The Universidad Pontificia Comillas and the law firm Pérez-Llorca have signed an agreement to set up the ‘Pérez-Llorca/ICADE Debate Forum on Employment, Compensation and Benefits Law’.
During the first session held as part of this Debate Forum, María José López Álvarez, Professor of Employment Law and Social Security at Universidad Pontificia Comillas – ICADE stressed that “the aim of this initiative is to create a space for reflection, opinion and exchanging views on current issues in the field of Employment Law with a multidisciplinary perspective”.
Luis Enrique Fernández Pallarés, the partner in charge of Pérez-Llorca’s Employment, Compensation and Benefits practice area, pointed out that the purpose of these conferences is “the practical dissemination of current issues in the field of employment law with a critical spirit in order to generate a constructive debate”.
Criminal law and employment law, confluences and divergences
Moving on to the debate at hand, Fernández Pallarés described how in recent years there has been a significant increase in the production of employment legislation, with occasionally ambiguous texts obliging judges to make a greater effort to interpret their meanings. This scenario, said the Pérez-Llorca partner, “is leading us to situations in which issues that have not been resolved in the employment sphere are being addressed through the criminal justice system. An example of this is the recent amendment to Article 311 of the Criminal Code, which is raising a host of questions”.
The speakers invited to the session, María Soledad Serrano Ponz, Secretary-General of the Economic and Social Council and Labour and Social Security Inspector, and Ángel Javier Muñoz Marín, Public Prosecutor and Social Security and Occupational Health Coordinator then took the floor, where they put forward different arguments on the suitability of criminalising conduct considered administrative offences, and highlighted the concept of the worker as an extremely important legal asset which, in their opinion, should be protected. They also reflected on what would happen if certain employment offences were not criminalised.
With regard to the referral of cases from employment law to criminal law, the speakers pointed out some of the most frequent cases, such as failure to register with Social Security, offences against Social Security due to the amount of debt or those related to the prevention of occupational risks. Likewise, Serrano Ponz and Muñoz Marín highlighted the excellent relationship between the Labour Inspectorate and the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the fluidity of the joint work between these bodies.
Turning to the recent and much-discussed amendment to Article 311 of the Criminal Code, the speakers pointed out that this is a very new provision and that it has not yet been applied, but its wording is already giving rise to a number of questions. By way of example, Serrano Ponz and Muñoz Marín wondered whether a single breach by the employer could give rise to a criminal offence or whether this provision, when it mentions formulas outside the employment contract, refers only to false self-employed workers or false trainees. Consequently, both concluded that it is important to keep a close eye on how this controversial article will be interpreted and applied.