María has worked in the high-rise hotels lining Benidorm’s beaches for nine years. The 35-year-old started out as a hotel receptionist in the Spanish resort city and has worked her way up to a role in the marketing department of a major hotel group.
She has seen for herself the reality of Spain’s problem with unpaid overtime. “In my previous job as a receptionist, there were many unpaid hours and abusive schedules – working with no time to rest in between shifts,” she says.
“There was no control of overtime – digitally or on paper – and we all ended up doing more hours than we were contracted for, but for the same salary. Employees didn’t complain or refuse to work the overtime for fear of losing their jobs, and employers took advantage of the situation,” she says. “It makes you feel undervalued.”
The Spanish government is hoping to tackle these issues with new rules requiring all businesses to register employees’ working hours. Could what sounds like a throwback to the clocking-in culture of years gone by help reduce exploitative practices?
The measure, a brainchild of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) government, came into force on 12 May. Companies that do not comply with the rules, which include recording the start and end time of each worker and keeping the data on file for four years, could face a one-off fine of between 626 and 6,250 euros ($711-$7100).