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Employee rights & working conditions in Spain

- Updated: 17/02/2012
Employee rights & working conditions in Spain

Assuming that you are a citizen from another eu country, then you are legally entitled to work in spain without a work permit. It is recommended that you first visit spain and spend some time to see if you are suited to the lifestyle and assessing your options before starting to look for work. Only when you are successful in finding employment should you plan your move to Spain.

When you are here on your initial visit you can do a number of things that will make employment easier – such as obtaining an NIE number, if you haven’t already got one, and register with the INEM (Institito Nacional de Empleo), which are the Spanish equivalent of job centres - to be found in most towns throughout Spain. Vacancies are also listed in local newspapers and on some websites.

Citizens from outside the eu will need to apply for a work permit, as well as applying for a visa before they come to Spain. This can be done at a Spanish consulate in your home country or, but if you are already in Spain on a visa, you can apply for the required work permit at your local Oficina de Extranjeros or the provincial delegacion provincial del minsterio de trabajo, the ministry of work.

Once you have been successful in finding work here, have the required visas or permits, and have been offered a legal Spanish contract of employment, then you will be entitled to exactly the same legal employees rights as any spaniard.

You should make sure that your contract of employment contains all of the following details :

a.)Your personal details

b.)Your employers details

c.)The type of contract that you have been awarded – temporary, permanent etc...

d.)The contract period and date when employment is to start

e.)Working conditions.

f.)Location of work

g.)Hours of work

h.)Details of any qualifying trial period

i.)Holiday entitlement

j.)Rates of pay, including overtime

k.)Details of when and how you will be paid, when pay is reviewed.

Without these details being included correctly, your contract is unlikely to be legal, and as such you will not have any protected rights, or entitlement to state pensions and benefits. Your employer should also ensure that you are fully registered for tax and social security – you should check that they have done this as your contributions directly affect your entitlements.

’Standard’ working conditions for a ‘Standard’ working contract as follows :

A normal working week comprises 40 hours.

A working day should not exceed 9 hours.

12 hours rest should be taken between working shifts.

There should be a maximum limit of 80 hours overtime in any 1 year.

Holiday entitlement is a minimum of 30 days per year, of which are included 14 public holidays per year.

Salaries are usually paid in 14 instalments per year ( 2 in june and december)

Deductions will be made for tax and social security contributions.

Dismissal of an employee can be due to : non-attendance; alcohol or drug problems; disciplinary reasons; verbal or physical abuse; breaking of trust or confidence. The employer must also pay compensation of 20 days' salary for each year that the employee has worked for the - up to a maximum of a year's salary.

Leave – An employee is entitled to leave such as maternity leave (4 months) and time off for moving house, death of a family member, marriage etc...

If you should find yourself dismissed from a job in spain where you hold a legal spanish contract, you have up to 20 days to apply for a conciliation and, if this is not successful, you can take your employer to court.

Working conditions in spain are on the whole very similar to those of other european countries, with the exception that some lines of work may still take the ‘siesta’ whereby business stops for around 3 hours in the middle of the day. If this is observed by your employer you may find that it takes some getting used to, but will soon see how and why it is a tradition that is commonplace and often necessary in the warmer months of the year.

# A Royal Decree was passed in Parliament on 10.02.2012, which effectively changed the bias from being in the favour of the employee to the employer, in a bid to stimulate the economy and create much-needed jobs. As such a number of reforms will be made to the current laws - which can be read about in more detail by clicking HERE.

Comment on this Article

Hello. I would like to ask if it's possible to complain to social security about my employer for declaring a wrong days of my working days. Example I work for 15 days every month for 6 years as seasonal Agrario but my employet declared only 10 days sometimes 5 days. This moment he terminated my contracr. Do I entitle to claim my extra pay for 6 years which I didn't get. Thank you for your kind reply
Josephine - Tue 18th Sep 2018
Iv been dismissed from my job today, no reason really a few mistakes that every human makes, even though i worked 28hrs a week, my contract was for 6 hrs a week, will i still be able to claim as my contract was so small, the last job i was on full contract
Nicola - Sun 11th Sep 2016
I have been asked to attend two training sessions outside my normal working hours with no reimbursement - do I legally have to attend these sessions as I have already made other plans for theses days (Friday and Saturday) Thank you!
Jennifer Brown - Fri 4th Sep 2015
Benefits ? ... Why should he get any benefits if he resigned from a job for a better opportunity ?
Robster - Tue 15th Apr 2014
My brother has resigned in the restaurant where he is an assistant cook,receiving 1100€/month salary and working 42hrs a week. After 1yr and 5months he decided to resign, but advised his employer less then the 15 days required due to better opportunity coming his way. In his contract, it appears that only 329€ Is stated, as well as only 32hrs is reported. My question is what benefits should he get upon his resignation?
Lynette - Tue 15th Apr 2014
Hi I was told i was dismissed over the phone, I had a contract indefinido to work 4 hours a week, not much I know but I was doing more like 40 and 50 hrs in the busy summer months 7 days a week for weeks on end. On new years eve one of owners of the business [female] made a threatening gesture to me, I was shocked, my respose was calm and non aggresive at the end of my shift I told the other boss what had happened who showed empathy for me, I was not given a dismissal letter or a reason for my termination, I have since had two meetings to ask for my positon back or a letter setting out the reason for my dismissal, On the evening of my second meeting I recieved a phone call to inform me I had been reinstated, and they would be in touch as to when I could start back, once again I was called in only to be told we have changed our minds you are still saked, and they still maintain they don`t need to give me disissal letter, what would be my best plan to secure an unfair dismissal ?
Alan Hart - Mon 27th Jan 2014
Thank you for info, I have now signed on. I was only dismissed form work because I was making many mistakes on the tills. Nothing too serious in my eyes. I will try and go back to them and ask about it, as if I am owed anything from them I want to a be sure I get it.
Morag - Mon 30th Sep 2013
Thanks for the advice Ed but I have already left (as been advised by my lawyer I am under no obligation-they should have got a contract signed)without giving notice. However, I will now send a letter of resignation and apologise for the inconvenience I have caused.
Teresa - Mon 30th Sep 2013
@Teresa - Contract or not, exercise some common sense. Professionally speaking, I would give a formal resignation letter. This way, they cannot avoid paying your social security for the 3 weeks you have worked, plus they cannot deny you worked there. Also, ask them to formally confirm receipt of the letter, with a receipt or confirmation letter. If they agree you can leave immediately, make sure you write this in the resignation letter. NEVER accept a verbal agreement in Spain without it being backed up in writing. Things will always come back and bite you if you don't!!
Ed Bishop - Mon 30th Sep 2013
@Sarah - Public holidays DO NOT form part of your literal holiday entitlement, meaning the 22 days you have as holiday are sacred, public holidays are in addition, PERIOD. Also, make sure your 22 days holiday entitlement means 22 working days (mon-fri). It's usual for holidays to encompass weekends also, meaning if you take a 1 week holiday Wednesday to Tuesday, you will use 7 days holiday. In most cases, employers skew the lines in their favor. If they do include weekends, your entitlement should really be 28-30 days PLUS public holidays.
Ed Bishop - Mon 30th Sep 2013
@Morag - Depending upon the circumstances of your dismissal, you should be entitled to a compensation salary. You should immediately contact your ex-employer and request your compensation salary. Also, you MUST sign on immediately and state that you HAVE NOT received any compensation salary. Be careful what you sign with your ex-employer as they may try to get you to sign that they have paid you any compensation salary.
Ed Bishop - Mon 30th Sep 2013
Hi I have just worked 3 weeks (my last contract was terminated at end of June) but not signed a new contract. I now wish to leave because I have been offered a better job, by law do I have to give notice my new boss says no as I have not signed a contract. Please advise urgently
Teresa Roberts - Sun 29th Sep 2013
Hi I am a spanish resident and have been offered a new job. I want to check my holiday entitlement as my employer states that I have 22 working days each complete year, but that I can take 14 Public Holidays off also, but these will not be paid unless I take them from my 22 days paid leave. Do I get paid for 14 public holidays in addition to the 22 working days?
Sarah - Wed 25th Sep 2013
I was sacked nearly 2 weeks ago now. I resived my pay that I was owed with 1 weeks holiday. How do I go about the compensation salary? I was working there for 4.5 years. I am going to the social office on Monday to sign on.
Morag - Fri 20th Sep 2013
James : As an EU Citizen and (Potentially) a Resident of the UK, your other half would be eligible for benefits. Your first point would be to make contact with the local authority you are planning to relocate to.
Mr Grumpy - Sat 7th Sep 2013
Hi Everyone, thanks for the last reply, it seems that I am stuck now, and that i cannot claim anything in the age of 53...Okay I think i will have to review my situation and think about moving back to the UK..can someone tell me if I move back to the UK with my Spanish girlfriend, what would we be entitled to, we have no home and no Job, would they be any difference if we got married...need help, I am broke and need serious advice on what to it wise to take my Spanish girlfriend to the Uk, would we gain anything!!! i could get jobseekers etc, but what would my Spanish girlfriend get? Thanks....
James Turner - Sat 7th Sep 2013
James : If you have never worked in Spain (and therefore paid nothing into the system) you have zero 'Employee Rights', and are unable to claim any kind of benefit. The system is not based on Residency like it is in the UK.
Mr Grumpy - Mon 19th Aug 2013
Hello, I hope someone can help. I have lived in Spain for over 10 years, I have an NIE number, but have not worked as I was bringing up her son whilst she was working in Gibraltar... all the school stuff, football driving around etc etc, she left me 1 year ago, leaving me with nothing, no house etc, I live in my van and tent, I am 53 years of age, I can't claim anything... Please Help, yes I am from the UK.
James Turner - Mon 19th Aug 2013
My ex employer gave me a redundancy check as part of an ERE and I had a full time contract. The check was accompanied with my recibo de nomina etc in the proper fashion. The company is still in business and is very profitable with no further problems. The porblem is i misplaced the check for a while and after I found it again it was beyond the 15 days validity of a cheque. My ex emploter refuses to exchange the cheque for a valid one and i saying they no longer have to pay the redundancy amount due which was part of my final salary payment. I have no desire to claim against the ERE I just want the outstanding payment paid
Surprised - Fri 9th Aug 2013
can anyone tell me about taking your paid holidays in spain, i have asked for a week off and gave 3 weeks notice at work my employer has now said that i can only take 6 days and in future no holidays between june and september who can decide this me or him or is it agreed between us?
Natalie - Mon 17th Jun 2013
I did have a legal contract of employment, part time only, although not showing as many hours as I actually did work, so will do as you have suggested and contact my local OMIC office. Hopefully I will get a good result. Jacqueline
Jacqueline Oneill - Thu 21st Feb 2013
Jacqueline : If you had legal contract of employment the your local OMIC office would be a good place to start. If not, you have little chance of ever seeing the money you are owed.
Tumbit - Admin - Wed 20th Feb 2013
I was let go from my job in June 2012 after 10 years due to the recession and lack of money available for my salary. I only worked part time, although paid all my due salary, because of the situation my boss still owes me nearly 3000 euros in indemnization. How can I claim this from him, he continues to work in the same field himself, but just alone now and I now that he is getting money from the work. He refuses now to answer my emails or phone calls, althuogh initially he did as he needed info from me to continue with the work and he always promised to pay me, which it now seems he is not going to do. Can you help?
Jacqueline - Wed 20th Feb 2013
Hi there I'm English, have worked in Spain for 5 years with the same company . Can you tell me am I entiteled to coffee and lunch breaks in an 8 hour day ?? And if my boss changes my hours about (start, finish) do I have to agree or can they just do it regardless of my life outside work ? I feel like a bit of constructive dismissal may be on the cards for me, as they are in a bad way financialy too. Thanks for any advice ...
Hannha - Mon 22th Oct 2012
Sharon, unfortunately this is the way it is in Spain. They know full well that if you went to court to uphold your contract, which the court would do, it would take years to get there. At which point the school business would probably of closed anyway. Small employers in Spain will always play the system to their advantage. This is why there is so much protest over employee rights at the moment. Employers and businesses hold all the cards in Spain. They rip people off then sail away into the sunset with their riches... Just google the MacAnthony scandle in Malaga over furniture packs!
Ed Bishop - Sat 28th Jul 2012
Hi Mr Grumpy, love the name !! Its a Private School, I feel sad they are able to mistreat the people without whom they wouldn't have a school !!!!! I just want what I work very hard for ! So I too am Grumpy!
Sharon - Fri 27th Jul 2012
Sharon, I'm not sure it makes a difference anyway, but I was just wondering if this is a State or Private School ?
Mr Grumpy - Fri 27th Jul 2012
Hi Ed ,thank you for your reply , So basicaly im in a no win situation! Unlike the UK, where if a job you have taken for a wage you have accepted no longer is available, like my job is now. Then my school can chop and change at whim, and for ever if they choose! Where as in the uk if the job you accepted is no longer available to you, then you are offered an alternative or made redundent, why and how can spain get away with this .? Thank you . And i havent signed anything but also i have no proof they have cut my money other than a bank statement.
Sharon - Fri 27th Jul 2012
Hi Sharon - First and foremost, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING! If you sign your nomina at the reduced rate, it mean you are agreeing with the situation. If at a later date they decide to get rid of you, they will only pay you redundancy for the reduced amount they have been paying. They can continue to pay you the reduced rate for as long as they like. If you resign, you are entitled to nothing. You MUST discuss with them alternatives. It maybe the case that they could declare you redundant if you waive your redundancy entitlements. This way you will still be able to claim state benefits as long as you have made suitable contributions.
Ed Bishop - Fri 27th Jul 2012
I Have been working at a school for almost five years, with a full contract. But in the last few months it has become known that they have financial problems, on a massive scale ! We have all (two days before pay day) been put on half pay, with the promise to pay us back in August, however this is not looking like the case ! How long can they do this for ? I am the only bread winner in the house ! Can it go on like this forever ? What (if any) are my rights ? I need help and fast !!!!! If i ask to be let go, what are my entitelments ?
Sharon - Fri 27th Jul 2012
very good info, it answered my questions and doubts, thanks
Eli - Fri 25th Nov 2011
It is sad, and upsetting when you are in this situation, but as you say you are not on a contract I assume this means that you are woking 'In the Black' and are therefore working illegally and not paying Social Security contributions ? If this is the case there isn't a lot that you can do about it unfortunately.
Jo Green - Thu 8th Sep 2011
I have been working with my employer for just under a year. I was sacked the other week for having a sip of an alcoholic drink which was paid for by a customer. After my employer sacked me he decided to brand me a thief so he didn't have to pay my wages. I have been looking into my rights on line and as it turns out I am able to take him to court. I dont want it to go this far as I need the money asap as going back to england. I am currently in the process of getting my wages back by negotiating with his solicitor. I'm due another meeting with him this week and I would like to know what I am entitled to. I am not working on contract, he fines the employees (deducts money from wages for all sorts of reason, unclean bar, lateness ect..) he has destroyed my reputation by branding me a thief when the drink was paid for and I am now unable to get another job, he has left me in a very bad situation as I now have no money to pay my rent also. Any advice would be apprecited.
Sb - Wed 7th Sep 2011
Clare : Assuming it is a fully legal contract, then there should be some provision for compensation of some kind, but it would be difficult to give accurate advice without seeing the document. I would recommend that you either spoke with a Lawyer, or approached OMIC who may be able to better advise you.
Tumbit - Admin - Thu 14th Jul 2011
I have worked for the same employer teaching, on a fixed September-June contract for the last three years (although I was only given a written contract for two). Now my employer says that I have been 'stressed' and doesn't want to re-employ me next year. I think if she did so, she would have to make my contract permenant by Spanish law. Can she terminate my contract without any compensation, or holiday pay? Your advice would be appreciated Clare
Clare - Thu 14th Jul 2011
Janine, it would really be difficult to say without knowing the exact details of your contract, how long you have been off sick for, or your reasons for being away from work. I believe that the law is on your side here, however, I would strongly suggest that you spoke with a Spanish Lawyer who is experienced in these matters.
Tumbit - Admin - Mon 20th Dec 2010
This was very helpful.I have worked 3 years for same company.Iam on the sick now due to nervous brekdown..i have been told my boss can sack me ..i do wonder if this is true???
Janine Kay - Sun 19th Dec 2010
Armando, Our understanding that the minimum requirement is that you should have worked and paid your contributions in Spain for a minimum of 15 years, of which at least 2 of those years should have been in the last 15 years.
Tumbit - Admin - Fri 23rd Jul 2010
Can you please tell me if I get a Pension as I have payed 10 years stamps and will be 65 years next year .
Armando Uberti - Fri 23rd Jul 2010