Labor laws and employee rights in Spain

Spanish labor laws regulate working hours, set the minimum wage, promote better working conditions, prevent wrongful termination, and more.


5 minute read
Updated on 31 Jul 2023

Knowing labor laws is crucial if you already work in Spain or plan on finding a job here. These laws ensure that you receive a fair wage, regulate working hours, promote better working conditions, prevent wrongful termination, and much more. So if you’ve questions about any of these, read this guide which will cover:

  • Spain Labor Law
  • Work Visa in Spain
  • Employment Contracts
  • Working hours in Spain
  • Holidays in Spain
  • Other types of paid leave in Spain
  • Sick Leave in Spain
  • Minimum Wage in Spain
  • Termination of work contracts in Spain

The right to work in Spain as a foreigner

Spain welcomes a lot of international workers. In 2021, Foreign-born employment accounted for 21% of the total working population of Spain.

  • To work as a foreigner in Spain, you might need a visa, depending on your country of origin.

  • Any EU, EAA (European Economic Area), and Switzerland citizen can work in Spain without any visa. This means they can easily take up replaceable jobs like bartending or office assistant.

  • Non-EU expats need to have an employment contract in Spain before they can apply for a work visa and work permit.

  • UK citizens who became legal residents of Spain before 1 January 2021 don’t need a work visa. But post-Brexit, you’ll need a work visa.

It’s important to note that finding a work sponsor's often difficult for non-EU workers because employers have to convince the Spanish government that they can’t find EU citizens who can do the work. This means you have to find a job as a high-skilled immigrant or a shortage worker.

There’re 5 different types of work visas you can apply for in Spain.

  1. Employee Visa
  2. Seasonal Work Visas
  3. EU Blue Card
  4. Self-employed and freelance visa
  5. Au Pair Visa

Keep in mind that each work visa has different requirements. So make sure you know all the details and timelines before applying.

Work Contracts in Spain

Contracts can be verbal and written in Spain. But according to the employment law in Spain, temporary employment contracts, part-time contracts, and internships contracts have to be in writing.

Written contracts provide more certainty for both parties, making it easier to protect your rights. You can request a written contract from your employer.

If you’re older than 18, you can sign an employment contract. If you're between the ages of 16 and 18, you must have permission from your family to work. Legally you can’t work if you’re younger than 16.

Types of employment contracts in Spain:

  1. Indefinite contracts

Indefinite contracts are the most common type in Spain. They don’t have an end date. Indefinite contracts are hard to break and include severance payment (a payment you receive if you leave the company involuntary). There’re also indefinite contracts specifically for people with disabilities. They usually have many incentives, such as tax benefits.

  1. Work experience contracts

Work experience contracts are temporary contracts. They should last a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 2 years. To be eligible for this type of contract, you've to have either a university degree or vocational qualifications in the last 4 years.

  1. Training contracts

If you’re aged between 16 and 21 and aren’t eligible for work experience contracts, you can get training contracts. Same as work experience contracts, their duration's from 6 months to 2 years.

  1. Temporary contracts

You’ll receive a temporary contract when you’re hired for specific temporary projects. You can only have a temporary contract of 6 months in one year.

Typical Spanish employment contract template will include the following details:

  • Your and your employer’s name
  • Working hours
  • Location of work
  • Probationary period
  • Contract duration
  • Holiday days
  • Salary and compensations paid over 14 or 12 months
  • Confidentiality clauses
  • Notice periods
  • Severance pay in case of an indefinite contract

Working Hours in Spain

  • Full-time work's considered as 40 hours per week. Any overtime should be stated in your contract.
  • Those who work on night shifts (between 10 p.m and 6 a.m) receive higher per-hour payments.
  • Overtime work cannot exceed more than 80 hours per year.
  • It’s mandatory to take a minimum of 1.5 days off per week.
  • You can take a 15 min break after every 6 hours of work in a day.

If you’re younger than 18, there’re special laws for underage employees

  • You can’t work more than 8 hours per day.
  • You’re entitled to a 30 min break after working 4.5 hours in a day.
  • You’re required to take 2 days off in a row per week.
  • You cannot work night shifts.

Holidays in Spain

Spaniards love to socialise, and it’s important for them to have a healthy balance between work and life. So annual paid holiday leave is 22 working days (30 calendar days) for a full-time employee. You can take your leave either in one go or have them spread out.

Keep in mind that you won’t receive compensation for unused vacation days.

You’ll also have a day off during the national and regional holidays. Regional holidays change depending on where you live but you can check them on the website of your local autonomous community.

If the public holiday's on Sunday, you’ll have a day off next Monday.

There’re also different types of paid leave available depending on your situation:

Sick leave in Spain

If you’re feeling sick or can’t work temporarily for medical reasons, you can take a paid sick leave. But for this, you’ll need to have a medical examination and get a certificate from State Health Services.

If you take sick leave for more than 4 days, you’ll receive compensation. You’ll receive 60% of your salary up to 20 sick days. If you need more than 20 days, then social security ( Sistema Nacional de la Seguridad Social) will pay 75% of your salary.

Minimum Wage in Spain

Spain has the 7th highest minimum wage (Salario Mínimo Interprofesional) out of 22 European Countries. As of 2022, the minimum wage in Spain's €8.45 per hour.

You’re entitled to receive minimum wage in Spain regardless of age, gender, contract, or race.

Some things to note:

  • Salaries in Spain are typically paid out 14 times, with the 2 additional payments in July and December. In this case, your minimum wage per month will be €1,080.

  • Students taking internship roles don’t receive minimum wage. The compensation package for student interns includes a max of €300 for travel and food.

  • If you’ve graduated but are doing an internship, you’re entitled to minimum wage.

Termination of work contracts in Spain

Labor Law states that to terminate a work contract in Spain, both employees and employers must give written notice at least 15 days in advance. If termination's mutually agreed upon, then you don’t have to stick to the 15-day rule.


You can resign from your work anytime. You can do this by giving written notice to your employer at least 15 days in advance.

If the reason for your departure is 1.) non-agreed working conditions, 2.) changing working conditions, 3.) change of the resident country then you might be eligible for compensation.

Termination during the trial period

Both parties can terminate the employment contract during the probationary period without notice.

Termination of an indefinite contract

After the probationary period, the employment law in Spain allows employers to end the contract for 3 reasons:

  1. Objective dismissal (extinción del contrato por causas objetivas): When an employee can’t fulfil work duties as stated in the contract. If the employer was aware of the employee’s lack of skills during the trial period, then the employer can’t terminate the contract on objective dismissal grounds.

    If a worker can’t perform because of technical changes (such as a change in use of machinery) in the workplace, then the employer has to give 2 months adaptation period to the employee.

  2. Disciplinary dismissal (despido disciplinario): When an employee violates their work contract (always coming to work late, unnotified absence, etc.), engages in inappropriate physical or verbal altercations, damages the work property, etc.

  3. Collective dismissal (Despido Collective ): When the company needs to layoff many employees on economic grounds.

If your contract ended on objective or collective dismissal grounds, then you’re entitled to severance pay of 20 days’ pay per year of service up to 12 months (subject to change).

Wrongful termination

Its illegal for an employer to dismiss an employee while pregnant or on sick leave. If you think they fired you wrongfully, you can file a complaint at the Labor Court.

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