Employment report 2015 | Page 2

Employment annual report All change? Political upheaval in Spain and Portugal means it’s possible that the two countries’ labour laws could change significantly in the coming year – however, anxiety among investors could be good news for employment lawyers who will be needed to provide advice on the best way to proceed in an uncertain climate While clients are enjoying a little more clarity with regard to what employment rules and regulations they must adhere to in Spain, it would be wrong to say that all doubt has been removed. Indeed, the country’s Supreme Court has been divided on the issue of how it should interpret some elements of the 2012 Labour Reform. If that is not unsettling investors, perhaps the prospect of a new labour law being introduced in Spain after the general election in December 2015. However, while clients may have worries due to the uncertainty surrounding employment regulations, such uncertainty plays into the hands of lawyers who will be sought out by company bosses seeking to put their minds at rest. It is a similar story in Portugal where the recent change of government is expected to trigger significant changes to labour laws. Spain’s 2012 Labour Reform intended to make collective dismissals easier, but in practice it often made them more difficult, says Román Gil, partner at Sagardoy Abogados. He adds that this is partly because Spain’s Supreme Court has not always been able to solve some issues [created by the Labour Reform] with enough clarity “due to a split – which some say is on ideological grounds – on the adequate interpretation”. Naiara Rodríguez Escudero, counsel at Linklaters, says there is “no consensus in parliament” with regard to the Labour Reform, which has also been “received terribly” by trade unions. Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira partner Juan Bonilla says that a new government following the elections in December is likely to mean a “new labour law”. He adds that consensus on employment law is needed, though the lack of consensus is “good for 44 • IBERIAN LAWYER • November / December 2015 lawyers”. Gil says there has not been any major new legislation in the last year and thus there is more “legal certainty” with regard to some employment issues. However, in collective dismissal procedures, it is not clear what documents should be provided, according to Gil. He adds: “Unions ask for thousands of documents, there are many hurdles and if one hurdle is missed, there is a problem.” Another issue is that some of the minor trade unions are trying to raise their profile and therefore they “challenge everything”. Gil adds there is a “fight among unions to be the most radical”. Unions more aggressive Mario Barros, partner at Uría Menéndez in Madrid, says that, in collective dismissal cases, some trade unions tend to face the negotiation period as the preparatory stage for a court case. He adds: “In light of the number of judgments classifying collective dismissals as void, some trade unions are less prepared to enter agreements.” However, with regard to collective dismissals, Bonilla says there has been a shift in that unions no longer dispute the business case for making redundancies. Hogan Lovells senior associate Vidal Galindo says that one of the consequences of the most recent employment reforms in Spain regarding collective dismissals is that the parties are now taking a different approach to negotiation and “the compensations agreed are lower than before the reforms”. The Spanish courts need to be careful interpreting employment law and be aware of how it may affect potential investment in the country because “the world is looking at us”, according to Gil. He adds: “It [company restructuring] can be done in Spain and it can be done at a lower price [than other jurisdictions] – Spain is competitive in terms of labour regulations, you can do reasonable restructuring in most cases.” David Díaz, partner at Baker & McKenzie, says that, while there is uncertainty surrounding the interpretation of the 2012 Labour Reform, it is “not preventing foreign companies investing in Spain”. With regard to the appeal of Spain to foreign investors, PérezLlorca partner Fernando Ruiz says employment laws are “more flexible” in Spain than they are in, say, France, for example. Most of the largest corporate restructurings have already taken place and companies are now “fine-tuning” their organisations and implementing measures aimed at reducing costs, but maintaining levels of employment, according to Galindo. He adds: “This is an opportunity for lawyers. We can be involved in projects designed to improve the organisation and companies’ situation.” 50 per cent rate cuts Gil says there is strong competition in the market for employmentrelated legal services and, consequently, fees are going down, with rates dropping around 30 www.iberianlawyer.com