European court rules Spain discriminating against part-time workers

Calculation used practically removes the possibility of qualifying for a pension About 80 percent of part-time workers are women

The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that Spanish regulations on pension rules discriminate against part time workers, the majority of whom are women, by demanding they make a disproportionate amount of social security contributions.

The ruling came in response to a suit filed by a woman who worked as a cleaner for a homeowners association over an 18-year period for four hours a week, which is equivalent to 10 percent of the statutory full-time working week in Spain. At the age of 66 years she applied to the Social Security system for a contributory state pension, but was denied it because she had not paid the minimum of 15 years of full-time contributions.

She brought her case to a Barcelona court, which then asked the Court of Justice in Luxembourg if Spanish law breached the European directive on equal rights for men and women in the area of social security.

The Court of Justice noted that Spanish law calculates only the number of hours worked and not the number of days. In the case of the plaintiff, the 18 years in social security payments she made at the equivalent of 10 percent of the full working week was equivalent to only three years, meaning that she would have had to work 100 years to accumulate the 15 years required to have a pension of 112.9 euros a month.

The court concluded that Spanish law did contravene the European directive on equal rights by requiring part-time workers to contribute proportionally more to the Social Security system than full-time employees in order to receive a pension, the amount of which is already reduced to reflect their part-time status. About 80 percent of part-time workers in Spain are women.

It said the method used to calculate pension rights in such cases rules out the possibility of part-time workers having access to a contributory pension.

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