Spanish labour laws

Spanish labour laws

Home Working in Spain Employment Law Spanish labour laws
Last update on July 31, 2018

A guide to 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

The organisation of working time (maximum weekly or daily working hours, rest time during the working day, annual holidays, public holidays, paid leave and overtime) is regulated by Law (Statute of Workers’ Rights); the working day is regulated by agreement between workers’ and employers’ organisations or in contracts.

The normal working hours must average 40 hours per week maximum of actual work, calculated on an annual basis.

The actual number of normal working hours may never exceed nine per day unless a collective agreement or an agreement between the company and workers’ representatives establishes a different distribution of daily working time, which must, in any event, respect the rest time between working days.

Employees under 18 years of age may not do more than eight hours of actual work per day, including hours allotted to training, where applicable, and the hours worked for different employers if they work for more than one employer.

Working hours may be distributed irregularly throughout the year under the terms of a collective agreement or an agreement between the company and the workers’ representatives provided the minimum periods of daily and weekly rest are respected.

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Rest time

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.

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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.

Unpaid leave

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.

Sick leave

This protects a 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 temporary invalidity

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.

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