation days that he should enjoy.”
The Franco regime gave the boss more holidays
After the military uprising and the Civil War, the dictatorship of Francisco Franco gave birth to the Jurisdiction of Labor in 1944, which reproduced more or less the same vacation rights of a minimum of seven uninterrupted days a year. In addition, it was specified in the rule that vacations could not be waived or compensated for money, a principle in force today. It was also added that it was “prohibited to deduct from the statutory vacation period any extraordinary leave granted during the year.”
“The idea of holidays is closely linked to the health and safety of workers, and increasingly, thanks to the European Working Time Directive. It is considered as a right and almost as an obligation, because workers need to recover from work activity “, explains Professor Ana Belén Muñoz.
32 years went by without extending those seven days of vacation to all workers. However, at this time there were professional agreements embodied in the ‘labor regulations’ (of the Ministerial Department of Labor) and the collective agreements were extending the minimum paid rest days for certain activities. “Of the fifty or so regulatory rules on vacations published since 1962 to date, in none of them do we find a vacation period of less than fifteen days”; Professor Martín Valverde warned.
The specialist in Labor Law highlights how in those years there were two trends in official regulations on vacations: on the one hand, the extension of rest days based on seniority, but also the granting of more vacations to technical and administrative positions in front of those of the workers and subordinates, who were entitled to fewer days off.
On the contrary, the (agreed) collective agreements “show a very marked tendency to reestablish, on this point, equal treatment between professional groups.” That is to say, for the workers to have the same vacations as their superiors. “The official conception of the State that the duration of vacations must be greater as one moves up the professional hierarchical ladder is implicitly challenged by social conscience, oriented towards indiscriminatory regulation”, highlights Martín Velarde.
21 days of annual rest in 1976
Salaried people who did not benefit from collective agreements, or regulations, had to wait until 1976 – the aforementioned 32 years – to see their vacation days increase. Specifically, they tripled, up to 21 calendar days a year included in the Labor Relations Law.
As a novelty, the mention that rest days were uninterrupted was eliminated and those under 18 years of age were recognized with a greater minimum rest: 30 calendar days.
The Workers’ Statute, of 1980, extended the minimum period of rest a little more: 23 calendar days. Employers were given the ability to “exclude as a vacation period that which coincides with the greatest seasonal productive activity of the company” and preference was given when choosing the days to workers with family responsibilities to coincide “with the periods on school holidays “. These two items are no longer in effect.
Again, an age criterion was applied to grant more rest to the young, but also to the elderly: “The annual holidays of those under eighteen and those over sixty will have a minimum duration of one month.”
30 calendar days since 1983
Until we reach the current minimum of 30 calendar days per year worked, which was agreed in 1983 and which today is shelled in Article 38 of the Workers’ Statute. The differential criterion by age was also eliminated, so that young and old people have the same right to paid rest. In some collective agreements, recalls Ana Belén Muñoz, more days of rest are recognized for workers with a long seniority. A logic that favors older people.
Among the guarantees provided in current legislation, it is stipulated that “the worker will know the dates that correspond to him two months before, at least, the beginning of the enjoyment” of the vacation. That idea of ”enjoyment” and a spirit of relaxation associated with the holidays is what lies behind recent legal debates, such as that addressed by some courts during the pandemic: whether holidays during confinement should count or not, for example. Two courts agreed that those affected had the right to enjoy their rest days in another period, because they had not been able to “enjoy” their vacations due to the health crisis.
Looking ahead, at the moment there is no open debate to extend the 30 days of annual rest (22 working days) in the Workers’ Statute. Although Spain is known for enjoying many vacations, several of our neighboring countries have higher recognized minimums. For instance, France (30 business days) and United Kingdom (28 days).