Learn about Spanish labour laws, including the maximum number of working hours per week and the types of leave you are entitled to while working in Spain.
Standard working hours in Spain
The organisation of working time in Spain (maximum working hours, rest time, annual holidays, public holidays, paid leave and overtime) is regulated by law, and the working day is regulated by agreement between workers’ and employers’ organisations or in contracts.
Some key rules are as follows:
- Full-time workers in Spain must average a maximum of 40 hours per week of work, calculated on an annual basis.
- Workers can’t work for more than nine hours a day unless an agreement is in force
- Employees under 18 can only work for eight hours a day across employers, including training
- Working hours can be distributed unevenly if a collective agreement is in place
Employment contracts in Spain
Spanish employment contracts can be in writing or verbal, though the latter is very unusual. Contracts are sent to the Public State Employment Service within 10 days of coming into force.
The minimum working age in Spain is 16, though permission from parents or guardians is required up to 18 years of age, unless the person is legally emancipated.
When you start a job, you may need to work a probationary period of up to two or six months, depending on your job. Contracts in Spain must include:
- Name of both parties, address of the company
- Start date, job title, details of working hours
- Basic salary and supplements, and details of when they’re paid (monthly, weekly, etc.)
- Number of days holiday and, where applicable, how holiday dates are determined
- Notice period
- Specifics about the job role
Different types of contracts
Indefinite contracts don’t establish a time limit and may be drawn up verbally or in writing for full or part-time agreements.
Temporary contracts may be drawn up in the following circumstances:
- Contract for a specific service: If this exceeds on year, 15 days notice must be given by the employer
- Contract for production contingencies: This contract may not run for more than 6 months within a 12 month period
- Temporary replacement contract: This must specify the worker replaced and the reason for the replacement
These may be agreed with workers aged over 16 and under 21 who lack the qualifications required to draw up a work experience contract.
Some groups may be employed under the terms of a training agreement even though they are over the age limit. This contract must run for at least six months but cannot be longer than two years.
Work experience contracts
The following requirements must be fulfilled in order to enter into this contract:
- The worker must possess University or Vocational Training qualification, or equivalent
- The studies must have been validated in Spain within the last four years (six for disabled workers)
Work experience contracts must run for at least six months but cannot last for longer than two years.
Home-work and part-time contracts
The duration of these contracts may be indefinite or fixed.
In both cases, they must always be drawn up in writing, specifying the place where the services are provided and the duration of the working day.
Changes in contracts
Employers must comply with the requirements and procedures laid down in labour legislation when making changes to contracts.
The worker has the right to terminate his contract if changes are to their detriment and, in such a case, is entitled to receive 20 days’ compensation for each year worked (maximum of nine monthly payments).
Change of duties
A worker may be asked to perform duties of higher or lower categories than those for which they were recruited.
If the duties are of a lower category, the worker must retain the wage for the job carried out previously. If they are of a higher category, the worker must receive the wage corresponding to that category.
If duties in a higher category are carried out for periods in excess of six months in a year or eight months in two years, the worker is entitled to ask for promotion.
If a worker is transferred or moved to another workplace in a different location involving a change of residence, or when there is a move lasting for more than 12 months in a 3 year period, the company must give the worker 30 days’ notice of the move and must provide financial compensation for the costs incurred.
The worker has the right to terminate their contract if they does not consent to the move, and is entitled to receive 20 days’ compensation for each year worked (maximum of 12 monthly payments).
At least 12 hours must elapse between the end of one working day and the start of the following working day. When the duration of the continuous working day exceeds six hours, a rest period of at least 15 minutes must be allowed during the day.
Workers are entitled to a minimum weekly rest time of one and a half uninterrupted days, which generally include Saturday afternoon or, where applicable, Monday morning, and the whole of Sunday.
In the case of workers under 18 years of age, the rest period is a minimum of thirty minutes and must always be allowed when a duration of the continuous working day exceeds four and a half hours. The duration of the weekly rest time for people under 18 is a minimum of two uninterrupted days.
Night work and shift work
All aspects of this work pattern are regulated and subject to time restrictions. Under-18s may not carry out night work (or activities declared to be unhealthy, dangerous or distressing).
Overtime is considered to be hours of work carried out over and above the maximum number of normal working hours.
Workers may work a maximum of 80 hours overtime per year, which does not include overtime compensated with rest time, or work carried out to prevent or repair extraordinary and urgent damage. The latter is obligatory for the worker and must be paid as overtime.
Overtime at night is prohibited, except in duly-specified and expressly authorised special activities. It is also prohibited for people under 18 years of age.
Overtime may be remunerated or compensated for with equivalent paid rest time.
If the worker works for fewer hours per year than the general company working hours, the restriction on hours is reduced proportionally.
Reduction of the working day for family reasons
Workers are entitled to a reduction of their working time, with a proportional reduction in wages, if they are directly responsible for a child under six years of age, people with disabilities or family members in certain specific circumstances.
Holidays may be agreed individually or collectively and may not be less than 30 calendar days. Holidays cannot be replaced by financial compensation. When workers with casual or temporary contracts cannot take the legal minimum holidays because they do not work for the company during holiday periods, they will receive a pro-rata payment for the holidays with their wages.
The holiday schedule is fixed in each company. Workers will be aware of the relevant holiday dates at least two months prior to their commencement, and if there is disagreement they may present a claim to the employment tribunal.
Paid leave is subject to notice and subsequent justification to the company, workers may take paid time off for some of the reasons listed below with the number of days allowed:
- Birth of child or death, accident or serious illness or hospitalisation of relations, two calendar days or four if required to travel.
- Moving house, one day.
- Women are entitled to one hour off work each day for breastfeeding a child under nine months of age, or half an hour if taken at the start or the end of the day. This time off may be taken off either by the mother or the father if they both work.
- Meeting public and private obligations (jury service, appearance in court, etc.), as long as necessary.
- Performing trade union or workers’ representative activities: as established by law or collective agreement.
- In every case, the worker must inform the employer in advance and justify his or her absence to be able to enjoy the right to take time off work.
- Public holidays are set on an annual basis: There are 14 per year, two of which will be local holidays. Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, 1 May (Labour Day) and 12 October (Spanish National Day) will, in any event, be observed as national public holidays. Any public holidays falling on a Sunday will, in any event, be transferred to the Monday immediately following.
For the purposes of labour law, the performance of jury duties is treated as an unavoidable public and personal duty.
This refers to time off work without pay that must be requested by the worker and may be granted at the discretion of the employer but must always be set in an individual or collective agreement. Periods of unpaid leave are not regulated by law.
This protects workers temporarily unable to work and in need of medical assistance due to illness or accident. In such cases the worker will be paid at least 60% income. The employer normally pays the worker this temporary sick pay, and is then reimbursed by the Social Security department. The maximum period of such leave is 18 months, after which the situation must be reviewed.
A worker who is unable to work and in need of medical assistance for any of the following reasons: common illness or work-related illness, accident (whether work-related or not) or periods of observation for occupational diseases is being protected by law and can apply for a temporary invalidity.
Maternity and paternity leave in Spain
Maternity leave for a woman will last 16 uninterrupted weeks, which may be extended by two weeks for multiple births for each child from the second child onward. This period may be taken at the discretion of the person concerned, provided that six weeks fall immediately subsequent to the birth.
Irrespective of this obligatory post-birth time off for the mother, if both parents work, the mother may opt for the father to take a specific uninterrupted portion of the leave subsequent to the birth.
Extended leave of absence
Extended leave of absence means a situation where the employment contract is suspended at the employee’s request and may be either compulsory or voluntary. If it’s the latter, at least one year’s service in the company is required. The right to keep the job is not recognised, but priority is given when there is a vacancy. The duration is between two and five years.
Extended leave of absence to care for members of the family
The maximum duration of three years to care for each child. Employees are also entitled to leave of absence of one year, which may be extended by mutual agreement, to care for a blood relation or relation by marriage up to the second degree or similar, who for reasons of age, accident or illness cannot look after themselves and do not perform paid work.