Can companies use an electronic signature in the labor field?

With the rise of new technologies and an ever-increasing global labor market, companies are looking for the right tools to optimize bureaucratic procedures. The electronic signature in the company is a tool that speeds up daily processes and procedures. However, its growing use in legal traffic sometimes raises problems as to its validity.

Legal provisions on electronic signatures

To solve the issue of the validity of electronic signatures in Spain, it is first necessary to consider the regulations established at Community level. That is, Regulation 910/204 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market. This regulation regulates electronic signatures in a unified manner within the European Union. Law 59/2003, on electronic signatures, does so at a national level. The purpose, in both cases, is to provide the legal traffic with instruments that guarantee the authorship and authenticity of an electronically signed document.

Under Article 25 of Regulation 910/2014, it is first provided that an electronic signature shall not be denied legal effect or admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings merely because it is an electronic signature or because it is not qualified. Secondly, and herein lies the real guarantee of authenticity, a qualified electronic signature will have legal effect equivalent to that of a handwritten signature.

In line with this regulation, it is determined as an indispensable requirement that the company that decides to automate the signing of employment contracts in a telematic way with the maximum level of legal guarantee, does so through a qualified electronic signature system.

Concept of a qualified electronic signature

The qualified electronic signature is the one made with a qualified electronic signature certificate. It is an electronic document that links the validation data of a signature to a specific natural or legal person through a set of passwords. To be qualified, the certificate must be issued by a Qualified Certification Authority.

Currently, the qualified electronic signature is the one with the highest level of security in Spain, as it complies with the provisions of Regulation 910/2014 (elDAS Regulation). Since it is legally valid, it is, to this effect, equivalent to a handwritten signature. This means that, in the field of labor relations, its use is perfectly valid.

Equivalence and admissibility of qualified electronic signatures

Article 8.1 of the Workers’ Statute establishes the obligation to conclude employment contracts in writing, with certain exceptions. The law requires more and more contracts in written form, to achieve greater legal security. However, given the status acquired by the qualified electronic signature regarding its equivalence with the handwritten signature, it is deemed to be fulfilled.

Since the employment contract is a very personal document, it is particularly important to ensure that the granting of consent is authentic for each contract concluded. The qualified electronic signature is the one that guarantees the authenticity, authorship, and identity of the consent given, providing security against falsification and protection against possible use by third parties. All of this guarantees its employability, for example, in a possible trial.

Another important factor to bear in mind is that the recipient of labor documents (be it the worker or the administration) must have a qualified electronic signature tool of the same level. Only in this way can the perfection of the consent, and therefore the contract, be guaranteed. This means that the standards of authenticity for the signing of a document with full effectiveness for legal purposes must be the same.

The conclusion is therefore twofold: on the one hand, qualified electronic signatures are comparable to handwritten ones; on the other, its use in the company is valid for the signature of any document with a labor nature.

This article is not considered as legal advice

José Luis Carrascosa

Law degree from the Complutense University of Madrid, Double Master’s Degree in Access to Law and in Business Legal Advice at the Instituto de Empresa Law School. Practice areas: procedural labour law and employment law. Working languages: English and Spanish. For any query Contact José Luis Carrascosa