Regulating the labour relationship of domestic workers, Spain


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A new regulation covering the working conditions of domestic staff in Spain came into force on 1 January 2012. It affects approximately 700,000 workers, most of whom are women. The new regulation puts household workers on the same level as normal employees in many respects, such as wages and working time. It also offers workers greater social protection by including them in the social security system. The unions have been positive about these measures.



The Decree establishes that there are two issues particular to the sector of household workers, which has historically justified specific and separate regulation.

First, the environment in which the work takes place is the household, an environment associated with personal intimacy and the family. Second, the labour relationship between the householder and the worker is one based primarily on trust, which is not necessarily an element of other working relationships.

As far as the workforce supply is concerned, the most striking characteristic of the sector is the predominance of women, who, according to the Spanish Labour Force Survey (second quarter, 2011), make up 91% of all wage earners. Second, attention must be drawn to the high proportion of foreign workers in the sector.


This regulation seeks to create more dignified employment conditions for workers who perform household services by:

  • establishing more and better rights for workers, applying the general regulation stipulated in the Workers’ Statute and complementary regulations;
  • introducing greater employment stability as a result of eliminating non-causal temporary annual contracts and imposing the rules comprised in the Workers’ Statute relating to temporary recruitment;
  • introducing mechanisms to reinforce transparency concerning matters such as banning discrimination in accessing employment as well as the employer’s obligations as regards providing information to domestic staff in relation to working conditions.

Specific measures

The measure introduced by the government defines the special labour relationship of domestic service as an agreement between the contracting party (namely, the employer) and the employee, who, depending on and working for the latter, is paid for performing household services.

The rights and regulations apropos of the labour relationship of a special nature is regulated by five parameters:

  • according to the provisions of the Royal Decree;
  • additionally, as regards what is compatible with any peculiarities deriving from the special nature of this relationship, the general labour regulations will be applied;
  • by collective agreements;
  • according to the intentions expressed by the signing parties in the work contract, which must abide by what is established in the legal provisions and in the collective agreements;
  • by local and professional habits and customs.

It must be borne in mind that employers may recruit employees directly or through the public employment services or duly authorised placement agencies and the work contract may be agreed in written or spoken form.

Either of the parties may request that the contract is formalised in writing at any point during the length of the labour relationship.

If the duration of the labour relationship exceeds four weeks, the worker is entitled to receive information regarding the essential aspects of the contract and the main conditions regarding the fulfilment of the job requirements if these do not appear in the formalised written contract. As well as the points covered in article 2.2 of Royal Decree 1659/1998, this information must include:

  • the payment of wages in kind, if this is part of the agreement;
  • the length and distribution of the agreed working hours, as well as the corresponding payment or compensation system;
  • any overnight stays of the domestic employee in the employer’s house, if applicable.

As far as the worker’s rights and duties are concerned, these are established in the current Royal Decree and in articles 4 and 5 of the Workers’ Statute. In any case, the employer is obliged to ensure that the domestic employee’s work is carried out in adequate conditions of health and safety, for which efficient measures will be taken, paying particular attention to the specific characteristics of domestic service. Any serious breach of these obligations will be considered a fair reason for the employee to resign.

As far as payments made to the employee are concerned, these must comply with the Minimum Interprofessional Wage, as set annually by the government. The minimum salary refers to a full working day, as described in article 9.1 of the current Royal Decree, and will be paid pro rata if the working day is shorter.

Finally, the fulfilment of the labour legislation regarding this employment relationship will be monitored by the Labour and Social Security Inspection, which will act according to the authority and limits provided in Law 42/1997 of 14 November, regulating the Labour and Social Security Inspection.

Actors involved

Government, general administration and agent supervisors.

Outcome of evaluations; lessons and conclusions

No evaluation has yet been made due to the short time elapsed since the measure was introduced.


Domestic service, agriculture, the hospitality industry and personal services.


Schneider, Friedrich G., Buehn, Andreas and Montenegro, Claudio E. (2010), ‘Shadow Economies All Over the World: New Estimates for 162 Countries from 1999 to 2007’, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper Series. Available at SSRN:

Pere Fabrés, CIREM, Praxis Centre for Policy Studies


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