Animal Cruelty and the Law in Spain

Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt, January, 8. 2016

Solicitor Raymond Nesbitt explains the legal consequences of animal cruelty in Spain.

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
8th of January 2016

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Joachim S. Müller via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Introduction

This has been a pet article of mine (pun intended) that I have wanted to write for quite some time now. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do so until Spain’s Criminal Code was amended last year by Law 1/2015 punishing animal cruelty, for the first time, with jail terms.

Spain’s historical disposition towards animal’s rights has been, let us say, somewhat hazy at best; to put it mildly and avoid ruffling feathers. This situation has changed dramatically post-Constitution as new open-minded generations, imbued by democratic ideals, seize power to shape laws in line with the core values that behove a modern society.

Animal Cruelty – Laws

There are three tiers of laws in Spain:

  1. National level: common to all 17 autonomous regions, which make up Spain, is the Criminal Code (article 337 explained below).
  2. Administrative level: each of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions has (schizophrenically) also passed its own legislation on animal cruelty.
  3. Local level: Spain has over 8,000 town halls. Each town hall is also empowered (did you even doubt it?) to pass its own regulation on the matter (ordenanza municipal). EU residents, which are ‘empadronados‘ or registered at the municipality’s census, can vote to elect mayors which can pass such laws. Just saying…

Ideally, as in it’s a matter of common sense and not rocket science, we should have a common law that works throughout the whole nation so people don’t lose the plot on choosing from umpteen million laws – I’ll await with bated breath.

Criminal Code – Article 337

Punishment ranging from three months up to one year in prison for those found guilty of mistreating animals unjustifiably in any manner or else inflicting them injury or submitting them to sexual abuse (sic).

Animals object of protection are:

1. Domesticated or tamed animals.
2. Animals that are normally domesticated i.e. stray cats and dogs.
3. An animal that temporarily or permanently lives under human control.
4. Any animal that does not live in wilderness.

The criminal punishment will be significantly aggravated when one of the following concurs:

1. The use of weapons or instruments harmful to an animal’s well-being.
2. Viciousness concurring in the offender.
3. If the animal loses an extremity or vital organ as a consequence of the torture inflicted.
4. The animal abuse takes place before an underage.

Death of an animal can lead to serve a sentence of up to 18 months in jail.

Abandoning Domesticated Animals

This is a despicable spectacle that takes place every summer break. Many of those animals that were gifted during the height of the Christmas season are abandoned to their own devices by their masters during the summer holidays.

Spain’s Criminal Code now punishes those that purposely abandon domesticated animals to their own luck with fines ranging from one to six months.

A Note on Jail Terms

It should be noted that a judge, at his sole discretion, may commute a prison sentence when the offender has no prior felony record and the sentence is two years or less. Normally the defendant is ordered to perform community service instead. Historically there has been only one exception to this rule which involved a popular folk singer. On analysing animal cruelty it can be surmised from the above that most sentences will be for less than two years. So it is unlikely first-time offenders will be jailed unless they have a previous criminal record (which hasn’t been struck off).

Administrative Sanctions

Spain, being Spain, has 17 autonomous regions which legislation on animal cruelty varies considerably from one to the next. The most advanced one is that of Catalonia with Madrid’s being the oldest (1990).

Fines, for animal cruelty, vary significantly ranging from a few thousand euros in Navarre up to over a hundred thousand euros in Aragon.

Local Town Hall

You can acquaint yourself with your local regulation on animal cruelty on visiting your town hall.

How to Report Animal Cruelty

Just make a police report (denuncia), either physically or over the phone, in the territory over which the police force is competent. It doesn’t have to be the SEPRONA (Guardia Civil); although they are normally more sensitive towards these reports as they are tasked to protect and overview wild nature and I know for a fact they are fond of animals.

Evolution of Animal Rights

It is clear to those that practice law that lawmakers are gently, albeit relentlessly, nudging the idea of equating the protection of animal rights to closely resemble that of human rights. Even the circumstances which aggravate punishment closely mimic those that deal with humans in other sections of the Criminal Code. It is truly commendable that the sensitivity has gradually shifted to encompass the protection of animal rights to the point of awarding jail terms to human offenders.

In October 2.015, for the first time ever, an individual was charged, found guilty and convicted of beating to death his own racehorse after losing a competition in what now constitutes a landmark case. Not a stranger to breaking laws, he had been previously convicted for DUI. He is now serving his sentence in jail. Source: El Pais daily.

Conclusion

The amendment of article 337 is a great leap forward that reflects modern’s society gravitational shift towards animal’s rights. However, the law focuses only on domesticated animals and purposely excludes animals in wilderness.

There is still much work to be done to lobby and push hard for an agenda that extends jail terms to those few who would abuse wild animal life. In any case, to my mind, it is a clear victory that animal’s rights in Spain have (finally) become a tenet of our society which can now be upheld legally. Ah, so many laws to choose from; you will be spoilt for choice!

So next time you spot a miserable git torturing some poor defenceless animal, know that YOU can make a difference.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. AKA Mahatma (‘Great Soul’) Gandhi.

Father of the modern Indian Nation. Led the country to a peaceful independence from the rule of the British Empire. Author, journalist, editor, staunch human rights activist and founder of the non-violent movement that influenced so many others to follow (Martin Luther King). Even career politician and lawyer in his spare time; nobody’s perfect. Arguably the 21st century’s most towering historical figure.

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers, small on fees, big on service.

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers is a law firm specialized in conveyancing, inheritance, taxation, and litigation. We will be very pleased to discuss your matter with you. You can contact us by e-mail at info@larrainnesbitt.com, by telephone on (+34) 952 19 22 88 or by completing our contact form.

Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. No animal, or politician, was harmed on writing this article. VOV.

2.016 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All rights reserved.

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Air Passenger Rights in Spain

Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt, June, 8. 2015

Spain is the third most-visited touristic destination in the world trailing behind France and the U.S., and many visitors are expats or second-home owners. 2014 saw another record-breaking year with over 65 million tourists visiting the country, consolidating a trend which remains unabated year-on-year in the last decade. The vast majority visit the country using an air carrier as transport. The purpose of this article, by regular legal-contributor Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt, is to do a brief overview of the rights air passengers have in Spain (in fact, throughout the European Union) such as compensation for flight delays or lost luggage.

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
8th of June 2015

Photo credit: © willypd / Fotolia

 

Introduction

In truth the bill of rights I quote is extensive to the European Union’s 28 Member States, not just Spain.

Depending on the type of contractual breach, it will give way to different passenger rights (compensation, reimbursement, care & assistance etc.).

Legal Framework

EU Regulation 261/2004 was passed in 2005 to enhance and enforce the rights of passengers who are subject to cancellations, delays, denied boarding and downgrading when flying. It was introduced to help compensate passengers for the loss of time and inconvenience suffered when you experience a flight delay or cancellation.

Annex to Regulation 889/2202 applies only to luggage (lost, damaged, destroyed).

I will purposely exclude Montreal’s Convention on Air Passenger Rights as it mainly applies to flights outwith the European Union which escapes this article’s scope.

Who Does EU Regulation 261/2004 Apply to?

This Regulation binds all EU-Member States, including Spain.

It applies to:

• All outbound flights from an EU country and which have as destination a fellow EU country regardless of the passenger’s age and nationality.
• It also applies to inbound flights to any EU-Member State chartered by an EU-licenced airline (regardless of point of departure).

I. Contractual Breaches

1. Denied Boarding (article 4).
2. Cancelled Flights (article 5).
3. Delays (article 6).
4. Delayed, Lost & Destroyed Luggage (Annex to Regulation 889/2202)

II. Passenger Rights

1. Right to compensation (article 7)
2. Right to reimbursement on re-routing (article 8).
3. Right to care and assistance (article 9).
4. Right to upgrade/downgrade (article 10).

 

I. Contractual Breaches

 

1. Denied Boarding

Will always give right to compensation unless there are health and safety reasons besides the passenger not carrying the appropriate legal documents to board a flight.

Most common causes of denied boarding are:

• Overbooking. Triggers right to care & assistance besides compensation (see section below for details).
• Unjustified reasons to deny passenger boarding.
• Abnormal passenger ID.
• Not making use of a single ticket on a return flight. These are known as “no-show” clauses on outbound flights; Spanish Mercantile courts have ruled them as consumer abusive clauses and therefor null and void. A passenger that missed his outbound flight can make use legally of his return ticket.

2. Cancelled Flights

Cancelled flights will always give right to compensation with only two exceptions that waive this right:

a. Air carrier gives advanced notice of a delay.

• The airline has informed with two weeks’ notice of the delay.
• Airline has informed between 2 weeks and up to 7 days before the scheduled departure. The airline must offer alternative re-routing transport.
• The airline gives notice less than seven days before departure. It must also offer alternative re-routing transport subject to more stringent regulation on departure and time of arrival.

It is the company’s onus to prove it has notified passengers in time in compliance with this Regulation.

b. Force Majeure

Is defined as an extraordinary and unforeseeable disruptive circumstance. The reason on why it is excluded from compensation is because it is not under an air carrier’s direct control.

Examples of unforeseen events: air traffic controllers’ strike, adverse weather (i.e. volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano, blizzard), terrorist bomb threat.

Examples of causes which are not due to extraordinary force and would give right to compensation: technical fault or air carrier’s pilot strike.

3. Delays

As a general rule, delays give right to care and assistance.

• The right to care and assistance kicks in after two hours for flights up to 1,500km.
• After three hours for flights between 1,500-3,500km.
• After four hours for flights over 3,500km.

Compensation is ruled out with only one exception:

• If the delay is over three hours. In this case compensation is applicable.

4. Delayed, Lost & Destroyed Luggage

A different law applies, Annex to Regulation 889/2202. The passenger has a right to compensation (but not in the terms of regulation 261/2004). A passenger should contact the handling agent immediately in such an event to file a claim. The compensation is up to 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (Derecho Especial de Giro) per passenger which in 2.015 equates to approximately €1,400 (the IMF’s benchmark to which it is referred fluctuates in value). This amount applies to all three cases: delayed, lost and destroyed luggage i.e. luggage is mistakenly re-routed to Glasgow and we are on vacation in Ibiza. Luggage arrives three days later. In the meantime we’ve been forced to buy spare clothes etc. We are entitled, per passenger, up to €1,400.

A passenger can fill in a special form to claim more if the value of the luggage exceeds this threshold or else hire an ad hoc insurance.

 

II. Passenger Rights

 

1. Right to Compensation

• €250 for flights of up to 1,500 kms
• €400 for Pan-European flights of more than 1,500 kms. Remainder of flights between 1,500 and 3,000 kilometres.
• €600 for all flights that may not be included in the above two categories.

2. Right to Reimbursement on Re-routing

If your flight is cancelled then the airline may offer to put you on an alternative flight. If you miss your connecting flight then the airline might book you onto the next flight leaving for your intended final destination. If you are delayed overnight then the airline should put you up in a hotel room and pay for transport to/from the airport.

3. Right to Care and Assistance

Again, your right to care and assistance from the airline comes into play whilst you are actually being delayed. This right applies to delays, even if they are caused by what the Regulation calls an ‘extraordinary circumstance’. This entitles you to:

• Food and drink in reasonable relation to the waiting time.
• Hotel accommodation if you need to stay overnight.
• Transport between the airport and hotel (if necessary).
• Two telephone calls/telex/fax messages/e-mails.

4. Rights on Upgrade/Downgrade

a. If a passenger is upgraded (i.e. from tourist to first-class) the air carrier cannot request additional payment.
b. If a passenger is downgraded the air carrier will re-imburse:

• 30% of the ticket for all flights up to 1,500 kms.
• 50% of the ticket for Pan-European flights exceeding 1,500 kms.
• 50% of the ticket for all flights between 1,500 and 3,500 kms (overseas EU-territories are excluded).
• 75% of the ticket for all flights not included in the above, included those between EU-countries and their overseas territories.

 

F.A.Q.

 

How and Where Do I Claim Flight Compensation?

Monetary compensations deriving from article 7 of Regulation 261/204 should ideally be automatic. You should just fill in the form supplied by the air carrier at a handling desk to be compensated if you qualify.

However in practice some stubborn air carriers are reluctant (understatement) to pay any form of compensation and will push back. You should not be daunted. You may then need to exercise your rights to monetary compensation before any Mercantile court in Spain assisted by a lawyer.

How Long do These Claims Take on Average and What is The Success Rate?

They take nine months and the success rate is over 90%, on average.

Statutory Claim Period for Compensation in Spain

15 years.

This statute of limitations can be interrupted by judicial or extrajudicial notifications; meaning the timer is reset and the 15 years are counted anew as from the notification.

Conclusion to Air Passenger Rights

Because of economies of scale it makes sense to group passenger claims to bring a single case before a Mercantile court i.e. transoceanic flight that is over three hours delayed or cancelled without giving notice.

I know the British people and they are not passengers – they are drivers.” – David Cameron.

David William Donald Cameron is a British politician and Leader of the Conservative Party since 2005. He has served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2010.

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers, small on fees, big on service.

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers is a law firm specialized in conveyancing, inheritance, taxation, and litigation. We will be very pleased to discuss your matter with you. You can contact us by e-mail at info@larrainnesbitt.com, by telephone on (+34) 952 19 22 88 or by completing our contact form.

Related articles

Volcanic Ash, Cancelled Flights and Passenger’s Rights – 19th April 2010

Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. VOV.

2.015 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All rights reserved.

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How to Apply for Healthcare in Spain

Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt, November, 8. 2014

Expats retiring to Spain will need to consider health care along with property rental or investment decisions. Regular legal-contributor Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt strays again from his usual property themes to give us a general overview on how to apply for healthcare in Spain.

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
8th of November 2014

 

 

 

Emergency Cover vs. Full Healthcare Cover

I have to begin by distinguishing two types of health cover.

  • Emergency cover is universal and open to all human beings, whether EU citizens or not. The only requirement for emergency health assistance is that you need to be registered at your local town hall (‘Certificado de Empadronamiento’ or census certificate). This is explained in detail in a section below.
  • Access to full health care cover by the Spanish Healthcare System requires a Social Security Number (‘Número de la Seguridad Social’ or SSN for short). This allows you unrestricted access to state-run healthcare. A SSN can be attained by working for a company or else on becoming self-employed (by contributing monthly to a pay-in scheme).

 

1. Emergency Healthcare Cover

A registered person will have access to public emergency, primary and speciality care for common illness, maternity care during pregnancy, delivery, post-partum etc. It is highly recommended that all foreigners register at their local town hall (known in Spanish as ‘empadronamiento’) for this and many other advantages listed below (and it’s free). Basically the more people that are registered, the more funds the central government allocates to a town hall which – in theory – should benefit everyone.

 

Step-by-Step Explanation to Attain a Public Health Card (PHC)

 

A PHC grants you the right to health care (both primary and outpatient) in both hospitals and emergency centres.

1. As outlined, the first step is to attain a Registration Certificate (‘Certificado de Empadronamiento’) from your town hall.  This is a pretty straightforward hassle-free requirement. To register oneself at your local town hall simply follow the below:

EU members: identity document from your own country, Community card issued by a police station or else your passport. Copy of Title Deeds and a copy of a utility bill (water or electricity).
Tenants: your rental contract, a copy of a utility bill under the name of the tenant (which must match the tenancy agreement) as well as an identity card or passport.
Home owners: copy of the title deed and/or a utility bill for the property.
Under aged: if a child lacks a passport they will require the same documents as an adult except for those born in Spain (a birth certificate or Family Book will suffice in such a case).

2. Find out where your Primary Care Centre (‘Centro de Salud’) is located.
3. Take your passport (and a photocopy) together with your Registration Certificate.
4. Fill in the ad hoc form. After a period spanning normally 2 to 3 months you will be mailed your Personal Health Card.

Benefits of Registering Oneself at Your Local Town Hall (Empadronamiento)

I am digressing a bit here from the article’s topic but I feel compelled to explain the benefits of enrolling in your town hall’s census (‘Empadronamiento’ or Registration Certificate):

• Discounts on IBI tax (akin to the United Kingdom’s Council tax). In some municipalities (i.e. Estepona) this discount may reach up to 80% (!).
• Increased medical attention (more doctors).
• More fire-fighters.
• The right to State education (free, public).
• The right to vote (registered foreigners can vote only on local and European elections).
• Discounts on municipal services.
• Free access to Sports Centres.
• Free access to public libraries.
• Access to Social Services and Leisure Centres (full or partial rebates on social activities i.e. painting, music, theatre, sewing).
• Additional security.
• More ambulances.
• More schools.
• Social assistance.

2. Full Cover Health Assistance

As explained in the article’s introduction, for comprehensive cover you must attain a Social Security Number and be working (legally) in Spain. This can be attained either of two ways:

a) By working for someone else i.e. a company.
b) On becoming self-employed (‘autónomo’ in Spanish).

Either requires that you, or your employer on your behalf, contribute to a monthly state pay-in scheme.

European Healthcare Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you are visiting Spain temporarily, and reside mainly in a EEA member country, the EHIC allows you full access to Spain’s State Healthcare System. You must request information in your home country on how to apply for this card.

The EHIC will not be valid if the holder is mainly resident in Spain. It does not cover you either if you are travelling with the express purpose to seek medical treatment i.e. travel to Spain specifically to give birth.

UK State Pensioner

As a UK pensioner, if you are living in Spain and you receive a UK State Pension or long-term Incapacity Benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK.

The UK’s EHIC is only for use outside of Spain on holidaymaking within the EU; it is not intended for those whose main abode is in Spain.

Applying for Healthcare in Spain – Conclusion

Foreigners are entitled to the same healthcare as the rest of Spanish citizens. The only requirement is to be registered at the town hall of your residence.

For full health care cover it is mandatory that you attain a Social Security Number and contribute to a monthly state pay-in scheme.

UK pensioner’s access to the Spanish healthcare assistance is paid for by the UK.

“Tres cosas tiene la vida: salud, dinero y amor”Cristina and Los Stop.

Popular Spanish pop song from the sixties. Loosely translated as: “Only three things matter in life: health, money and love.”

Related articles

Healthcare in SpainAdvice by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Health Insurance and Social Security – Angloinfo Expat Network


Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. VOV.

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New Driving Laws in Spain

Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt, September, 8. 2014

Most people who own property in Spain need to drive a car here too. Regular legal-contributor Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt strays from his usual property themes to update us on the major novelties in Spain’s new traffic laws.

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
8th of September 2014

 

 

Photo credit: Daily Mail. © Getty Images.

 

Introduction

Spain has recently passed new motoring laws which came into force last 9th of May 2014. This new law merits an article unto itself as it significantly alters and impacts existing legislation. I have purposely written it in bullet points so readers can easily skip through the drivel to reach the section they are interested in.

As a disclaimer this article only highlights major changes; it is not to be taken or construed as an exhaustive guide to existing road laws. As a word of caution, this new law only establishes ‘master strokes’; the fine print will be elaborated in detail in future regulation.

This leads me to apologise in advance if some points in my text are obscure. Regrettably the new law leaves quite a few grey areas open to interpretation until further regulation is passed i.e. use of child seats by minors! Not ideal.

Law 6/2014 of 7th of April

The complete wording of the law, in Spanish, can be found in Spain’s Official Law Gazette (B.O.E.). This new law amends Spain’s Highway Code (Law 339/1990).

 

Major Highlights

 

1.Speeding

Art 1.10

• Increased in  motorways to 130 kph  (existing speed limits remain in force however if safety is in doubt)

2. Drink-driving & Drug-driving

Art 1.9 & 1.18

• The legal amount permitted is:

i) 0.5 grams per litre of blood or 0.30 g/l for new or professional drivers.
ii) 0.25 milligrams per litre of exhaled air or 0.15 mg/l for new or professional drivers.

For those – like me – who are still left clueless on the above I put practical examples for both men and women.  Alcohol consumption and its effects vary from one person to the next depending on various parameters: age, gender, speed of alcohol consumption, empty stomach, exhaustion level and weight. In general terms for a man weighing 70 kilos this translates to 1.5 beers (understood as half pints in Spain) or two glasses of wine. For a woman weighing 60 kilos this translates to one beer or one and a half glass of wine. So you may want to keep at bay any binge drinking on a Friday night!

• In addition to breath alcohol testing carried out by the Guardia Civil in its random road checks drivers may also be tested for drug-use. If you test positive, besides losing up to six driving points and incurring a hefty fine (detailed below in section seven), you may even lose your driving licence and have the car immobilised. The exception to this rule are medically prescribed drugs. These tests are mandatory and may not be refused without facing legal consequences. Anyone involved in an accident may be forced to take alcohol and drug tests (even pedestrians).

3. Cyclists

Art 1.12 & 1.14

• The use of helmet is mandatory for under sixteen-year-olds.
• The use of helmet is compulsory on cycling on interurban roads and its use is ‘recommended’ on urban roads as well.
• On overtaking cyclists a distance of 1.5 mts must be observed by drivers. If an overtaking maneuver poses “any” danger to a cyclist a driver must desist until it is deemed safe. Again an open-ended criteria that ought to be ruled in detail in my humble opinion to avoid grey areas specifically on affecting people’s life’s (cyclists).

4. Foreign-plated cars

Art 1.16

• Foreign residents: any vehicle owned or driven by them with a foreign licence plate must be changed over to Spanish plates – no exceptions.
• Non-residents: forbidden to circulate in Spain with uninsured foreign-plated cars.
• Non-residents: forbidden to drive in Spain foreign-plated cars which have not passed the equivalent of the Spanish ITV (UK’s MOT).

5. Children

Art 1.17

• Forbidden to drive under twelve-year-olds in motorbikes (as passengers).
• Following Art 1.8 and 1.17 small children, relating to weight and height restrictions (unspecified), may not occupy front or rear seats (sic). Note: Unfortunately the law is unclear on this point and leaves the door ajar to future regulation to elaborate this point in detail. This grey area leaves this article open to interpretation until the regulation is passed. Being a parent this makes me deeply unhappy.

To solve this one must refer to Spain’s 1990 Highway Code (Art 117) and its 2003 regulation as amended by Royal Decree 965/2006.

I construe this as any child under 135 centimetres may not occupy the front seats even if placed on a child seat. They must occupy only rear seats and in addition should be placed on an approved homologated child seat (“Sistema de Retención Infantil” or SRI in Spanish).

Transporting children under 1.35 metres in height (4 feet and 43 inches) regardless of age requires the mandatory use of a child seat . This extends to rent-a-cars and taxis (you must source your own child seat and be able to demonstrate it on renting a vehicle). Professional drivers, such as taxi drivers, will not be held liable on passengers breaching the law. The fine will be €200 and the (private) vehicle maybe immobilized by law enforcement agents. Tourists should pay special attention to this point on passing through or on holidaymaking in Spain.

Children equal to or taller than 135 centimetres may occupy front seats so long as they wear a driving belt.

Dummy-poof recap for concerned parents:

• Minors < 1.35 metres (4 feet and 43 inches) may only occupy rear seats and use of an officially homologated child seat is mandatory.
• Minors ≥ 1.35 metres may occupy front seats (or rear seats) strapped by seat belts.

The use of seat belts is mandatory for all passengers.

6. Radar Detectors

Art 1.17 & 1.18

• The use of such speed-detecting devices is prohibited resulting in fines of up to €200 and you stand to lose up to three driving points.

7. Fines

Art 1.24

• Payment of fines increased to 20 days qualifying to obtain a 50 per cent discount.
• Fines range from €500 to €1,000 for driving at double the amount permitted (Art 1.20). Driving points lost range between four to six points.
• Fines range from €500 to €1,000 for driving under the effects of drugs (Art 1.20). Up to six driving points lost.

8. Penalty Information Exchange between European Driving Agencies

Additional second disposition.

European Driving Agencies will freely exchange information on road penalties relating specifically to:

• Speed-driving (fines).
• Drink-driving.
• Drug-driving.
• Jumping red lights.
• Non-compliance with mandatory use of seat belt.
• Non-compliance with mandatory use of helmet.
• Driving using a mobile or similar handheld devices.
• Driving on the wrong lane, reserved to specific vehicles or unauthorised overtaking.

The following three countries have opted out of the above penalty information exchange scheme: United Kingdom (DVLA), Republic of Ireland and Denmark.

Conclusion 

Driving in Spain is fairly different from the UK. And I am not referring to driving on the other lane. As a real-life example after having lived and worked in the United Kingdom for the last four years only once did someone blow the horn at me (and yes, it was justified). On coming on holiday to Spain, in the space of only three days I was honked at no less than five times – all unjustified.

The lesson here is that on travelling abroad you would do well to acquaint yourself with local driving laws and get accustomed, as much as possible, to your new driving ‘idiosyncrasy’; take it from me!

When in Rome, do as the Romans do” – St Ambrose.

Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. VOV.

2.014 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All rights reserved.

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Spanish Labour Reform is Key to Property Market Recovery

Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt, March, 8. 2012

The Spanish housing market will recover when the unemployment goes down says BBVA, one of Spain’s biggest banks. Lawyer Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt looks at the new labour reform and how it might lift employment, which might in turn help the housing market.

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
8th of March 2012

 

 

Photo credit: BBC. Building the Great Pyramid.

 

Introduction

Spain has the dubious honour of being the country with the highest unemployment rate of all developed countries (OECD), followed closely by Ireland. The causes of this are many and its analysis would exceed the object of this article. However, I will focus on one of the main culprits which has brought about this situation – Spain’s outdated labour market laws.

Labour law in Spain has its roots deeply embedded in the Franco regime. Traditionally it has been overprotective of workers to the point employers regard them more as an obstacle than as a useful tool. It is safe to say that labour court rulings in Spain are biased towards workers. Ironically, these overzealous laws have played out against the workers themselves at a time of great economic weakness fracturing Society, broadly speaking, into a two-tier system of workers:

A. Those with a job. They enjoy a high status of legal protection. To the point that many employers would rather hold on to a bad worker than make him redundant as the severance pay would far outstrip the benefits.

B. The jobless. The losers. They find themselves locked out of the labour market. Particularly affected are young workers, the unemployment rate of under twenty-five-year-olds is well above 50pc. Employers – fearing Spanish draconian labour laws- are highly reluctant to take on new employees, even if required, as labour laws are far too rigid and strict and always biased towards workers. In times of great financial uncertainty employers would rather avert additional concerns and problems and refuse to hire new employees.

This has led to a paradoxical situation, whereby long-standing workers, albeit inefficient, are kept by companies as the costs of dismissal would be prohibitive whilst younger workers, more prepared and with languages, are let go or even not hired quite simply because companies cannot afford the expenses of a dismissal.

The above generalisation helps to explain why Spain has reached all-time record levels of unemployment reminiscent of the Great Depression. Moreover, I believe the official unemployment figures are in fact well below reality. Many young people have flocked abroad seeking new job prospects or else have been forced to extend their studies with the hope of seeing better days. Not to mention the huge amount of people who are studying hard to secure a post as a civil servant which used to guarantee a lifetime free of economic woes. All these are conveniently excluded from the unemployment figures and could easily add over a million to the official unemployment figures.

To give you an idea of how this situation is endangering public finances in Spain, there used to be a ratio four workers for every pensioner; now there is barely a ratio of two workers per pensioner. Moreover, if we take into account not only pensioners but also unemployed and civil servants each active worker is now shouldering – all by himself – a civil servant, or a pensioner or an unemployed on a ratio one to one. Clearly, this is unsustainable. There are scarcely 14 million active workers in Spain and well over 14 million unemployed, pensioners and civil servants. If this troublesome trend continues unchecked, Spain will need to leave the Euro to re-instate its Monetary policy to devaluate its new currency and regain competitiveness. However, Spanish politicians are adamant; they have no intention of leaving the Eurozone and are now addressing the problem of Spain’s weak competitiveness in other manners, such as the current labour reform which in time will lead to lower wages. Much like the trial Greece is undergoing.

As the current Minister of Economy, Mr Luis de Guindos, in Spain phrased it: “Spain needs a very aggressive Labour Market reform”. The aim of this reform would be to get rid of the dead wood and make hiring and firing of workers more flexible. Spain’s Labours laws were far too rigid as they were and locked out of the job market millions of workers because employers feared hiring them. The official line is that the aim of these reforms will pave the way to create a stable legal framework which – in time – will enable growth in the job market. Here’s hoping.

However, the cynic in me sees these changes in law as rather opportunistic. The perfect embodiment to administer bad medicine to an already ailing patient. Lowering wages and smoothing redundancy procedures, making it altogether less onerous for employers. In other words, these reforms will make jobs even more precarious. Wages in Spain are already very low and will be furthermore post-reform. Some economists may argue this is a necessary evil to recover lost competitiveness as Spain faces ruthless competition from third-world countries with more lenient (or non-existing) labour laws. Maybe it is indeed the case; I won’t dispute it. But, being pragmatic, what I find undeniable is that in both the short and medium term, this change in law will make it easier overall to lay off workers and reduce wages. In time, we will see if it actually did contribute to job growth, decently paid jobs that is, not low-pay, dead-end McJobs.

I am of the opinion that Spain needed to address its anachronistic labour laws, which dated back to the Franco era, to make them fall more in line with real world’s demands. I believe this reform should have been implemented more gradually, in a more consensual manner with all opposing forces, rather than just flogged by the ruling government under the pretext of a dire economy. They have chosen a time where the job market is weak and cornered; labour laws have swerved from one extreme to another: from over-protectiveness to almost anything goes. I’m afraid the reform may have in fact been, true to Mr Guindos’ words, over aggressive and perhaps even short-lived as it will surely be challenged by opposing political parties in the near future.

 

Highlights of the Reform

 

Royal Decree law 3/2012 came into force on the 12th of February. It brings a slew of changes which I will list briefly in bullet points:

  • Unfair dismissals. Severance pay is reduced from 45 days per year worked, down to 33 days per year worked. The maximum amount of months one accrues has been brought down from 42 months to 24. This applies not only to new contracts, but to pre-existing contracts as well.
  • Objective dismissals: companies making losses in three consecutive quarters can now lay off staff with only 20 days of severance pay per worked year. Accrued claim is limited to a maximum of 12 months.
  • Discounts to employers of up to €3,000 that hire long-term under thirty-year-old workers (SME companies with a maximum of 50 employees). Bonuses on enrolling workers in training courses (acquiring new skill sets).
  • Making internal clauses flexible i.e. modifying working hours, changing work shifts (night / day), changing responsibilities and tasks etc. If the worker disagrees with these imposed changes he can request his contract is terminated by the company which leads to a severance pay of 20 days per year worked with a maximum of 9 months accrued.
  • Employers are free to reduce wages alleging financial difficulties. i.e. recession
  • Forbidden to sign consecutive short-term contracts for more than 24 months.
  • Large companies may now ignore the collective labour covenants (“convenio colectivo”) if they are able to demonstrate three consecutive quarters in losses setting out worse conditions than those laid out in the covenants.
  • Companies that hire long-term unemployed will receive a discount of €4,000.
  • The tax allowance given to woman on returning to their workplace post maternity leave has been eliminated.

 

In Conclusion

Spain has undertaken the most drastic labour reforms of its short-lived Democracy to ensure its inclusion in the Eurozone and help revive an ailing economy. These reforms will generate great controversy and spark much debate amongst the Spanish society. They are – without doubt – a major milestone in Spain’s labour reforms marking a turning point in Spain’s jobless tide. Let’s hope this is the inflection point from which a new, more robust job market emerges.

The winners of this reform are employers to a great extent and unemployed workers to a lesser extent. The losers are all those that now have a job and have seen their hard-fought rights and benefits significantly reduced.

If you are a worker in Spain, or plan to seek a job in Spain, it is very important you acquaint yourself with Spain’s labour laws which may differ significantly from that of your home country. There are niche lawyers known as “abogados laboralistas” who specialise in this branch of law. Laboralistas are the lawyers you must seek in cases of unfair dismissal to take your case to court. You are bound to win.

Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. VOV.

2.012 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All rights reserved.

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