In this guide, we explain how maternity leave and employment laws in Spain work for new mothers who are returning to their jobs.
Returning to work as a mother in Spain
Options for new mothers in Spain 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 child.
Combining looking after a young baby with commitments at work can be a trying and confusing time for many women. And, as some working mothers discover, information on tax rebates and social security payments is not always readily volunteered.
Mothers (and sometimes fathers) have specific employment rights, especially during the initial period following birth. These include the entitlement to a reduced working day and extended maternity leave for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.
Rights for mothers in Spain
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.
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.
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.
Paternity leave in Spain
A bill passed in July 2018 means fathers are now eligible for five weeks of paid paternity leave, a week longer than previously.
Spain still has some way to go in terms of shared parental leave, though there is a bill pending in parliament that could eventually raise the paid leave entitlement to 16 weeks for mothers and fathers.
If it comes into force, the bill – which will be funded by social security contributions – will impose two weeks’ leave for both parents at birth then 14 further weeks to be taken within a year.
The reduced working day for mothers in Spain
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 fewer hours each day or week, or taking full days off at a time.
Unpaid maternity leave in Spain
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.
This 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.
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 €100 per month or a tax rebate for €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 €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.