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In brief

Royal Decree Law 21/2020, dated 9 June, on urgent prevention, containment and coordination measures to deal with the health crisis caused by COVID-19, included several prevention measures aimed at ensuring the public’s right to life and health during the health crisis.

Some of those measures were aimed specifically at protecting people’s health in the workplace.

Specifically, Article 7 RDL 21/2020 imposes the following obligations on the owner of the business or, where appropriate, the manager of the centres and entities:

  1. Take ventilation, cleaning and disinfection measures that are suitable to the type of work centre and the degree to which it is used, in compliance with the protocols established for each case.
  2. Ensure that employees have soap and water, hydroalcoholic gels or virucidal disinfectants available to them and that such products are those authorized and registered by the Ministry of Health for hand sanitisation.
  3. Adapt working conditions, including the organisation of work stations and shifts, and the use of common areas in such a way as to ensure that a minimum safety distance of 1.5 metres is maintained between workers. Where this is not possible, employees shall be provided with protective gear or materials that are appropriate to the level of risk.
  4. Take measures to prevent large groups of people coinciding at peak times in workplaces, irrespective of whether they are employees, customers or users.
  5. Take measures for employees to gradually return to work in person and promote the use of teleworking when the type of work performed so allows.

However, no specific penalty had been stipulated for failure to comply with these obligations in the workplace.

Therefore, the Twelfth Final Provision of RDL 26/2020, dated 7 July, on economic reactivation measures to deal with the impact of COVID-19 in the areas of transport and housing (which became enforceable on 9 July 2020) added two new paragraphs to Article 7 in order to:

  • Authorise the Employment and Social Security Inspectorate to monitor, order and propose penalties when the obligations set out in paragraphs a), b), c) and d) of Article 7 are violated.
  • Legally define what is a ‘Serious Offence’¬†in the field of occupational hazards. Bear in mind that the penalty for this type of offence can vary from 2,046 euros to 40,985 euros, ¬†depending on factors such as the number of employees affected or the severity of the damages produced or which could be produced, inter alia.

Due to the health crisis that we continue to address in Spain, it is expected that making sure employers comply with the abovementioned obligations will be a priority for the Employment and Social Security Inspectorate in the upcoming months; therefore, it is important for companies to take the necessary measures to ensure they comply with said obligations and avoid the aforementioned penalties.

Additional useful materials

Click here to access all the resources that Baker McKenzie has prepared in relation to COVID-19.

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Mireia Sabate is a partner in Baker McKenzie’s Barcelona office. She practices mainly in the areas of labour and employment law. Ms. Sabate also regularly teaches at universities, having lectured on labour institutions and litigation at ESADE Law School in Barcelona, and conducted training on employment termination at ISDE (Higher Education Law and Economic Institute). She is teaching courses on social security law at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya. Ms. Sabate has also provided training in equity law at the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, and on the free transfer of employees at the Barcelona Bar Association.


Carlos de la Torre joined Baker McKenzie as of counsel in 2014. He has more than 20 years of experience in the field of labor law in Spain and in the UK. He was labor inspector (on leave) and has held high-level positions including Counsellor for Transport at the Spanish Embassy in London and Permanent Representative of Spain to the International Maritime Organization and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, where he advised on the Spanish claims. Mr. De la Torre is co-director of the Labor Law and CSR and Law forums at Foundation for Research of Law and Business (FIDE) and associate professor of employment law at Carlos III University.


Javier is an associate in Baker McKenzie's Employment & Compensation Group since 2008, based in Madrid (Spain). Javier participated in the Firm's Associate Training Program in the London office in 2012. He collaborates with the Masters Programs on Labour Consulting and HR Management at Carlos III University in Madrid. He has also collaborated with the Employment Due Diligence Course of Thomson Reuters. Javier regularly contributes to specialized publications on labour law and HR issues, such as Directivos y Empresas, Capital Humano or RED. He has also contributed to a number of compilations of labour rules published by Ediciones Francis Lefebvre. He collaborates with generalist and economic press, such as El Mundo, Expansion, El Economista. He has a special interest in corporate social responsibility and pro bono work, having worked with a number of NGOs and participated in projects for social inclusion of young people.