Madre law: A mother's rights in the workplace
Lawyer Mònica Tornadijo Sabaté and KidsInBarcelona.com explain how Spain's employment laws can work in the favour of new mothers who are returning to work.
If you are the mother of a young baby returning to work, it is important to know how employment laws can work in your favour, say KidsInBarcelona.com and lawyer Mònica Tornadijo Sabaté, a specialist in women's employment rights. Options for new mums may not be that favourable compared with some other European nations, but without a basic knowledge of your rights you may miss out on precious time with your new born that is legally yours.
Combining feeding a young baby with commitments at work can be a trying and confusing time for many women. And, as some working mothers discover, financial information on tax rebates and social security payments is not always readily volunteered.
Many mothers have doubts over their legal rights and how employment laws apply to them when returning to the workplace. It is extremely important that women are made aware of these rights, especially those that aim to support breastfeeding during a child's first months of life.
According to statistics more than 84 percent of women in Catalunya breastfeed during the first months of their baby's life. This number falls to 23 percent at six months. The majority of women cease to breastfeed when their baby reaches four months which corresponds with the end of the 16 week statutory maternity leave and the subsequent return to work.
It appears that the return to work is the primary reason for women discontinuing breastfeeding for the minimum time periods recommend by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.
Mothers (and sometimes fathers) have specific employment rights, especially during the initial period following birth. These include the entitlement to a reduced working day, extended maternity leave for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, as well as for the care of premature children.
Maternity leave in Spain
Permiso de Maternidad is the standard maternity leave in Spain that entitles women to a 16-week period away from work. This rises to 18 weeks for twins and 20 weeks in the case of triplets. For children with disabilities there is an additional two weeks.
Also, if you have to take time off whilst pregnant for medical reasons, you are still entitled to the 16 weeks maternity leave after your child is born.
Ten of these standard 16 weeks may actually be taken by the baby's father. The mother, however, must take at least the first six weeks of entitlement. It is also possible to use the 16 weeks in combination with a part-time working timetable or even add holiday time that you are due in order to extend your leave.
For mothers of premature babies or where a baby has to remain in hospital for more than seven days following the birth, standard maternity leave can be extended for up to 13 weeks.
Although many women find employers less than understanding, during the pregnancy itself, expectant mothers are entitled to time off work for medical examinations and other ante-natal care.
The Reduced Working Day
The Reducción de Jornada is an ongoing entitlement for mothers caring for children up to eight years of age. For this to count officially, the hours worked must represent at least an eighth and at most a half of the normal working day.
Salaries are then reduced accordingly. As a working mother, you have the right to choose between working less hours each day or the week or taking full days off at a time.
Unpaid Maternity Leave
Excedencia sin sueldo offers the right to take extended leave from work for up to a maximum of three years in total for a mother to care for her children and still return to the same employer. You can request that your exact post be held for a maximum of one year, after which you may be offered a similar post.
During this absence you will still be recognised as contributing to the social security system. You do not need to agree the time period with your employer beforehand and legally you are required to give two weeks notice before returning to your post.
Nursing and bottle-feeding
La hora de lactancia is the right, whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, to one hour per day leave from work during the first nine months of your baby's life. This does not affect your salary. If your baby is premature, this nine-month period starts from Week 40 of your pregnancy.
There are three possible options for using this "feeding hour". You can choose to take one hour off during the working day (this can be divided into two half-hour periods), arrive at work half an hour later and leave half an hour sooner or take the entire one-hour entitlement in one go, adding them into full days in order to extend your maternity leave.
Both the mother and the father can use this one-hour entitlement. It also applies if you are acting as legal guardian or have adopted a child. If, for example, you have added your month's holiday entitlement to your 16 weeks of statutory maternity leave, you would then calculate the one-hour periods for the remaining time until the baby is nine months old.
For twins and triplets, the one-hour entitlement is multiplied to two hours, three hours, etc.
In some cases the hora de lactancia is used to breastfeed a child directly, while in others it’s a time generally used to extract milk to provide the baby later and to maintain a mother's milk supply.
Every case should be treated individually and much of what you choose to do will be in negotiation with your employer. Certain jobs may necessitate you to take this hour in one extended leave period as it would be impractical for you to leave your position at other times during the day.
Tax and self-employment
In Spain, working mothers are entitled to a payment of EUR 100 per month or a tax rebate for EUR 1,200 at the end of the year for the first three years of their child's life.
Self-employed mothers, Autonomas, are also exempt from paying their monthly Social Security contributions of approximately EUR 240 during a period of two years. This two-year exemption can be delayed for up to one year after the birth of your child.
Monica Tornadijo Sabate / KidsInBarcelona / Expatica
Mònica Tornadijo Sabaté is an Employment Rights lawyer specialising in legal matters that reconcile the workplace and family life. She has held many conferences on the subject of working mother’s rights and is currently President of La lliga de la Llet (The Leche League) of Catalunya. She is also a member of the AEMI, Spanish Infant Massage Association.
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