may go back an hour in time and adopt UK office hours
considering moving into another time-zone – that of the UK,
Portugal and Morocco – and adopting a more European system of
working hours in a radical shake-up of the country's traditional way
Experts claim residents in
Spain are living in 'a permanent state of jet lag' because of their
clocks being an hour ahead of the time which would normally
correspond with the country's latitude – and they say the long
lunch hour and late evening finish is responsible for low
productivity and poor family life.
Back in 1942, the dictator
General Franco – an ally of Adolf Hitler – moved the clocks
forward to coincide with Central European Time (CET, or CEST in
summer) so that Spain and Germany were on the same time-lag.
This means that whilst the
sun is in its most central position at noon, in Spain it is so at
13.00hrs, or 14.00hrs in summer when the clocks are moved forward.
It also means instead of
eating lunch and dinner at 13.00hrs and 20.00hrs, as the rest of
Europe and most of the world appear to do, Spaniards start lunch
between 14.00hrs and 15.00hrs, and start eating dinner at either
21.00hrs or 22.00hrs.
With mainland Spain and
the Balearics on GMT – the same time-zone as the Canary Islands,
also part of Spain, plus its nearest neighbours Portugal and Morocco
and also the UK, Spanish people's body clocks would return to more
streamlined hours without the late evening meals and shops and
offices closing at 20.30hrs.
And whilst medics
constantly warn of the dangers of the midday sun, it is in fact the
14.00hrs sun which people in Spain should avoid.
Following expert advice,
the PP is also considering restructuring working hours and scrapping
the long lunch hour, which can extend from between three and
A full report has been
presented to Alfonso Alonso, Congress leader and Luis de Guindos,
minister for the economy, showing that Spanish working hours and the
fact that they are an hour ahead of their 'natural' geographic time
is detrimental to quality of life and the family.
Office workers typically
finish at around 14.00hrs and return to work at 17.00hrs until
20.00hrs, or sometimes half an hour or so later.
Many shops and even bars
and restaurants outside of main towns – sometimes even in touristy
areas – close at 13.00hrs and do not reopen until 17.30hrs.
This means workers are
unable to take advantage of their lunch hours to carry out necessary
administration or purchases and, on Saturdays, when many retailers
close at 13.00hrs and do not reopen in the afternoon, they have just
three hours in the morning to enjoy their weekend indulging in retail
therapy or buy necessary goods – for these reasons, the report
claims residents in Spain who work are always rushing around in their
limited free time to catch shops and businesses, and struggle to find
time to care for their children.
In many towns, with bars
and restaurants closed, workers cannot get a meal during their long
lunch hours unless they go home to cook it.
Supermarkets and indoor
shopping centres do not tend to close for lunch, but are open until
between 20.00hrs and 22.00hrs daily.
This system was
originally set up because for workers in the fields in June, July,
August and sometimes September, it is dangerous to be in the sun
between 13.00hrs and 17.30hrs, and offices and shops were sweltering
during this time.
Now, however, with
business premises having air-conditioning – and heating for the
winter months – taking the afternoon off and working into the night
is not necessary, say experts.
A taskforce in Brussels,
as well as experts in Spain, say finishing work so late –
especially after having most of the afternoon off and relaxing – is
damaging to productivity and, whilst everywhere is closed in the
afternoons when people have time on their hands to provide them with
business, the split day actually means people work much longer hours
than elsewhere in Europe where 'intense' daily hours are the norm.
The working group has
proposed a maximum clocking-off time for offices and most shops of
18.00hrs, meaning people would be free to spend the evenings with
their families and friends, relaxing, taking part in hobbies or going
to night school to acquire new qualifications.
They would then have
approximately an hour for lunch in the middle of the day.
Primary school children
take lunch between noon and 14.00hrs and finish their day at
17.00hrs, and high school pupils normally work through from 08.00hrs
to 14.00hrs or 15.00hrs with just a short snack break, meaning
parents and children literally pass like ships in the night and do
not meet on home ground until past 21.00hrs.
As a result, children go
to bed much later, causing their schoolwork to suffer, and parents
are also sleep-deprived since they have less than 12 hours between
clocking off from work and leaving again the next morning.
Experts have said it is
'ridiculous' having major League football matches televised at
22.00hrs, especially on working nights, since it means late nights
and sleep deprivation.
The national TV and radio
board, the RTVE, has tentatively agreed and said it will reconsider
Statistics show that
people in Spain, particularly the workforce and those with children,
sleep an average of 53 minutes a night less than their European
The standard working week
is 40 hours, split over eight-hour daily shifts which in fact cover a
total of up to 12 hours, something the government – and many large
companies – consider responsible for poor performance, lack of
concentration, employee stress and absenteeism.
Iberdrola and Madrid city council are among the employers which, some
years ago, introduced European or UK-style office hours so that their
staff could get home earlier.
But the government says
one of the first steps is getting companies to cooperate, comply with
employee legislation, stop exploiting workers by forcing them to put
in longer hours than necessary, and be more flexible about their
free time and family commitments.