The Covid-19 crisis has underlined the fact that Spain does not have a single Government. It has 18, and that is the ignoring the 8.131 municipalities, which, thankfully, have limited powers to legislate.
Apart from the Government of the Spanish State, Spain has 17 Autonomous Communities, some of which have ambitions to become separate countries. Some Autonomous Communities like to emphasise their independence by being as different as possible in the laws they pass.
The Covid-19 crisis has obviously caused the need for new laws to control the spread of the disease and boost health care, and also to provide financial assistance to the citizens and businesses of Spain whose activities have been dramatically curtailed and whose financial well being has been threatened.
The problem is that laws, decrees and ministerial orders have been issued at breakneck speed. Inevitably, this has resulted in poor drafting and confusing text requiring extensive interpretation.
With interpretation comes conflicting views and legal insecurity. The phrase ‘inseguridad legal’ is much quoted in Spanish press and its laws are often criticised by learned legal articles. Sadly, legislators seem unconcerned with the problems they cause.
Some of the Covid-19 measures are so fundamentally essential to the preservation of jobs, survival of businesses that, to have doubts over interpretation, potentially destroys their purpose. Enormous confusion concerning how some of the measures are meant to work has existed, and still exists, since the first law was introduced on 10 March.
The more negative commentators accuse Government of being deliberately vague in drafting the laws to disincentivise their use. Such conspiracy theories have been further fed by statements made by some ministers that a rigorous inspection process will commence as soon as the crisis allows to prosecute employers and individuals who have made improper use of the concessions.
We and our many Spanish professional colleagues in the tax, accountancy and particularly in labour law have had a desperate time of it during the last month or so, trying to guide clients to make correct use of the available concessions and subsidies, and to cope with sometimes impenetrable terminology and impossible conditions.
We continue to do everything we can to provide guidance on protecting businesses and to help the self-employed to survive financially the stresses and strains caused by this health crisis.