What limits does Europe put on overtime? From 80 hours a year in Spain to endless hours in the UK or Denmark | Economy

The reduction of the working day to 37.5 hours from 2025, negotiated bilaterally between employers and unions on the one hand and, on the other hand, tripartitely, by social agents with the Ministry of Labour, includes a whole series of steps and possible changes that would To affect the regulation of working time in Spain. Among these issues, overtime regulations – by which production needs are compensated when the legal maximum workday is 37.5 hours – will be a major issue. In addition, the UGT union proposed on Thursday that overtime should also be incorporated as one of the new criteria that social agents negotiate with Social Security so that they can pay the pension, without penalty, due to worker attrition.

Spanish regulations regarding overtime mainly consist of the following aspects: its voluntary nature, unless it is mandatory by law or convention; The maximum number of overtime hours each worker is allowed to perform annually is 80 hours; How much they should be paid, at least equal to the regular hour; The company's commitment is to have a daily time record to determine the number of this type of hours that each employee works. Some of these issues, above all, their limits and costs, could be amended during negotiations on reducing working hours specifically to pave the way for an agreement on this issue. Another issue that could contribute to reaching an agreement between unions and employers to reduce the maximum statutory working time is for this reduction to be implemented more gradually than currently planned – starting in 2025 – according to negotiating sources. Regarding the calendar, UGT Secretary General Pepe Alvarez set summer as the deadline to agree with employers on how to move to the 37.5-hour maximum working day. After that date they will demand that the government pass legislation, also in conjunction with the plans expressed by the leader of the CC OO, Unai Sordo, a few days ago.

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However, in the dialogue agendas dealing with both reductions in working hours and new criteria for enabling retirement progression, they will undoubtedly look to Europe for examples of how overtime can be regulated, which can be found in a comprehensive study prepared by UGT in collaboration with… Faculty of Law of the Autonomous University of Madrid, which was presented on Thursday. The document reflects how Spain applies the most restrictive regulations in all of Europe, with an insurmountable limit of 80 overtime hours per year per worker. While at the other extreme are countries that place no restrictions on achieving these hours at all, such as Denmark, the United Kingdom and Estonia. On this more lax side there are also Hungary and Slovakia with a maximum of 400 hours per year, agreed in a collective agreement (this equates to ten or more weeks of full work).

In other countries, such as France, the regulatory level is medium and there is a limit of 220 hours per year, but beyond this limit you can consult to increase it with workers' representatives; Something similar happens in Italy, with a maximum of 250 hours per year that can be extended by collective agreement. In Portugal, the limits of additional jobs that can be undertaken vary according to the size of the company: 175 hours per year in small and micro companies; and 150 for medium and large companies (in both cases it can be extended to an additional 200 working hours per year by collective agreement).

Pay more

Although unions will demand that if this limit of 80 annual overtime hours is increased, they will also be paid more than what the law currently requires – which is to be paid at least as much as one regular hour. Also regarding the payment of this type of watch, Pepe Alvarez emphasized on Thursday during the presentation of this European comparison that “Spain is a European anomaly.” In fact, initially, in the absence of an individual agreement or charter stipulating otherwise, overtime is compensated for by rest in the four months following its performance. If the company chooses to pay them, they cannot be compensated less than normal working hours, but the Supreme Court has defined what a normal hour is, excluding additional salary supplements, “so workers in Spain may end up receiving less than those who work.” They charge for their average day,” complains UGT.

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According to this study, the most common wage premium paid in Europe for overtime work is 50% more than the regular hour. This happens in Austria; In Belgium, which rises to 100% on Sundays and holidays, as in Cyprus, as in Denmark; Estonia; Finland pays 50% for the first two hours of overtime and 100% for the third hour; Hungary; Latvia; Lithuania; beer; Or Poland. Although other countries do not pay overtime wages or the amount is negotiated in agreements, as is the case in Germany; Sweden; Romania; Netherlands, Ireland, etc.

In Spain, apart from negotiations on reducing working hours, the General Confederation of Workers already submitted a request in January to the European Union Committee of Social Rights for 25% additional pay over normal working hours. Now they are also demanding that the government take it into account when workers can raise the retirement age without penalizing the amount of their pension, something Social Security officials have not expressed themselves about.

Having said all this, Álvarez concludes that although the days agreed in Spain's collective agreements reduce the average working day (not the actual day) to 38.4 hours, which puts it within the EU average – and meets the government's target of reducing… The legal maximum working day to 38.5 hours already in 2024 – “It is necessary that a law be drawn up on reducing the maximum working day to 37.5 hours”, because this reduction in the average working time is the result of a greater reduction in large companies and sectors in which there It has a strong union presence and 40 working hours in SMEs and less unionized sectors. Specifically, it ensured that 50.21% of workers had a maximum working day of between 38.5 and 39.5 hours per week; 29.82%, between 37.5 and 38.8 and less than 37.5 by only 12%.

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Thus, the study also indicates that the average working day in Spain is much higher than in countries such as Germany and France, with an average of 35.6 hours, but lower than in Eastern European countries and Greece, which average 40 hours. He concluded that all this shows, according to the number two in the General Confederation of Workers, Fernando Lujan, that “the most productive countries have shorter days and higher salaries,” which is what Spain should aspire to.

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