The Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy is proposing a cross-party agreement to work toward ending the working day at 6 pm.

Speaking after an appearance before a Congressional Commission, Employment Minister Fátima Báñez told reporters: “Somebody has to take the first step, and so I am asking business associations and labor unions for their support.”

Spain tries again, and again to axe its midday siesta

Spain’s Employment Minister Fátima Báñez

Báñez’s proposals, the latest installment in a long-running national discussion on working hours seen by many in the country as outdated and family unfriendly, were outlined in the Popular Party’s election program for the June 26 elections.

The employment minister also said that rationalizing Spain’s working day would also require addressing the issue of returning the country to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT): although a third of Spain’s land mass lies within GMT, it is on Central European Time.

Many Spaniards still spend a long time at their place of work compared to their European neighbors, arriving early and then taking an often enforced long lunch break before returning to work until 8 pm or later.

Despite working longer hours than their German counterparts, statistics from 0ECD show Spanish workers productivity is much lower.

Historically, Spain economy was founded on agriculture. The siesta was established on the basis of allowing the country’s agricultural workers to avoid the searing midday heat. Traditionally, Spanish businesses adapted these practices forming a typical working day of 9 am until about 8 pm – with the siesta breaking up the day after lunchtime.

Imagine having to return to the office at 4 or 5 in the afternoon and work until 8 or 9 in the evening.

However, in recent years, particularly in the larger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona International companies of lead a trend towards a more normal working day of 9 am to 5 pm.

Báñez accepted that moving the rest of Spain toward a more European working day could be difficulties for smaller businesses: “Companies in some sectors, and particularly small enterprises, would have to negotiate models to make this possible,” she said.

Aside from talking about rationalizing the working day, Báñez also mentioned the need for more flexible working hours that could also include working from home. The agreement signed with emerging center-right party Ciudadanos this summer also included proposals to extend maternity leave to four weeks. Which currently extends up to one year in many other EU countries.