Spain Unfair to Unemployed Part-Timers, EU Court Says

(CN) – Spain’s scheme to calculate unemployment benefits for “vertical” part-time workers – those who work only on set days each week – runs afoul of EU law, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

A Barcelona woman who was laid off from her job as a part-time cleaner sued the Spanish government, claiming she should have been given 720 days of unemployment rather than the 420 days she received. The government based the benefit on the days actually worked rather than the six years the woman had contributed to unemployment insurance.

The woman said this unfairly penalized her as a vertical part-time worker, who may only work three days a week, while a horizontal part-time worker works the same number of hours over more days and therefore receives a larger unemployment check.

Finding that vertical part-time workers are in fact doubly penalized since they make less money to begin with, the Spanish court asked the European Court of Justice to weigh in on the legality of Spain’s unemployment scheme as applied to vertical part-time workers.

In its 5-page preliminary ruling for the Spanish court, the EU high court found the Spanish scheme is discriminatory – not just because it treats vertical part-timers differently than horizontal part-timers, but because the vast majority of vertical part-time workers are women.

“The inevitable conclusion is that a measure such as that at issue in the main proceedings constitutes a difference in treatment to the detriment of women,” the Luxembourg-based high court wrote.

While the Spanish government argued the principle of contribution necessitated the different treatment – those who put less in get less in return – the EU court had doubts that this is even the case in Spain.

“Indeed, as the advocate general noted in her opinion, a ‘vertical’ part-time worker who paid contributions for each day of every month of the year receives unemployment benefit for a shorter period than a full-time worker who paid the same contributions. With respect to the first of those two workers, the correlation relied upon by the Spanish government is thus clearly not guaranteed,” the high court wrote.

The Spanish court will ultimately decide the dispute in light of the EU court’s binding ruling.

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