Council of Ministers

Government extends temporary lay-off plans until 30 June

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Tuesday 12 May 2020

The Council of Ministers approved a Royal Decree-Law on social measures to defend jobs that contains the content of the Social Agreement signed on Monday between the government, employers' organisations and trade unions.

The Minister for the Treasury and Government Spokesperson, María Jesús Montero, highlighted that the text combines the government's interests with those of the social stakeholders because they lay the foundations to defend the viability of businesses and to facilitate the recovery of activity.

The new legislation extends the conditions of ERTEs due to force majeure until 30 June for those companies that are not yet able to resume their business activity. This means, explained María Jesús Montero, that those companies and independent contractors will continue to enjoy the exemption from making National Insurance contributions. In the event that the company has 50 or more workers, the exemption remains as it has to date at 75%.

The minister announced that, in order to adapt the new legislation to the phase of de-escalation, the Royal Decree-Law provides for a new category of ERTE, due to partial force majeure, which will also remain in force until 30 June. This legal figure will allow part of its workforce to come back to work while the other part will continue to have their contract suspended. Exemptions from NI contributions will apply to both workers that return and those that remain temporarily laid off.

Companies with fewer than 50 employees will be entitled to an exemption of 85% in May and of 70% in June for those workers that resume their productive activity. The percentage will be lower for those that remain suspended.

In the case of companies with 50 or more employees, the reduction will be 60% in May and 45% in June for those workers that come back to work and of 45% and 30% for those that remain suspended.

The Government Spokesperson added that workers affected by an ERTE will receive unemployment benefits even if they have not made sufficient contributions to be entitled to receive them.

The new legislation includes clauses that determine that no company that has its tax residence in a tax haven may sign up to the extension to the ERTEs due to force majeure. Furthermore, it bans companies that have enjoyed NI exemptions from distributing dividends during the tax year corresponding to the application of the ERTE, unless they return the corresponding part of the reduction received.

The minister pointed out that 5.2 million workers are receiving unemployment benefits, of which more than 3 million are subject to an ERTE due to force majeure. This figure, she said, clearly shows the effectiveness of the measure adopted by the government to address the labour situation stemming from the pandemic.

Tripartite committee

María Jesús Montero reported that the Social Agreement signed on Monday between the government and representatives of the employers' organisations and trade unions provides for the creation of a tripartite labour Monitoring Committee to oversee the de-escalation process comprising members of the Ministries of Work and Social Economy, and of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration and the social stakeholders (CEOE, CEPYME, UGT and CCOO), which will monitor these measures.

The Government Spokesperson stressed the importance of dialogue and collaboration among all parties and also the need for the political forces that make up the Committee for the Social and Economic Reconstruction of Spain, which begins its work in the Lower House on Tuesday to follow this example and find the best possible solution for Spain to tackle the economic recovery "with a greater competitive edge".

Border control and quarantine for people arriving from other countries

Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la BellacasaThe Minister for Health, Salvador Illa, reported on two "precautionary" measures designed to prevent the importation of cases of COVID-19 and to prevent the spread of the disease. "The aim is to guarantee that all the efforts we have made over recent weeks are not in vain".

On the one hand, between 15 and 24 May, air and sea border controls will temporarily be re-established and only Spanish citizens, habitual residents in Spain, cross-border workers, healthcare professionals, those who care for the elderly and those coming in to exercise their professional activity, those who can accredit force majeure and those posted for exclusively labour reasons will be allowed to enter the country. An exception is made for aircraft crew and transport sector workers.

On the other hand, all those people arriving from abroad - except those performing cross-border work, hauliers, crew and healthcare professionals - must go into quarantine for 14 days after their arrival. Salvador Illa explained that they may only leave their location of quarantine, preferably their home, to buy food, pharmaceutical products and other basic goods, or to go to a health centre for reasons of force majeure, always wearing a face mask.

Caution and prudence in de-escalation

Salvador Illa considered that the figures - a 0.19% increase in cases on Monday's figure, with 426 new infections - justify the implementation of the Plan for the Transition towards a New Normality, which has meant that more than half of the Spanish population is now in Phase 1. "The figures are good but we must not abandon the criteria of prudence and caution, nor respect for the virus", claimed Salvador Illa, who insisted on the need to continue to comply with the indications from the health authorities, maintain social distancing and such hygiene measures as washing our hands.

Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la BellacasaThe transition from one phase to another under the De-escalation Plan will continue this week, he said, applying the co-governance procedure between the Ministry of Health and the regional governments. Each of them will send its proposal on which parts of their region meet, in their opinion, the criteria established. The decision to move to the next phase will be taken by a bilateral committee made up of technical officials in public health from the ministerial and regional departments.

The Ministry of Health has approved a new Order whereby the regional authorities will provide information on suspicious cases and the PCR diagnostic tests carried out in the first 24 hours on those people showing symptoms. This early detection mechanism, he explained, is important to immediately rule out if someone has the disease, and, should the test be positive, isolate them as soon as possible.

International Nurses Day

In his speech, the Minister for Health said a few words of "recognition and gratitude" to nurses on International Nurses Day, held on Tuesday, 12 May, for their care of patients, for their humanity and for the liaison work they do between health centres and the general public. "Their role has been key over these months of health emergency".

The Government Spokesperson also praised their commitment and high level of technical, professional and human training. "They are people who risk their lives to try and save the lives of others"

Funding to combat gender-based violence

The government approved the criteria for the distribution of funds to fight gender-based violence, for a total sum of 100 million euros, and the distribution of three loans to the Government Delegation to Combat Gender-based Violence, attached to the Ministry of Equality, which total 9.5 million euros.

The Government Spokesperson stated that these funds will help regional governments and autonomous cities fight this scourge. They will be allocated to provide assistance for victims, particularly women in vulnerable situations, to help their integration into the labour market, to establish a system of psychological accompaniment and to strengthen the support services for the children of victims. In the case of regional governments with jurisdiction over justice matter, it is proposed to strengthen their Comprehensive Forensic Assessment Units and offices to provide care for victims.

As regards the loans to the Government Delegation to Combat Gender-based Violence, 6.5 million euros will be allocated to social care for female victims and their children, 1 million to personalised care plans and 2 million to the programme to support the victims of assault and sexual abuse.

Fight against tax fraud and evasion

Pool MoncloaThe Council of Ministers approved the Draft Law amending the General Tax Act to transpose the European Directive known as DAC 6. This EU Directive establishes the obligation by tax intermediaries to declare those transactions that they may consider to amount to aggressive tax planning at an international level.

The Minister for the Treasury claimed that, although the government's priority has always been to fight tax fraud and evasion, at this time it is more necessary than ever to protect the tax system from illegal and abusive practices that weaken it or prevent it from obtaining the resources necessary to maintain the Welfare State. "You cannot have social justice without fiscal justice".

The draft law obliges professionals such as tax advisers to notify the tax authorities of cross-border operations and transactions that may be indicative of abusive tax planning. The law acknowledges the professional secrecy of intermediaries but regulates them to avoid the unjustified and disproportionate use of circumventing the obligation to report on these practices.

International Day of Families

The government approved an institutional statement on the occasion of the International Day of Families, which is commemorated on 15 May at the request of the United Nations to recognise their essential contribution to cohesion and social well-being.

María Jesús Montero highlighted the role that families are playing during the pandemic, by combining the care for children, who are unable to attend school, and caring for elderly family members in addition to their work responsibilities. "This is the heart that allows our society to beat", she said.

The Government Spokesperson highlighted some of the social and economic measures implemented by the government to "be on the side of families", such as the increase in the minimum wage, and announced the presentation of a draft law to guarantee the effective protection "of the different family realities freely chosen by the public".

Non official translation