This guide explains what you need to know about the Spanish social security system: who has to pay, how much, what benefits you can claim and how to apply.
According to the Spanish government, in September 2015 there were 1.6 million foreigners registered with the Spanish social security system. Almost a million were from outside the EU and just over a quarter of a million were self-employed in Spain.
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Who must pay social security in Spain?
If you are working for an employer in Spain you must pay Spanish taxes and be registered with the Spanish Social Security service and – this registration is valid for life – and pay contributions into the Spanish social security system in order to access its benefits. As a general rule, you must be employed and be paying contributions in order to be covered for illness, injuries and accidents at work, unemployment, and maternity and paternity leave, although some periods of time off may be allowed.
If you are self-employed (autónomo) you must pay Spanish taxes and contributions into a state scheme especially for the self-employed, which offers the same benefits apart from unemployment or work-related illness and accidents benefit; you must make your own arrangements for these (check social security insurances or private insurers).
The overall rate for social security in Spain is very high at around 38% but for most people, the employer pays the majority of the cost.
The overall rate for social security in Spain is high, with contributions set at 28.3% but, for most people, the employer pays the majority of the cost.
Self-employed have to pay their own Spanish contributions in full, albeit at a lower total percentage.
If you (or a close family member) have been paying social security contributions in another EU country for two full years before coming to Spain you may be covered for healthcare. Contact the social security authorities in the EU country to find out if you are entitled to this and if so, for documentation to prove it – you will need to show it to your local National Institute of Social Security (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social – INSS).
Cost of Spanish social security and how to apply
Employees and social security in Spain
If you’re an employee, your employer will register you with the Spanish Social Security authorities (Tresorería General de la Seguridad Social or TGSS) and insurance scheme, and share the cost of insurance contributions with you.
Although there are special social security schemes for certain categories (such as military staff and civil servants), most workers fall into the ‘general regime’.
There are official minimum and maximum ‘contribution bases’ for different types of work and qualifications. For example, engineers, university graduates and senior management staff have a minimum contribution base (ie. the amount the percentage share is based on) of €1,152.90 per month while administrative assistants have a minimum monthly contribution base of €825.60. There is a maximum contribution base of €3,751.20 per month overall for most workers.
The standard employee contribution rate is currently 4.7%, 1.55% is unemployment and 0.1% is towards occupational training. For detailed figures on contribution bases and rates, see this information from the Spanish Social Security Office. Your employer will contribute 23.6% toward your social security.
The self-employed and social security in Spain
If you are self-employed (autonomo) and earning more than the annual Spanish minimum wage (€10,303 in 2018), , you will have to pay social security contributions to access healthcare and other benefits in Spain. If you are eligible and don’t pay social security, you won’t get any benefits.
The self-employed come under a special scheme known as the régimen especial trabajadores autónomos. You must pay all of the social security contributions yourself – which means self-employed workers personally pay more than employees’ share – and there is a minimum monthly amount regardless of how much you earn that month. This means you need to have arrangements in place to cover this.
How to apply as self-employed
You must have a social security number, be registered as self-employed with the Spanish tax office, and register with the Spanish Social Security system using the form TA.0521– you can find your local office here. You will need your NIE and passport.
You can also register online but you will need to get an activation code from the TGSS and a digital certificate from a Digital Certificate Registration Office. You must keep them informed of any changes.
The general contribution rate is currently between 26.50% and 29.80%. This works out to a monthly payment of at least €250 per month for most freelancers.
Self-employed workers aged up to 47 years old can choose from contingency contribution bases of between €893.10 and €3,751.20 per month; those aged 48 or over could choose a base between €963.30 and €1.964.70 per month. You may be required to have a higher minimum base if you employ others.
Paying contributions entitle you to healthcare and, after you’ve paid into the scheme for 15 years, a pension. You can pay more than the basic amount to get a higher pension – or choose private pension funds – or make additional contributions to be covered for accidents or sickness at work.
It is sometimes possible to pay less. For example, if you have not registered as an autonomo in the past five years, you can apply for an 80% discount for the first six months, 50% discount for the next six months and 30% discount for the last three months. Those under 30 can benefit from similar discounts. Women returning after maternity can claim 100% discount for 12 months.
For detailed figures on contribution bases and rates, see this table from the Spanish Social Security Office.
How to claim your Spanish social security benefits
In return for paying Spanish security, you can receive:
- free Spanish healthcare
- work-related sickness or injury
- maternity and paternity care, and child allowance
- invalidity benefit
- retirement and pension
Healthcare benefits in Spain
If you are registered to work in Spain and paying social security contributions, then you will be covered for state healthcare.
If you are not, but have been in Spain since before April 2012 and earn less than €100,000 you can register for healthcare as a Spanish resident through your local INSS. You can also access Spanish state healthcare by paying into a special monthly ‘pay-in’ public health insurance scheme (convenio especial); read more about Spanish health insurance. These are run individually by each of the autonomous regions. Monthly fees are €60 for under 65s and EUR 157 for 65+.
Note: once you are resident in Spain you cannot use a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) unless you are a student.
To access state healthcare you need to take along your national health system user’s card (tarjeta de usuario del Sistema National de Salud).
For more information, see Expatica’s articles on healthcare in Spain.
Sickness cash benefit in Spain
If you have been paying social security contributions for a total of 180 days within the previous five years and cannot work due to illness or accident you can claim sickness cash benefits (sick pay) for up to 365 days (plus a further 180 days on the recommendation of a doctor).
You get 60% of the monthly contribution base for 20 days and 75% after that. You access sickness cash benefit by giving a medical certificate to your employer, or the INSS if you are self-employed.
Maternity care, maternity benefit and child benefit in Spain
Employees and some self-employed women are eligible for paid maternity leave (Permiso de la Maternidad) from the date of the birth (and occasionally before) or the official decision on adoption or fostering.
You will be paid a daily amount, which will be 100% of your average daily wage in the month before maternity leave started, for 16 continuous weeks.
Unless you are under 21 years old, you must have paid social security contributions for a specific period beforehand, for example, women over 26 years must have paid at least 180 days in the past seven years or for 360 days in all your working life. Fathers who have paid similar contributions may apply for paternity benefit, which has similar conditions. To apply you need to contact your local INSS.
If your job poses a risk to your pregnancy and you have to leave work, you may be eligible for a maternity risk benefit of up to 100% of your wage, starting from the day the employment contract ends.
After the birth, breastfeeding mothers are eligible for two paid, half-hour daily breaks to either feed or express milk. Both are also accessed through the INSS.
If you are working and/or resident in Spain you may be entitled to a tax rebate of around €100 per month for the first three years of a child’s life; self-employed are exempt from paying social security contributions of about €240 for two years.
For everything you need to know about having a baby in Spain, see Expatica’s comprehensive guide.
Invalidity and other benefits in Spain
If you have a permanent condition that prevents you from working you may be able to claim invalidity benefit. Benefits include pension and rehabilitation. Invalidity benefits are accessed though the Disability Evaluation Board (EVI).
If the condition had a work-related cause then there is no minimum contribution period; if it is not work related then you must have been paying into a scheme for a specific number of years, depending on your age and when you became incapacitated.
You may be able to claim survivors’ benefits if your relative had been paying contributions for at least 500 days in the five years before his or her death. For accidents at work or occupational illness, no prior insurance is required.
All of these benefits can be accessed through the INSS.
Retirement and pension
If you have been paying at least the minimum contributions for at least 15 years, at least two of which were in the 15 years preceding your retirement, and you have reached retirement age (currently 65.5 years if less than 36.5 years of contributions, rising to 67 years if less than 38.5 years of contributions in 2027), you will be eligible for a state pension (minimum amount of €636.10 for a single person, €784.90 for pensioners with a dependent spouse, maximum amount €2567.28 in 2017). To apply you need to complete a pension application form and take it to your local INSS.
For more information
- Tresorería General de la Seguridad Social (TGSS) – the Spanish Social Security office