Home Working in Spain Labor Law Maternity and paternity leave in Spain
Last update on 21/08/2023
Ruth Vargas Written by Ruth Vargas

Learn about maternity and paternity leave in Spain, including how much you are entitled to, how to apply for it, and your rights when returning to work.

Maternity and paternity leave in Spain is on the more generous side when compared to other countries in Europe. And after recent changes to the country’s labor law, parents have even more options than before. This includes paid and unpaid leave, flexible time off, and adjusted working schedules. Moreover, they may qualify for tax deductions and other family benefits if they meet certain criteria.

So, if you are planning to have a baby in Spain, this article outlines everything you need to know about maternity and paternity leave, including:

Spanish labor law

Spain has several labor laws which protect employees. This includes laws on anti-discrimination, minimum wages, workplace safety, job protection, paid leave, and temporary disability benefits.

Typically, new hires must complete a probationary period of three months, and give at least 15 days’ notice if they plan to leave a job. There are also labor courts to solve disputes between employees and employers if mediation does not work.

hands holding baby feet

Spanish labor law also covers maternity and paternity leave. And fortunately for new parents living in the country, it ranked in 13th place in 2022 among the best countries in the world for paid maternity leave. Moreover, Spain grants equal amounts of time off for mothers and fathers, along with options to extend parental leave.

How long is maternity leave in Spain?

Currently, maternity leave in Spain lasts for 16 weeks for a single child. During this time, the mother will receive 100% of her salary. Two weeks are also added if the baby has a disability. Similarly, two weeks are added for the birth of twins or triplets. Adoptive and foster parents are also eligible for paid leave.

Parents must take the first six weeks off after the child is born and cannot postpone this. Maternity leave starts the day the baby is born. You can take the remaining 10 weeks all at once, or split it throughout the child’s first year. Whatever you choose, you should discuss your plans with your employer so they can prepare for your absence. It is important to note that they cannot deny you this time off.

Once your baby is born, you can submit an online application for maternity leave in Spain. You will have to provide documentation, such as your ID and your child’s birth certificate. The company you work for will also have to verify that you work there and how long you have worked there.

How long is paternity leave in Spain?

Until January 2021, fathers did not receive the same benefits as mothers in Spain. Paternity leave was much shorter, and there was no option to extend it beyond twelve weeks. However, the law was changed that year to make paternity leave the same as maternity leave. This became a single benefit, which is known as nacimiento y cuidado del menor (birth and care of a minor).

Fathers now have the same options as mothers. For instance, they have the right to take paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child for up to 16 weeks. Similar to mothers, they can choose to take this leave uninterrupted, intermittently, or with a part-time working schedule.

Is it possible to share parental leave?

Unfortunately, paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave are non-transferable in Spain. This means that one parent cannot “share” some of their leave with the other parent.

In the past, paid leave could be shared, but because both parents are now offered the same amount of time, they no longer have that option.

Unpaid parental leave in Spain

Once your 16 weeks of maternity leave is over, you have the option to apply for excedencia sin sueldo (unpaid parental leave). This allows parents to take leave from work for up to three years to care for their children and then return to the same employer.

Excedencia sin sueldo can be taken consecutively for the full three years, or intermittently. However, it is important to be aware that it is only available until the child turns three.

maternity leave in Spain: a woman sitting near a baby

Notably, you have the right to a new period of leave for each new child. This means that if you have a baby within those three years, the first period of leave ends, and you start a new period of leave, for up to three years.

Your position can be held for up to a year. After this period, your employer is not required to hold your same position but can offer you a similar one. Therefore, it is a good idea to let them know about your plans as soon as possible and to keep an open line of communication with them during your time off.

If you decide that you want to extend your parental leave, you should let your employer know at least 15 days from the date that you were supposed to return to work.

Notably, when both parents work, only one of them can apply for extended unpaid leave. The other must either return to work or lose the right for their position to be held.

Parental leave for self-employed workers

If you are self-employed, or what the Spanish refer to as an autónomo, you are also entitled to maternity or paternity leave. However, there are a few differences. For instance, you are eligible for 16 weeks of paid leave. However, you must have made social security contributions for a certain period of time, as follows:

  • For parents under the age of 21, there is no minimum contribution period required
  • Parents between the ages of 21 and 26 must have contributed at least 90 days in the last seven years prior to childbirth, or 180 days in their entire working life
  • Parents who are 26 or older must have contributed at least 180 days in the last seven years prior to childbirth, or 360 days in their entire working life

Notably, freelancers are exempt from paying their monthly social security contributions during maternity or paternity leave.

a father feeding his baby a bottle on his lap as he works on his laptop in his home office
Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

The amount you will need to contribute each month is based on your income, which is known as the base reguladora. And the amount of pay you will receive during your leave is based on your base reguladora reported in the six months prior. In other words, you will receive an amount that is equal to your estimated income.

Returning to work

Upon returning from maternity or paternity leave, a freelancer can request an 80% discount on the monthly contribution requirement for up to 24 months. They are also eligible for a tax deduction of up to €1,200 per year until the child turns three. However, it is important to note that freelancers are not eligible for excedencia sin sueldo.

It is important to remember to apply for maternity or paternity leave at least 15 days before the start date of your leave. You can complete and submit the application online.

Parental leave for unemployed parents

Parents who are unemployed and receiving unemployment benefits in Spain can also apply for parental leave. The application is the same. However, they cannot receive unemployment benefits during this time, and it will only resume once the parental leave ends. Notably, you have 15 days to reactivate your unemployment benefits once your parental leave ends.

When applying for parental leave, you must request a suspension of your unemployment benefits. The amount you will receive during parental leave is based on the amount you were receiving for the unemployment benefit.

If a parent still finds themself unemployed after their unemployment benefits run out, they can apply for a subsidio extraordinario por desempleo (extraordinary unemployment subsidy). This financial assistance is available to individuals with family responsibilities. It enables families to receive €480 monthly for a maximum of six months. Notably, families that fall below the minimum vital income are also eligible for it.

Returning to work in Spain

As mentioned, you have the option to extend your maternity or paternity leave after the initial 16 weeks is over by applying for excedencia sin sueldo. However, just keep in mind that this is unpaid and that you have the right for your position to be held for up to a year.

Alternatively, you can decide to take the remaining leave by working only part-time, after the mandatory six-week leave period is up.

Is it possible to adjust your work schedule?

Until your child turns 12, you also have the option to reduce the number of hours you work. However, a reduction in hours will also mean a reduction in pay.

If you choose to do this, you will have to let your employer know the start and end date of your part-time schedule. Notably, an employer cannot deny your request to work fewer hours due to child-rearing responsibilities.

maternity leave in Spain: a woman breastfeeding her baby

When you are ready to return to work, you must give your employer 15 days’ notice. After returning to work, both parents have the right to miss work for one hour for el cuidado del lactante (the care of a nursing baby). This is an hour that you are permitted to take off work each day; whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, during the first nine months of your baby’s life. This does not affect your salary. Once your child turns nine months old, you can still take this hour off, but it will be unpaid. You can continue doing this until the child turns one.

You should notify your employer in writing at least 15 days prior to beginning your modified schedule. Notably, they cannot deny this and must accommodate your schedule. If there are multiple births, you are able to take two hours off daily. Alternatively, you can wait for these hours to add up so you can take days off at a time. These are all arrangements that need to be made directly with your employer.

Parental support in Spain

Depending on your situation, you may qualify for family or child benefits in Spain.

Families that earn below the ingreso mínimo vital (minimum vital income) can apply for this. You can check if you qualify for it by using the minimum vital income simulator. The amount you will receive will be the difference between your actual income and the minimum vital income.

Recipients of this benefit who have minors in their care are also eligible for a monthly supplement for each child. This is called the complemento de ayuda a la infancia. This is a child support supplement of between €57 and €115 for each child. The amount you will receive will depend on the age of the child.

Until the child turns three, parents are also eligible to receive a tax deduction of up to €1,200 a year for each child as long as they are not receiving the child support supplement. However, only one parent can claim this deduction.

There are also additional benefits for families with special circumstances, such as single-parent households or children with disabilities.

What to do if your employer refuses to grant you parental leave

Parental leave is the right of any worker in Spain. As long as you give proper notice, your employer cannot refuse to grant you leave or an adjusted work schedule. However, if both parents work at the same company, then the employer is only obligated to grant one parent parental leave.

If you have a dispute with your employer, you can take this matter to a labor court. However, before doing so, you must attempt mediation. Each comunidad autonoma (autonomous community) in Spain has its own office for mediation services, which is free of charge. You can submit a request at your local office for mediation.

Notably, it is advisable to find a lawyer who specializes in labor law in your area to assist in this process. If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, your case will then be taken to a labor court to be heard before a judge.

Useful resources

  • Fundación Sima – provides information about the mediation procedure in Spain
  • Gobierno de Espańa – the Spanish government website which provides information about all types of family benefits in the country
  • Gobierno de Espańa – the government website which outlines the country’s labor law