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Employment Law in Spain

Spain is made up of 17 regions or “autonomous communities”. While some powers are decentralised to the regions, employment legislation is primarily national in scope, though there are regional differences in areas such as public holidays and some social security benefits.

The most important item of employment legislation is the Workers’ Statute (Estatuto de los Trabajadores), which regulates many aspects of individual and collective employment relations. Other laws, decree-laws and decrees deal with a number of related matters, such as health and safety, trade unions, strikes, special types of employment contract/relationship, social security, training and temporary agency work. The Workers’ Statute does not apply to certain categories of worker, who are instead covered by specific legislation: as well as groups such as domestic servants, professional sportspeople, actors and certain doctors and lawyers, these include senior managers.

The Workers’ Statute and the various other employment-related statutes are collected, for administrative convenience, in a single Labour and Social Security Code (Código Laboral y de la Seguridad Social). Outside the scope of this Code, legislation in areas such as equality/non-discrimination and data protection/privacy are also relevant to the employment relationship. Case law, especially that of the Supreme Court, plays a significant role in interpreting employment-related legislation.

Pay and conditions for a majority of Spanish employees are set by collective agreements, which are signed mainly at industry level for a particular geographical area (in a number of specified subject areas, such as pay, the provisions of company-level agreements take precedence over those of industry-level agreements). The general rule is that collective agreements cannot provide for employment conditions that are less advantageous for employees than statute, and that individual employment contracts cannot provide for employment conditions that are less advantageous for employees than either statute or an applicable collective agreement. In the event of any conflict between sources of regulation, the provisions that are most advantageous for the employee must be applied.

This topic refers to employment law in the private sector only.

Temporary COVID-19 Crisis Measures (as at 15 May 2020)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spanish government has taken a number of temporary measures affecting some of the issues dealt with in this topic. For example:

  • objective reasons related to the COVID-19 crisis are not legitimate grounds for dismissal (see Dismissal for Objective Reasons) and the crisis cannot be treated as a “force majeure” event that terminates the employment contract (see Other Forms of Termination)

  • employees have enhanced rights to request adaptations to their working hours and patterns, and working time reductions (see Normal Hours)

  • certain employees who do not work in essential services and cannot work at home may be obliged to take “recoverable” paid time off that they will have to work to make up in future.

Employment Law in Spain: Quick Facts
  • During recruitment and selection, employers may obtain or seek only information that is relevant to the candidate’s suitability for the job in question, and proportional in the circumstances. Recruitment and Selection

  • The maximum permitted duration of a probationary period is generally two to six months, depending on the circumstances. Recruitment and Selection

  • Apart from citizens of other EEA countries, foreign nationals generally require both a work and residence permit and a work visa in order to be employed in Spain. Recruitment and Selection

  • An employment contract exists where a person performs a service for another party, within the scope of that party’s organisation and direction, and receives remuneration in exchange. Employment Contracts

  • Fixed-term contracts may be used only in circumstances defined by statute and their duration is subject to limits. Employment Contracts

  • While changes to the employment contract normally require the agreement of both parties, legislation allows the employer to unilaterally amend some terms and conditions under certain conditions. Employment Contracts

  • Employers must pay employees at least once a month, in cash or by cheque or bank transfer, and must provide detailed payslips and observe rules on deductions from pay. There is a national minimum wage. Pay and Benefits

  • Employees’ normal working time must not generally exceed nine hours a day or 40 hours a week (calculated as an annual average). Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Employees must be granted minimum rest breaks and daily and weekly rest periods (usually including Sundays), and are entitled to 30 calendar days of paid annual leave. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Working parents are entitled to take maternity leave (generally 16 weeks), paternity leave (12 weeks) and unpaid parental leave (up to three years). Employees can also benefit from other types of leave and working-time reduction to provide care and deal with family and personal matters. Parenthood and Work-life Balance

  • Discrimination in relation to employment is prohibited on numerous grounds including sex, maternity, marital status, age, racial or ethnic origin, social condition, religion or belief, political ideas, sexual orientation, trade union membership/non-membership, language and disability. Women and men must receive equal pay for the same work or work of equal value. Equality and Discrimination

  • Sexual harassment and harassment on the grounds of the protected characteristics are prohibited, and employers must establish procedures to prevent harassment and deal with complaints. Equality and Discrimination

  • Most employees have their pay and conditions set by collective agreements. Employees have a right to join trade unions, and representative unions have various collective bargaining and representation entitlements. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • Employees in companies or establishments with 11 or more employees are entitled to elect representatives with various information, consultation and other rights. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • Employers have numerous detailed duties in the field of health and safety at work. Occupational Health and Safety

  • In companies or establishments with six or more employees, “prevention delegates” represent the workforce in OHS matters. Occupational Health and Safety

  • An employer can legitimately dismiss an employee for “objective” or disciplinary reasons, and can collectively dismiss employees for economic, technical, organisational or production reasons. Specific procedures and rules apply to each type of dismissal. Termination of Employment

  • A dismissed employee may challenge their dismissal in a labour court on the grounds that it was unfair or null and void. Termination of Employment

  • The only case in which statute obliges either party to give notice of termination of an indefinite-term contract is where the employer dismisses the employee for objective reasons. Termination of Employment

  • When there is a business transfer, employees’ employment contracts are automatically transferred to the new employer. Other Key Issues

  • Employees have a right to receive vocational training from their employer, in order to adapt them to changes at the workplace and to increase their employability. Other Key Issues