Why overtime is not the same as working longer hours in Spain

Supreme Court overrules decision classifying missed breaks as additional time at work

Two workers enjoy a coffee break.
Two workers enjoy a coffee break.Getty Images

An untaken sandwich break should be remunerated, but not as overtime, according to Spain’s Supreme Court.

The top tribunal has upheld an appeal filed by national rail infrastructure manager ADIF against a High Court decision stating that employees unable to take their 20- to 30-minute refreshment breaks should be able to claim them as overtime.

The extra hours worked cannot be regarded as overtime, because they have already been included in an employee’s wages

The Supreme Court ruling states that a missed coffee break means working longer hours and should be paid “not just on the basis of the remuneration for the time worked and on the basis of the agreed monthly salary, but should also include the foreseen additional amount for such an eventuality within the applicable rules.”

In the case of ADIF, company policy states that people unable to enjoy their coffee breaks should be compensated. But the Supreme Court says that this extra payment cannot be regarded as overtime in the strict sense of the term, because the breaks have already been included in an employee’s hours.

In other words, it is an untaken rest period, but one that is part of an agreed working period. Thus compensation for it can be considered a “complementary payment” but not one for extra hours worked, according to the Supreme Court.

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