Spain, Supreme Court, 19 May 2022, Judgment 462/2022
Deciding body (English)
Deciding body (Original)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Outcome of the decision
Link to the full text of the decision
The Supreme Court had to decide whether a company was required to pay its employees bonuses and allowances that corresponded to the time the establishment was closed due to the pandemic. The main issue consisted in determining whether the company could be exonerated from said obligation despite it not having suspended the contracts within the framework of Temporary Redundancy Proceedings (ERTE).
Facts of the case
The company was closed from March 15, 2020 to June 24, 2020 due to the pandemic. Beginning on April 12, the company offered its employees paid leave. The employees, nevertheless, still claimed several bonuses and allowances which were not paid during that period (production premium, maintenance allowance, night shift bonuses, split shift bonus, housing allowance, distance allowance and compensation for differences in rentals). The Audiencia Nacional (National Court) (139/2021, June 17) concluded that employees had the right to receive bonuses and allowances claimed because they were not in ERTE (Temporary Redundancy Proceedings), which would have allowed a suspension of contracts and, therefore, no obligation to pay those amounts. The company then lodged a cassation appeal before the Supreme Court against that judicial decision.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
The Court began by recalling that the company could have appealed to Temporary Redundancy Proceedings (ERTE). Although the claimant argued temporary force majeure which, in his opinion, justified the failure to make bonus and allowance payments to the staff, the Court did not accept the argument. Force majeure permits a suspension of employee contracts following a legally established procedure (ERTE). However, since the company did not make use of that option, it also renounced the legal possibilities that it offered. As a consequence, the labor contracts remained in force, so employees maintained their right to receive their salary with all its complements. The Court highlighted that the main issue did not consist in deciding whether the closure of the establishment was due to force majeure. Since it was not correctly channeled through the suspension procedure, it did not exonerate the company from its obligation to pay salaries and bonuses.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Court concluded that the employees of the company had the right to receive their bonuses and allowances corresponding to the time when the establishment was closed due to the pandemic.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Freedom to conduct a business
- Right to work
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
- Health v. economic freedoms
- right to work