Living and working in Spain

19 Mai 2022

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the EU Member States, which included the UK prior to its withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context are the EU’s policy priorities for a European Green Deal, a digital future, an economy that works for people, promoting and strengthening European democracy. To help repair the economic and social damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU leaders have also agreed on a recovery plan that will lead the way out of the crisis and lay the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe. The EU’s long-term budget, coupled with NextGenerationEU, the temporary instrument designed to boost the recovery, will be the largest stimulus package ever financed through the EU budget to help rebuild a post-COVID-19 Europe. 

The European Semester provides a framework for the coordination of economic policies across the EU. It allows Member States to discuss their economic and budget plans and monitor progress at specific times throughout the year. For 2022, the European Semester resumes it broad economic and employment policy coordination, while further adapting in line with the implementation requirements of  the Recovery and Resilience Facility. As part of this, Member States are encouraged to submit national reform programmes and stability/convergence programmes that will set out their economic and fiscal policy plans, as in previous Semester cycles. The main change in the 2022 cycle will be that the national reform programme will play a dual role. Besides its role for the European Semester, it will also fulfil one of the two bi-annual reporting requirements of Member States under the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Spain: 38% of people consider their job affecting their health negatively

Living and working in Spain and COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on people’s lives across the globe, with major implications for quality of life and work. Eurofound has taken a multipronged response to the pandemic, adapting its research focus in a variety of ways. A new database of national-level policy responses, EU PolicyWatch, collates information on measures taken by government and social partners, as well as company practices, aiming to cushion the effects of the crisis. Eurofound's unique e-surveyLiving, working and COVID-19, provides an insight into the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives across the EU, with the aim of helping policymakers to bring about an equal recovery from the crisis. Five rounds of the survey have been carried out to date: in April 2020 when most Member States were in lockdown, in July 2020 when society and economies were slowly reopening, in March 2021 as countries dealt again with various levels of lockdown and vaccine rollout, a panel survey in October/November 2021 to track developments since the start of the pandemic, and in March–May 2022, charting the latest developments and looking at how life has changed over the past two years. The survey investigates the impact on quality of life and society, democracy and trust, working and teleworking, the financial situation and security of people, the quality of public services, support measures and vaccinations during COVID-19. Findings for each country and a range of data pages are available.

Explore our data pages by country to find out more on the situation in Spain.


The country page gives access to Eurofound's most recent survey data and news, directly related to Spain:

Research carried out prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020, and published subsequently, may include data relating to the 28 EU Member States. Following this date, research only takes into account the 27 EU Member States (EU28 minus the UK), unless specified otherwise.

Survey results

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

Recent developments

Eurofound contacts in Spain

Correspondents in Spain

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the country's working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Consortium Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB-QUIT)Notus Investigación Social Aplicada, and IKEI Research & Consultancy

Eurofound Management Board members from Spain

Eurofound's Management Board is made up of representatives of the social partners and national governments of all Member States, European Commission representatives and an independent expert appointed by the European Parliament. Read more

Gloria Ortega Gonzalez Ministry of Labour and Social Economy

Miguel Canales Gutiérrez Spanish Association of the Electrical Industry (UNESA)

Fernando Rocha Sánchez Federation of Workers' Commissions (CCOO)

Related content

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at

Living in Spain

Quality of life

Quality of life

The EQLS findings show that both life satisfaction and happiness have decreased slightly from 2011 to 2016 in Spain. Life satisfaction fell from 7.5 in 2011 to 7.0 in 2016 and happiness from 7.8 to 7.3 during the same time period (on a scale from 1 to 10). These 2016 levels are very similar to the respective EU28 averages of 7.1 for life satisfaction and 7.4 for happiness.

However, the share of respondents in Spain reporting at least some difficulties in making ends meet increased from 41% in 2007 to 52% in 2011 and has not recovered, standing at 51% in 2016. This is also higher than the respective EU28 average of 39% in 2016.

Many of the indicators about life satisfaction in Spain are close to the EU28 averages. For instance, 66% of respondents in Spain are optimistic about their own future (EU28 average, 64%) and 57% are optimistic about their children’s future (EU28 average, also 57%).

Life satisfactionMean (1-10)
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)
Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---66%
Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---57%
Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--38%35%
In general, how is your health?Very good-23%26%24%
WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)-666568
Making ends meetWith some difficulty, difficulty, and great difficulty48%41%52%51%
I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--36%25%
I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---23%
When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---23%

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

The share of respondents in Spain reporting work–life balance problems in 2016 is similar to the 2011 figure. Additionally, the work-life balance indicators in Spain are close to the EU28 averages. Overall, 65% of respondents in Spain report being ‘too tired from work to do some of the household jobs which need to be done’ at least several times a month, while the respective EU28 average is 59%. Furthermore, 41% of the respondents in Spain feel that ‘it has been difficult to fulfil family responsibilities because of work’, which is close to the EU28 average of 38%.

Women are more likely to report work–life balance problems in Spain. For instance, 70% of women feel ‘too tired from work to do some of the household jobs which need to be done’, compared to 60% of men.

(At least several times a month)   
I have come home from work too tired to do some of the household jobs which need to be doneTotal58%58%69%65%
It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities because of the amount of time I spend on the jobTotal31%38%41%41%
I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal12%16%21%22%

Quality of society

Quality of society

Perceived tensions between poor and rich have decreased in Spain. In total, 32% of respondents reported ‘a lot of’ this type of tension in 2003, decreasing to 25% in 2016 and falling below the EU28 average of 29%. Similarly, perceived tensions between different racial and ethnic groups have decreased, from 42% reporting ‘a lot of’ tension in 2003 to 26% in 2016, which is much lower than the EU28 average of 41%.

The share of respondents in Spain who felt safe when walking alone after dark stood at 48% in 2016, compared with the lower EU28 average of 35%.

Trust in other people has decreased in Spain during the observation period (2003–2016). In 2003, the mean trust score was 6.0 (on a scale from 1 to 10), falling to match the EU28 average of 5.2 in 2016.

Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)
Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% "at least once a month"--8%6%
Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'32%24%27%25%
Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'42%34%30%26%
I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree---48%

Quality of public services

Quality of public services

Quality ratings for seven public services

Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

The perceived quality of health services has improved in Spain, from 6.3 in 2003 to 7.2 in 2016 (on a scale from 1 to 10. This rating is also higher than the respective EU average of 6.7 in 2016. Most of the other quality ratings for public services also show signs of improvement, except the rating given for the state pension system which decreased from 5.7 in 2003 to 5.3 in 2016. The quality ratings for public services in Spain are similar to the respective EU28 averages.

Health servicesMean (1-10)
Education systemMean (1-10)
Public transportMean (1-10)
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--6.26.4
Social housingMean (1-10)--5.55.7
State pension systemMean (1-10)

Working life in Spain


  • Autor: Oscar Molina
  • Institution: Centre d’Estudis Sociològics sobre la Vida Quotidiana i el Treball – QUIT, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona – UAB
  • Published on: Reede, August 13, 2021

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Spain. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.


Highlights – Working life in 2021

Highlights – Working life in 2021

Author: Oscar Molina
Institution: Sociological Research Centre on Everyday Life and Work (QUIT), Autonomous University of Barcelona
Highlights updated on: 19 May 2022
Working paper: Spain: Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2021

The year 2021 was expected to bring normality in a context characterised by the rapid vaccination of the population, with high levels achieved compared to other EU countries. Even though GDP growth has fallen short of expectations, the labour market has outperformed. In 2021, employment has recovered to the levels prior to the outbreak of the pandemic and with record employment creation figures, similar to those registered in the years preceding the 2007–2009 Great Recession. Moreover, unemployment fell by 616,000 people, resulting in an unemployment rate of 13.3%, the lowest since the start of the financial crisis.

The high vaccination rate has facilitated the return to work and, according to the government, made it unnecessary to impose vaccine requirements on companies. The use of mask and social distancing measures have been considered sufficient by health authorities, while the extension of telework shows signs of decline after the peak reached in the early months of the pandemic.

The government and social partners have maintained a strong commitment to social dialogue in an attempt to sustain recovery. Although it was not always possible to strike an agreement, the year 2021 has confirmed the vitality of social dialogue in Spain during the pandemic. Moreover, a shift in the priorities of social partners and the government can be observed. Activities such as the negotiation of an intergenerational equity pact for pensions and the labour market reform suggest a return in the social dialogue agenda to the structural challenges affecting the Spanish labour market.

Social dialogue and collective bargaining will face important challenges in 2022, high inflation levels being the most important one. This is especially the case given that signs of labour shortages in some activities are emerging, hence putting additional pressures on wage increases. Negotiations on a new peak cross-sectoral agreement for collective bargaining will prove difficult in this context. For trade unions, recovering the purchasing power of wages lost during 2021 will be a key priority. In contrast, employers have recommended maintaining moderation in wage negotiations in order to avoid a negative impact on recovery.

Positive economic and labour market developments are expected to gain momentum in 2022 with the boost from the NextGenerationEU funds. The European Commission has predicted a 5.6% GDP growth, lower than the 7% forecast by the government, but the second highest among the EU Member States. Though all the indicators suggest 2022 will consolidate growth and the recovery, it will depend on how the government and social partners manage inflationary pressures in the economy and the impact of the NextGenerationEU funds.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Spain




% (point) change 2012–2019

% (point) change 2019–2020










GDP per capita









Unemployment rate – total









Unemployment rate  women









Unemployment rate  men









Unemployment rate  youth









Employment rate – total









Employment rate  women









Employment rate  men









Employment rate  youth









Source: Eurostat  Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 20122020 (both based on sdg_08_10). Unemployment rate by sex and age  annual average, (1574 years, % active population) and youth (1524 years) % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age  annual average, (15 64 years, unit % total population, employment indicator active population) % [lfsi_emp_a].



Economic and labour market context

In 2019 the Spanish economy maintained a positive GDP growth of 2%, still above the EU average. Even though the economy started to show signs of deceleration, labour market indicators maintained a positive trend and improved considerable in 2019. The unemployment rate went down to 14,1% in the fourth quarter compared to 15,3% one year before. Male unemployment decreased almost 14% points since 2013. Youth unemployment remains high at 32.5% in 2019, in contrast with the EU average of 15% for the same year. Total employment rate in 2019 was 73.8%, close to the 73.4% level for the EU27. Youth employment figures decreased between 2012 and 2019 (-6 percentage points) and stood at 33% in 2019, compared to the EU average of 39.4% in the same year. Spain’s GDP has decreased by 11.3% in 2020, with an overall unemployment increase of 1.4 pp compared to 2019. The pandemic has influenced the youth unemployment the most, it increased by 5.8 pp compared to previous year.

More information on:

Legal context

The main labour code for private employees is the Statute of Workers’ Rights (1980). It also regulates collective bargaining issues (mechanisms governing coordination between different levels of collective wage setting, opt-out clauses and conditions, etc). It has been modified by different royal-decrees and laws. The last law that modified important elements was Law 3/2012 of 6 July.

The main labour code for public employees is the Basic Statute of Public Workers (Law 7/2007).

Trade union regulation and representativeness is regulated through the Organic Law of Trade Union Freedom (1985).

Industrial relations context

Industrial relations in Spain during the 1980s were affected by the political transition from a dictatorship to a democracy, as well as a process of industrial and economic modernisation in order to prepare the country for its integration into the European Community. During the first years of the transitional period (1978–1982), the unions accepted wage moderation in exchange for institutional recognition and further development of social and labour rights. In addition, it favoured some coordination and centralisation of collective bargaining. The collective bargaining structure that consolidated in those years is still present today and is characterised by its multi-level character, with negotiations taking place at sectoral, provincial and company levels.

From 1986 to 1997, a period of crisis in ‘social concertation’ negatively affected collective bargaining. The most important problems at this time were the lack of coordination and the poor renewal of the rounds of collective bargaining.

After 1997, social dialogue was revitalised during a period of economic and employment growth. Thus, from 1997 to 2008, different tripartite agreements were achieved. In addition, annual bi-partite peak inter-sectoral agreements on collective bargaining started to be concluded by the social partners. These agreements play an important role in coordinating collective bargaining in Spain. The economic crisis that began in 2008 has strongly affected the industrial relations context. The Spanish system weathered the impact of the economic crisis relatively well in the first years, but the situation changed dramatically after 2011, when two important reforms on collective bargaining rules were enacted by the government. Both reforms seemed to accept a common diagnosis formulated by different EU and Spanish institutions, which accused Spanish collective bargaining of being too rigid, thus impeding companies from modifying working arrangements in order to adjust to shocks. The last reform approved in 2012 has affected some of the most important dimensions of the Spanish collective bargaining system (ultra-activity, predominance of company level agreements, etc.). Several studies have showed how the labour market reforms have contributed to the process of internal devaluation and decline in real wages which have not fully climbed to pre-crisis levels yet. During the crisis and austerity policies, social dialogue experienced a breakdown and only started to recover in 2016. The role of social dialogue has been revitalised especially since 2018, with the signature of some tripartite agreements and bi-partite pacts that try to reverse some of the negative effects of the economic crisis, and gained momentum in 2019.

The intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis impact on Spain’s economy and labour market has required the government and social partners to work closely in order to mitigate the effects in the first year. As a result, social dialogue has played a central role in deciding the key instruments to reduce the negative shock on the labour market and employment relations, but also to regulate important aspects such as telework. Among all the policy measures negotiated and implemented, the extension of the conditions for temporary layoffs and reduced work schemes agreed in the early stages of the crisis, deserves particular attention.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in Spain.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

The main ministry dealing with social dialogue and working conditions is the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Social Security and the Employment Departments of the Autonomous Communities. The Ministry plays an important role in fostering tripartite social dialogue. Moreover, these institutions are in charge of registering collective agreements and providing statistical information on aspects related to collective bargaining coverage, negotiated wages, disputes etc. Once a collective agreement has been concluded, the signatory parties must send the collective agreement to the public authority (the Ministry of Labour if it is national and the Employment Departments of the Autonomous Communities if it is regional) within 15 days. Prior to the registration, the public authorities make sure that the content of the agreement is in line with legislation. If the collective agreement goes against legislation, the public authority can challenge it.

The main institution ensuring the enforcement of employees’ rights is the Work Inspection and Social Security body, which does so through the labour inspectorates. Labour inspectorates are in charge of monitoring working conditions, the unions’ relationships and social security duties (registration of workers for social security, contributions paid to social security and so on).

The labour inspectorates are also in charge of monitoring the performance of health and safety regulations. Its functions include, among others, validating and promoting the implementation of the health and safety regulations, assessing companies on how to apply health and safety regulations, elaborating reports concerning work accidents and professional diseases, suggesting penalties to the Labour Administration in case of non-compliance and ordering the stoppage of work in case of dangerous circumstances.


In Spain, the concept of representativeness guarantees an erga omnes representation for both trade unions and employers’ organisations. Thus, it endows the most representative trade unions and employer organisations with the capacity to negotiate agreements on behalf of all workers in the sector or company in which the agreement is negotiated.

The main legal criterion for determining the representativeness of trade unions is based on the workplace election results of workers’ delegates and work councils’ members. Accordingly, the electoral process aiming to choose the employees’ representatives at the workplace is used to measure trade union support. For employers’ organisations, the criterion for determining their representativeness is based on membership.

Through the concept of ‘most representative organisations’, employers’ organisations and trade unions are entitled to conclude multiemployer collective agreements, to have institutional representation (in other words, to be a part of tripartite bodies, to be consulted by the government and to conclude social pacts) and to take part in extrajudicial systems of labour conflict resolution. Moreover, meeting the criterion of legal representativeness is the basis for getting access to public funds.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

According to the Organic Law of Trade Union Freedom (1985), all workers can join trade unions except members of the Spanish Forces, judges and public prosecutors.

Trade union density in Spain has remained rather stable since the early 1980s. Even though the lack of reliable data make it difficult to assess it, most estimates point to 15-20% as the density rate in Spain since the early 1980s. Even though it has been subject to cyclical fluctuations, it does not exhibit a clear downward trend, as it does in other EU countries. Since the onset of the crisis, however, trade union density has slightly decreased according to the figures provided by the Working and Living Conditions Survey conducted by the Ministry of Employment (17.4% in 2008 compared to 16.4% in 2010). Unfortunately, the survey has not been conducted since 2010. Since the Great Recession, union density in Spain has exhibited a decline from 18,3% in 2020 down to 13,6% in 2018.

The main criteria for determining union representativeness is the electoral audience, which is determined by the number of delegates and works councils’ representatives obtained in the elections. This, together with the automatic extension of collective agreements explains the low density rates in Spain, as workers have limited incentives to join trade unions.

Trade union membership and trade union density








Trade union density in terms of active employees






OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Trade union membership in 1000s






OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Main trade union confederations and federations

The most representative unions in Spain are the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, CCOO) and the General Workers’ Confederation (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT), which together account for 67.43% of Works’ Councils representatives elected in 2020.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name



Involved in collective bargaining

Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions


909,052* (2015)



General Workers’ Confederation



941.485 **(2018)


Sources: *CCOO report Afiliación y Representación en 31-12-2015. ** UGT transparency portal: ***article in ABC newspaper:

In addition to the most representative confederations at national level, there are some smaller confederations, including Trade Union Workers Unity (Unión Sindical Obrera, USO) and General Workers’ Confederation (Confederación General del Trabajo, CGT). Moreover, there are most representative confederations at regional level. These arethe Galician Inter-sectoral Confederation (Confederación Intersectoral Galega, CIG) and Solidarity of Basque Workers (Solidaridad de Trabajadores Vascos, ELA-STV). Finally, the third most important confederation in the public sector is the Independent and Civil Servant Central Trade Union (Confederación Sindical Indepdendiente y de Funcionarios, CSIF).

UGT’s last congress was held in March 2016, and Mr Pepe Álvarez was elected as the new General Secretary (he replaced Mr Cándido Méndez, who had been General Secretary of UGT trade union for 22 years). CCOO’s last congress was held in June 2017, and they named a new General Secretary, Mr Unai Sordo (replacing Mr Ignacio Fernández Toxo, who had spent 9 years in that position).

Since the 1990s, the most important trade unions at national level, UGT and CCOO, have maintained a cooperative relationship and unity of action. They have also maintained their representativeness.

The most important changes relate to the mergers of federations that both trade unions carried out in 2014. CCOO merged the Federation of Textile, Chemical and Related Activities (FITEQA-CCOO) into the Industry Federation (CCOO INDUSTRIA). It also merged the Federation of Commerce, Hotels and Restaurants, Tourism and Gambling (FECOHT-CCOO) with the Federation of Financial Services (COMFIA-CCOO) into the new Federation of Services. Meanwhile, in 2014, UGT merged the Federation of Transport (TCM-UGT) and the Federation of Commerce, Hotels and Restaurants, Catering Trade, Tourism and Gambling (CHTJ-UGT) into the new Federation of Services for Mobility and Consumption (SMC-UGT).

More recently, in May 2016, new federations were created within the UGT structure: Federation of Public Services employees – formed by the previous public services federation (FeSP) and education federation (FEYE) – and FICA,formed by the union of the Federation of Metal and Construction (MCA) and the Federation of Agriculture (Fitag).

By 2020, CCOO has seven sectoral federations (Construction, Teaching, Industry, Pensioneers, Health and Social Services, Citizenship services, Services) whilst UGT has six (FeSP – Public Services; FeSMC – Services, Mobility and Consumption; FICA – Industry, Construction and Agriculture; UJP – Pensioneers; UPA – Agriculture; UPTA – Professionals and Self-employees).

For both unions, the mergers were carried out in order to combat the decline in financial resources from membership fees and public financing.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

Employers’ organisations do not have a legal text that regulates their rights and obligations, like the trade unions do with the Organic Law of Trade Union Freedom (1985).

The procedures to verify the representativeness of the employers’ organisations are not clearly established. As a matter of fact, there is a lack of official and institutional procedures to check if the employers’ organisations that claim to be representative meet the legal requirements. In addition, there are no official publications of affiliation figures to employers’ organisations. As such, the only figures available are those provided by the employers’ organisations themselves.

The absence of figures on employers’ organisation membership does not mean a lack of legitimacy or social recognition of the most representative associations at national level. In fact, the ‘most representative’ employers’ organisations – the Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations (CEOE) and the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CEPYME) – are recognised by the employers, trade unions and government. Moreover, there are no potential competitors that can challenge their status.

In November 2018, Mr. Antonio Garamendi was elected as the new president of CEOE. Mr. Garamendi was the only candidate in the elections and was elected by acclamation. He will replace Mr. Juan Rosell, who waspresident since December 2010. Until the elections, Mr. Garamendi was president of CEPYME, the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Employer organisations – membership and density








Employer organisation density in terms of active employees






OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021




Author’s estimate

Employer organisation density in private sector establishments*






European Company Survey (ECS) 2019

*Percentage of employees working in an establishment that is a member of any employers’ organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

The Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations (CEOE) and the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CEPYME) are the most representative employers’ organisations. There are no official publications of the affiliation figures of the employers’ organisations, but CEOE claims to represent 2 million companies and 12 million employees through its 225 federations. CEPYME does not provide figures of companies and employees.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations

Long name




Involved in collective bargaining

Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations


2 million companies (through its federations*





57 territorial federations and 49 sectoral federations**

53 territorial federations and 54 sectoral federations**



*Source: CEOE website.
**Source: CEPYME website.

Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

The main tripartite body is the Spanish Social and Economic Council (Consejo Económico y Social). It is a consultative body created in 1991 that submits reports to the government before laws and royal-decrees are enacted. Moreover, it analyses and studies different elements and topics under its own initiative. In most regions, there is a tripartite Social and Economic Council with similar functions and composition to the national one. However, in some regions these bodies ceased their activities due to lack of funding during the Great Recession.

The so-called Industrial Observatories are important tripartite bodies operating at the sectoral level. There are 10 observatories in different industry sectors and in the construction sector. These tripartite bodies were created in 2005 in order to improve and extend the analytical information on the sectors. The aim of the observatories is to foster debate and to identify strengths and weakness in order to promote efficient industrial policies. However, their activity has dramatically decreased since the onset of the crisis, and nowadays they are practically dismantled. Finally, another tripartite body is the National Consultative Commission of Collective Agreements (Comisión Consultiva Nacional de Convenios Colectivos), created by Royal Decree 1362/2012. It is a consultative body for aspects such as proposing and determining the functional scope of collective agreements. It is also involved in monitoring collective agreements, including information, studies, documentation and diffusion of them.

The most important bipartite body is the Interconfederal Service of Mediation and Arbitration (Servicio Interconfederal de Mediación y Arbitraje, SIMA). It is financed entirely by the state and managed autonomously by the social partners. It manages industrial conflicts by offering industrial dispute resolution mechanisms.

In spite of the existence of tripartite and bipartite bodies, social pacts and peak inter-sectoral agreements are not negotiated under any of the existing institutional bodies.

With regard to bipartite agreements, since the mid-1990s peak inter-sectoral agreements for collective bargaining have been signed between the most representative trade unions and employer organizations. These agreements have been signed, with only a short interruption in the crisis in 2012, 2015 and more recently in 2018. Even though these are not mandatory agreements and only provide guidelines on different issues, such as pay increases, they nonetheless provide some degree of coordination and a general framework for collective bargaining.

With the advent of the sovereign debt crisis and the implementation of austerity policies, tripartite social dialogue was discontinued. Only since 2014, with the start of the economic recovery, some tripartite pacts on specific issues have been signed. Tripartite social dialogue seems to have gained momentum in 2018 when agreements on youth employment and decent work were signed.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies




Issues covered

Spanish Social and Economic Council



Employment and social policies – consultative body role

Regional Social and Economic Councils



Employment and social policies – consultative body role

Industrial Observatories



Industrial policy

Cross-Sectoral Service of Mediation and Arbitration



Manages industrial conflicts by offering industrial dispute resolution mechanisms

Workplace-level employee representation

The main bodies for workplace-level representation in the private sector are workers’ delegates and works’ councils. In the public sector, workplace-level representation is done through the so-called ‘Juntas de Personal’.

Workers’ delegates are responsible for representing workers in establishments and workplaces between 11 and 49 employees. There may also be a workers’ delegate in undertakings with 6 to 10 employees, provided that it is a decision reached by the majority of the employees. In undertakings with up to 30 employees there may be one workers’ delegate, and three workers’ delegates in undertakings with between 31 and 49 employees.

Works’ Councils are employee representative bodies in workplaces with a staff of 50 or more workers. In the case of companies with two or more establishments in the same province or bordering municipalities with fewer than 50 employees in each workplace but with 50 or more employees as a whole, a joint workers’ committee may be established (Article 64, TRET).

In addition, workers affiliated to a union can constitute a so-called trade union’s section within the enterprise.

Elections for workers’ delegates and works councils’ members can be called by the most representative trade union organisations (those that have a membership of at least 10% of company representatives or employees in a workplace by majority agreement). Those who call the elections must inform the company and the public labour authorities of their intentions at least one month in advance. In addition, elections may be called at a more general level in one or several functional or territorial areas, subject to the agreement of the most representative trade unions.

According to Spanish legislation, these bodies can also exercise I&C rights and can conclude company collective agreements. In this regard, it is worth noting that a recent regulation (Royal-decree 7/2011) gave priority to the trade union’s sections over work councils in order to conclude company collective agreements, when these trade unions have a majority of seats in the workers’ Committee.

According to the ECS, the percentage of establishments that have any form of employee representation increased from 53% in 2009 to 57% in 2013.

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies




Competences of the body

Involved in company-level collective bargaining??

Thresholds/rules when they need to be/can be set up

Workers’ delegates/ Delegados de personal

Revised text of the Workers’ Statute – Official State Journal, 29 March 1995, no. 75/1995 (TRET)

Workers in establishments and workplaces with 11–49 employees


They are freely set up by employees. Elections can be called by the most representative trade union organisations.*

Works’ councils/ Comités de empresa

Revised text of the Workers’ Statute – Official State Journal, 29 March 1995, no. 75/1995 (TRET)

Workers in workplaces with a staff of 50 or more workers


They are freely set up by employees. Elections can be called by the most representative trade union organisations.*

Trade union’s sections/ Secciones Sindicales

Revised text of the Workers’ Statute – Official State Journal, 29 March 1995, no. 75/1995 (TRET) (Royal-decree 7/2011)

Trade union members


Workers affiliated to a union can constitute a trade union’s section.

* According to the Law, the most representative trade unions are those that constitute 10% of workers’ delegates and members of workers’ committees at state level and 15% within the autonomous communities. Similarly, trade unions that have a membership of 10% or more of workers’ delegates and members of workers’ committees in a specific territorial and functional sphere will be considered representative within that scope.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining in Spain is characterised by a multi-level bargaining structure and high coverage rates. The latter is the result of the ‘erga omnes’ extension of collective agreements to all workers within the functional scope of a collective agreement, irrespective of whether they are trade union members or not. Moreover, collective agreements enjoy legal enforcement and their implementation can be pursued by labour authorities.

Wage bargaining coverage

Spain has a high collective bargaining coverage rate. According to the European Company Survey it is close to 90%, which closely corresponds to SES data (92%). Most workers are covered by multiemployer collective agreements concluded at national, regional and provincial level. According to the Spanish Statistics of Collective Bargaining, company agreements signed in 2015 covered around 5% of all the workers covered by collective agreements.

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees from different sources


% (year)


All levels

80.1 (2018)

2021 – OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021


98 (2019)

2013 – ECS

All levels

91 (2019)

2019 – ECS

All levels

92 (2010)

2010 – SES

All levels

91 (2014)

2014 – SES

All levels

91 (2018)

2018 – SES

All levels

79.6 (2018)

National correspondent’s estimate 2019 (private sector employees)*

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013/2019 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B–S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings Survey (SES), companies >10 employees (NACE B-SxO), single answer for each local unit: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement – online dataset codes: [EARN_SES10_01], [EARN_SES14_01], [EARN_SES18_01] (Percentage of employees working in local units where more than 50% of the employees are covered under a collective pay agreement against the total number of employees in the scope of the survey); OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021; * National administrative data.

There are no official national figures on collective bargaining coverage. The way in which collective bargaining is usually calculated is by taking the average number of persons affiliated to the Social Security in a given year, divided by the total number of persons whose working conditions are regulated by a collective agreement. Using data for 2018, the last year for which definitive figures on collective agreements are available, and the statistics on affiliations to social security in the general regime (i.e., excluding self-employees and special social security regimes like domestic workers), we obtain a coverage rate of 79.6%. However, this estimation presents some methodological problems, mostly related to problems with the statistics of collective agreements see:

This last source collects information on all collective agreements, so it is a full register. The basic source of information derives from what is known as the ‘statistics sheet’, which is completed by the bargaining commissions once the agreement is signed. This sheet is presented along with all the necessary documentation in order to register the agreement. The source is not updated every year. Moreover, figures on the collective agreements for one year are only considered definitive in the annual publication that elaborates the figures of the collective agreements recorded until 31 May two years later. Thus, figures from 2017 will only be definitive once the figures of all the collective agreements have been recorded by 31 May 2019, the economic effects of which started in 2017.

Bargaining levels

The structure of collective bargaining has remained rather constant since the end of the 1990s. The collective bargaining structure in most sectors in Spain is characterised by its multi-level character, with collective agreements signed at national, sector, provincial and / or company level. Since 2002 (with the exception of 2009), peak bi-partite cross-sectoral-level agreements have only established guidelines on working time and pay that are not legally binding. However, all actors highlight the important role of these peak agreements as a mechanism to coordinate wage-setting and collective bargaining more generally. With regard to the number of agreements recorded by economic activity, there is a greater preponderance of company agreements. The second most numerous are the provincial sectoral agreements, followed by the national and regional sectoral agreements. In contrast, most workers are covered by provincial sectoral agreements and national sectoral agreements.

In addition, it is worth noting that multi-tier bargaining models are quite common. Thus, in some sectors the sectoral level establishes the structure of the wage system and the lower levels establish the amount of the wages.

Levels of collective bargaining, 2019


National level (intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level



Working time


Working time


Working time

Principal or dominant level





Important but not dominant level





Existing level




* Peak bipartite agreements are nowadays recognised as playing an important role in wage-setting.


The mechanism governing coordination between different levels of collective wage setting was changed in 2011 and 2012 by two legislative reforms implemented by the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP), respectively. Before 2011, wages agreed at the sectoral level prevailed over wages agreed at company level. As such, lower bargaining levels could only improve wage standards agreed at higher levels.

In 2011, the Socialist Party government reformed this mechanism as part of a broader reform of collective bargaining rules (Royal-decree 7/2011 of 10 June), through which it gave priority to company-level agreements over sectoral multiemployer agreements (whether national, regional or provincial) in matters such as basic pay and pay supplements. However, the law allowed social partners to establish – whether at the cross-sectoral or sectoral level (regional and national) – another collective bargaining structure that could continue to prioritise the sectoral level.

In 2012, the Popular Party reformed this mechanism again as part of a deep reform of the Spanish labour market legislation (Law 3/2012). It gave priority to company-level agreements over sectoral multiemployer agreements (whether national, regional or provincial) in matters such as basic pay and pay supplements even if the social partners decide to establish an alternative collective bargaining structure.

Different articulation models of the components of wage setting were observed in the years before the new regulation came into effect. Most of them were multi-tier models. In some sectors, such as the graphic arts, the sectoral level established the structure of the wage system and the lower levels (regional and provincial sectoral level or company level) established the amount of the wages. In other sectors, such as the manufacturing of gypsum or the chemical sector, the sectoral level exclusively regulated some aspects of the wage level (mostly minimum wages linked to professional groups or categories), allowing the company level to regulate other wage elements (extra payments, etc.). These models still exist.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

In Spain, a general pattern with regard to the month or quarter of the year when collective bargaining takes place is not observed.


Since the early 2000s, peak bi-partite inter-sectoral agreements provide a general framework for all the collective agreements and, although every sector and/or company has its own particularities and their collective agreement is adapted to those, interprofessional agreements provide common guidelines and a soft form of coordination for all of them. These agreements establish guidelines on pay, among other aspects, which are not legally mandatory, but the social partners commit themselves to following at different levels. The last national agreement was the IV Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining 2018, 2019 and 2020 ( IV Acuerdo para el Empleo y la Negociación Colectiva 2018,2019 y 2020) . It includes guidelines on salary issues, negotiated flexibility and conflict resolution.

Extension mechanisms

In Spain, once they are signed, collective agreements are extended to all workers irrespective of whether or not they are affiliated to the unions that signed the collective agreement. The same applies to companies. This has not changed in recent years.

In Spain, collective agreements can be extended by legislation, according to article 92.2 of the Workers Statute and Royal Decree 718/2005. This is in order to avoid the damages to workers and the companies from the impossibility of subscribing a collective agreement of those contained in the 3rd Title of the Workers Statute due to the absence of parties legitimised to negotiate it. In this case, the legitimacy to request the extension relies on the social partners, and the competent institution to resolve the issue is the Ministry of Employment and Social Security (in case of a national level collective agreement or collective agreement affecting more than one Autonomous Community) or the Autonomous Community. It is a measure set by the legal framework for certain cases, and not voluntarily by all sides.

However, the previously mentioned labour reform has introduced the possibility for companies to opt out from higher collective agreements because of economic, technical or organisational circumstances. Therefore companies, under some conditions, can decide on the collective agreement extension.

Derogation mechanisms

In Spain, the opening clauses allowing derogation from collective wage bargaining were regulated in 1994 (Law 11/1994). According to this regulation, multiemployer collective agreements had to establish the conditions and procedures allowing companies to derogate from collective bargaining.

In 2010, the socialist government allowed the modification of wages stipulated in multiemployer collective agreements by means of negotiations within the company. According to law 10/2010, companies have to consult the employees’ representatives and negotiate the changes within a non-extendable period of 15 days. If they do not achieve an agreement, they will have to apply for mediation procedures established in the multiemployer collective agreements.

Finally, the latest regulation enacted by the Popular Party government (Law 3/2012) makes it easier for companies to derogate from collective agreements. It allows companies to opt out of collective bargaining if the enterprise records a drop in its revenues or sales during six consecutive months. Moreover, the law enables employers to unilaterally modify wages on technical or organisational grounds.

Expiry of collective agreements

The continuation of collective agreements beyond expiry was one of the most important elements reformed by Law 3/2012. This law reformed the so-called ‘ultra-activity’ principle of the collective agreements, which guaranteed the continuation of a collective agreement, even after its expiry date. Its aim was to protect current working conditions even if an employer refused to sign a new agreement. However, Law 3/2012 states that the ultra-activity principle has allowed working conditions to become static and rigid, so it has reformed this principle by establishing that a collective agreement will cease to be in force one year after its completion. More specifically, it states that from 7 July 2013, all expired and unrenewed collective agreements made before 7 July 2012 will become invalid.

Nevertheless, a recent Supreme Court (rec. 264/2014) decision has annulled the reform of the ultra-activity principle. The Supreme Court has ratified the decision of the Courts of the Balearic Islands on the so-called ATESE case, in which the trade unions brought the company to court because of its decision to decrease wages once the collective agreement ceased to be in force (one year after its completion). The Supreme Court has argued that working conditions agreed in a collective agreement have a contractual juridical status and must be applied even if the collective bargaining of reference has expired, thus annulling the reform of the ultra-activity principle.

With this decision, the Supreme Court has reoriented, in part, the legislation in force regarding the previous labour relations regulation, preventing the 2012 reform from unfolding all the effects. However, this decision highlights two important issues. Firstly, it leaves open the possibility of modifying working conditions using the procedure contained in article 41 of the Statute of Workers Rights, about substantial change in working conditions (if economical, technical, organisational or productive causes are met). Secondly, this decision is not applicable to newly joined workers, because the expired collective agreement has never been applied to them. Because of this, other conditions could be applied to these workers, although new juridical problems could arise (double pay scale and its prohibition according to the jurisprudence) (Source: article in Derecho News)

Ultimately, this decision has created a great degree of juridical uncertainty in the application of the new principle of expiry.

Peace clauses

Broadly speaking, collective agreements have an ‘implicit’ obligation of labour peace. ‘Explicit’ peace clauses are not compulsory in Spanish collective agreements, but they can be included. According to article 82.2 of the Workers’ Statute, collective agreements can regulate labour peace through agreed obligations. If negotiators decide to apply this possibility, then peace clauses appear. In general terms, collective agreements in Spain can include two main types of clauses: normative clauses and compulsory clauses. Normative clauses refer to the basic contents of the agreement (that is, salary regime, working time, professional classification, etc.), whereas compulsory clauses regulate particular obligations. Thus, peace clauses are compulsory clauses. Peace clauses imply (for the signatory parties) a temporary commitment to not making use of the right to strike during the validity of the agreement.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

Generally speaking, collective agreements in Spain are poor in terms of the issues included. This is because of the detailed regulation of working conditions in the Workers Statute, that reduces the spaces for collective bargaining. In most cases, the main issues discussed in collective bargaining are wages and working time. The crisis has negatively affected the inclusion of working life issues in collective bargaining. As in previous crises, trade unions have tended to accept wage moderation and a reduction of workers’ rights in exchange for employment maintenance. Even though a trend towards enlarging the number of issues discussed (including clauses related to training, working time flexibility, telework, etc.) can be observed, the situation is still characterised by the limited number of working life aspects addressed.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

The right to strike is regulated by Royal-decree 17/1977, the Spanish Constitution and a judgment of the Constitutional Court (11/1981).

According to these regulations, there are two types of industrial actions: the strike (la huelga) and the lockout (cierre patronal). The strike is a collective action by workers consisting of the agreed withdrawal of their labour. It is normally directed against the employer to back up the collective bargaining process and force compliance with statutory or contractual regulations.

On the other hand, the lockout is an industrial action taken unilaterally by the employer and consisting of the total or partial cessation of production activity. The premise may be the physical closure of the company or some other action taken to prevent the performance of work. To protect the right to strike, Spanish legislation allows lockouts only when persons or property are in danger, as a policing measure. However, it is a measure rarely put into practice by employers.

In Spain, a strike can be called by the majority of employees’ representatives at the workplace, by all the employees of a company (by simple majority) and by the trade unions that are representative in a sector. The decision to call a strike must be communicated to the company and to the labour authority five days before it is to be held. For public companies, the notification period is 10 days. Finally, a strike committee made up of a maximum of 12 members must also be constituted.

During the strike, labour contracts become suspended. The right to strike is an individual right that is collectively exercised. Thus, individual workers are free to choose whether or not to participate.

The only strikes that are forbidden are political strikes, solidarity strikes and strikes that aim to challenge a collective agreement that is in force, but Spain has a tradition of these types of strikes, often taking the form of general strike (because of the prohibition).

Recently, due to the Spanish Penal Code reform (Organic Law 1/2015), a change has been introduced on the strike issue. Article 315.3 states that those acting in a group or individually, but in agreement with others, who coerce other persons to initiate or continue a strike shall be punished with imprisonment for one year and nine months up to three years or with a fine of eighteen months to twenty-four months.

Incidence of different forms of industrial action between 2010 and 2019

Work-to-rule or refusal to do overtime


Work stoppage or strike for less than a day


Strike of a day or more


Blockade or occupation


Note: Percentage of private sector establishments reporting any form of industrial action during the indicated period.

Source: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2019 (ECS)

Industrial action developments, 2015–2019







Total working days lost






Number of strikes






Main reasons

Labour reasons: 572

Non-labour reasons: 43

Labour reasons: 614

Non-labour reasons: 27

Labour reasons: 723

Non-labour reasons: 8

Labour reasons: 710

Non-labour reasons: 16

Labour reasons: 886

Non-labour reasons: 12

Source: ‘Strikes developed, workers participating and days not worked, by sectoral, institutional, territorial and motivation aspects’ (Huelgas desarrolladas, trabajadores participantes y jornadas no trabajadas, por ámbitos sectorial, institucional, territorial y por motivación), Official statistics on labour conflicts from the Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Security.

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

In 1996, the Agreement on the Extrajudicial Resolution of Labour Conflicts (Acuerdo de Solución Extrajudicial de Conflictos, ASEC) was concluded. It was renewed in 2020 until 2024 by the UGT, CCOO (the unions) and CEOE and CEPYME (the employers’ organisations). This agreement opened the door for the creation of the private foundation administered by the Interconfederal Service of Mediation and Arbitration (SIMA) ( Servicio Interconfederal de Mediación y Arbitraje), financed entirely by the state and managed autonomously by the social partners. It provides free services, similar to those of the joint institutions of the communities.

According to the Agreement, the procedures and aspects covered include:

  • The interpretation and application of a state legislation, collective agreement, agreement or pact, whatever its effectiveness, or a decision or practice of the company.
  • Conflicts that arise from the negotiation of a collective agreement that entail its blockade.
  • Conflicts that lead to a blockade in the negotiation, agreement or collective agreement.
  • Conflicts that arise from the call for a strike or from arrangements about security and maintenance services in the event of a strike.
  • Conflicts that affect several work centres of a company, group of companies, or related companies, located in different autonomous communities.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

In the case of individual conflicts, first there are conflicts of law, that is, conflicts that concern the interpretation of laws or arise from the implementation of collective agreements. These conflicts can be submitted to a judicial process that will start once the suit has been presented by either party, with a compulsory attempt at conciliation in the administrative headquarters by means of conciliation bodies created through agreements reached between the trade unions and employers’ organisations.

As far as administrative conflicts are concerned, the conciliation process will be carried out in the presence of a conciliating lawyer assigned by the state, whose role will be limited to merely facilitating an understanding. He or she will refrain from making proposals. If the two parties fail to reach an agreement, they can call for institutional arbitration. Here, the parties, at their own will, submit their conflict to the decision of a person outside the Justice Administration (a civil servant lawyer who is appointed by the state and is not a judge). He or she will issue a binding award that must be abided by and will have the same effect as a ruling issued by a judge that cannot be appealed. If the process of conciliation and/or arbitration concludes without agreement, the following phase will be carried out in the social courts.

Finally, conflicts can be submitted to the social courts. These are organised according to their juridical competences at regional level (High Court) and at national level (the National Court and the Supreme Court).

The table below presents information on the number of collective conflicts solved through judicial mechanisms and those managed through SIMA and regional out-of-court conflict resolution mechanisms. What we can observe is that with the economic recovery, the number of conflicts solved through judicial or non-judicial mechanisms has declined very significantly.

Use of collective dispute resolution mechanisms













Judicial Collective Conflicts






Judicial Individual Conflicts













Solved through Administrative processes of SIMA






Collective conciliation






Individual conciliation











Solved through the Regional Out-of-Court Mechanisms for dispute resolution






Individual conciliation






Collective conciliation












Source: Evolution of judicial conflicts and those managed through SIMA (20122019), Boletín de Estadísticas Laborales

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Spain.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

The minimum working age for starting an employment relationship is 16 years. Once the employment contract is signed, the company must tell the Public Employment Service the conditions of the contract and send a copy of it no more than 10 days later. Another copy of the contract must be submitted to the employees’ representatives at the workplace.

Dismissal and termination procedures

Employers are required to notify their workforce of planned redundancies 15 days in advance. This applies for both collective and individual redundancies. This notice period applies to all the employees irrespective of their tenure. In 2010, the notice period was reduced from one month to two weeks by Royal-Decree Law 10/2010. The Spanish economy appears to be more flexible now than the average OECD countries in this area, since average notice periods in OECD countries are 3.5 weeks for workers with 9 months’ tenure at the time of dismissal, 1.3 months for workers with 4 years’ tenure and 2.7 months for workers with 20 years’ tenure at the time of dismissal.

In the event of collective dismissal (more than five employees if the whole workforce is affected; at least 10 employees in companies with fewer than 100 employees; 10% of the employees in companies with 100–300 employees; and 30 employees in companies with more than 299 employees), legislation requires that employees are paid a minimum legal compensation of 20 days’ pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 12 months’ pay.

In the event of individual unfair dismissal of an employee who has an open-ended contract, legislation requires that employees are paid a minimum legal compensation of 33 days’ pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 24 months’ pay.

In the event of individual fair dismissal, legislation requires that employees are paid a minimum legal compensation of 20 days’ pay for each year of service, up to maximum of 12 months’ pay.

In enterprises with fewer than 25 employees, the Public Fund of Wage Warranty (Fondo de Garantía Salarial) will pay 40% of the legal indemnification of employees in collective redundancies.

Severance pay for temporary contracts was modified by Royal-Decree 10/2010, which established that as of 1 January 2015, severance pay will increase annually by one day per year of service, from the eight days per year of service paid in 2010 to 12 days. Accordingly, in 2014 severance pay for temporary contracts was 11 days per year worked. If the employer dismisses the temporary worker before his or her contract expires, severance pay will be equal to 33 days’ pay for each year of service, up to maximum of 24 months’ pay.

On this subject, a polemical decision was pronounced by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in September 2016 (C-596/14). Under Spanish Law, permanent employees get 20 days per worked year as severance pay, whereas temporary workers get 12 days when they are laid off, and temporary substitutes (interinos in Spanish) do not get any compensation. In a judgment issued on 14 September 2016, the European Court of Justice established that temporary substitutes also have the right to receive severance pay, and that the amount received by temporary workers and permanent workers should not be different because of the type of their contracts, on the legal grounds of the Framework Agreement on fixed-term work (Annex of the Council Directive 1999/70/EC).

This sentence has created great uncertainty on the subject in Spain, because according to the Court decision, both temporary workers and temporary substitutes should have the same compensation as the rest of the employees (20 days, up to maximum of 12 months’ pay).

Currently, the Spanish regulation is still the same (no severance pay for temporary substitutes), although more similar cases have reached the ECJ and the Spanish High Court and are awaiting sentence. It seems that the legislator will wait until these pending cases are resolved, in order to regulate the issue based on a more consolidated jurisprudence. So, in future the repercussions of the ECJ decision remain to be seen.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

In recent years, maternity and paternity leaves have experienced significant changes.

The duration of parental leave was extended from four to five weeks on 5 July 2018. In September 2017, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos agreed to extend the paternity leave to 5 weeks from the following year onwards. However, in January 2018, this agreement was still subject to the approval of the 2018 Budget Law, so the extension had not been applied in practice (and parental leave was still 4 weeks long).The Socialist government finally announced this measure as part of the Budget Law 6/2018.

In February 2019, the Socialist government enacted Royal Decree 6/2019 established the gradual equalization of maternity and paternity leaves, rising to eight weeks in 2019, to 12 weeks by 2020, and by 2021, both parents enjoy equal, non-transferable and paid leave for 16 weeks, which can be extended by two weeks per child in the case of a multiple birth.

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

16 weeks that can be extended to 18 weeks in the case of multiple birth or the adoption of a child with disabilities.


100% of the regulatory base

Who pays?

Social Security (Seguridad Social)

Legal basis

Law 4/1995, Law 3/2007, Royal Decree 6/2019

Parental leave

Maximum duration

16 weeks that can be extended to 18 weeks in the case of multiple birth or the adoption of a child with disabilities.


100% of the regulatory base

Who pays?

Social Security (Seguridad Social)

Legal basis

Law 4/1995, Law 3/2007, Royal Decree 6/2019

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

16 weeks that can be extended to 18 weeks in the case of multiple birth or the adoption of a child with disabilities.


100% of the regulatory base

Who pays?

Social Security (Seguridad Social)

Legal basis

Law 3/2007, Law 9/2009, Royal Decree 295/2009, Law 6/2018, Royal Decree 6/2019

Sick leave

In order to be eligible for sick leave, the employee must have contributed to the Social Security for 180 days during the five years prior to the date of leave in case of common illness. In case of a labour accident, no contribution period is required.

The benefit amount payable is determined on the basis of contributions that are established according to salaries. For the first three days of a common illness, the employee will not receive any benefit. Between the fourth day and the twentieth day, the replacement rate is 60% of the regulatory base. After the twentieth day, the replacement rate is 75% of the regulatory base. In case of a labour accident, the replacement rate is 75% of the regulatory base from the first day.

Retirement age

The retirement age was increased in 2011 (Law 27/2011) from 65 to 67 years of age. This postponement is being applied progressively between 2013 and 2027, increasing by one month per year until 2018, then by two months per year from 2019 to 2027. Workers are able to retire at the age of 65 years and benefit from maximum pension rights if the contributions they have paid to the Social Security amount to 38 years and 6 months.

The period of contribution that is taken to determine the regulatory basis of the pension has risen from 15 to 25 years. This rise is being applied gradually, increasing by one year from 2013 to 2022.

Women who have interrupted their careers as a consequence of a birth or adoption will be able to claim 9 months of contributions per child before the age of 67 years, up to a maximum of 2 years.



For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in Spain and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

One of the most important impacts of the Great Recession was the process of internal devaluation starting in 2010 and lasting until 2013. During this period, real wages declined for most workers in the economy. Moreover, the extension of working time also contributed to the decline in wage income. Since 2015, workers in Spain had experienced a slow but gradual recovery in real earnings after the cuts during the 2008 financial crisis. This has come to a halt with the 2020 COVID-19 crisis. In 2018, the average annual wage for men was € 26,738 (€ 25,668 in 2011) and € 21,011 (€ 19,768 in 2011) for women.

Figures on average annual wages in 2011 and 2016 are provided in the table below.

Average annual wages per worker (in euro), 2011–2016














B: Mining and quarrying





C: Manufacturing





D: Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply





E: Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities





F: Construction





G: Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles





H: Transportation and storage





I: Accommodation and food service activities





J: Information and communication





K: Financial and insurance activities





L: Real estate activities





M: Professional, scientific and technical activities





N: Administrative and support service activities





O: Public administration and defence; compulsory social security





P: Education





Q: Human health and social work activities





R: Arts, entertainment and recreation





S: Other service activities





Source: Salary Structure Survey (Encuesta de Estructural Salarial). National Institute of Statistics (INE)

Minimum wages

The determination of the minimum wage is regulated in Article 27.1 of the Statute of Workers’ Rights. It establishes that the minimum wage will be determined by taking the following four factors into consideration:

  • the annual consumer prices index (Índice de Precios al Consumo);
  • the national productivity average;
  • the contribution of labour to the gross national income;
  • the general economic context.

However, it is does not set out how every factor will be taken into consideration.

There are no young and adult rates in the minimum wage.

Even though it is standard practice is for the government to consult social partners about the increase of the minimum wage, and then approve it, unilateral government wage setting without negotiating or even consulting the social partners was the norm during the Great Recession.. However, this has changed more recently under with the Socialist government. Even though it set the minimum wage for 2019 at 900 euro per month without negotiating or formally consulting the social partners, it negotiated the increase for 2020 and has also tried to reach an agreement with social partners in order to set the increase for 2021. Even though an agreement couldn’t be reached finally, the commitment of the government towards a negotiated wage increase remains.

The amount of the minimum wage in 2015–2021 is as follows:

  • 2015: €648.60
  • 2016: €655.20
  • 2017: €707.60
  • 2018: €735.90
  • 2019: €900.00
  • 2020: €950.00
  • 2021: €950.00

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see:

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please see:

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Spain.

Working time regulation

In Spain, working time is set up by law and collective bargaining. The law provides basic standards that must be respected by all the collective agreements with regard to maximum working hours per day, rest periods and annual paid leave. Collective bargaining regulates the distribution of working time but respects the statutory legal provisions. Sectoral collective agreements provide general guidelines for working time in the sector, and this is then adapted at company level.

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult:

Overtime regulation

The statutory maximum working day is established by law at 9 hours (unless the social partners have agreed on a different number, and except for workers younger than 18 years, who cannot work more than 8 hours per day). The statutory maximum working day can be changed by means of collective bargaining up to a maximum of 80 extra hours distributed throughout the year. The 80 extra hours limit won’t apply in cases of emergency or urgent need to repair extraordinary damages, but the additional will be paid anyway to the worker. In 2019, a law established the compulsory record or registry of working time in order to fight against abuse in part-time contracts and overtime work.

Part-time work

In Spain, the percentage of part-time workers has traditionally been low – it was 12% before the crisis (2007) and reached 14.2% in 2019. The percentage of women working part time is higher (23.4% in 2019). Although the number of men working part time has slightly increased in the last few years, differences between sexes are still very pronounced. However, the most important feature of part-time work in Spain at this time is its relationship with precariousness. Working part time is mainly an involuntary decision in Spain and this has been exacerbated by the crisis. According to the Spanish Labour Force Survey, in 2019, 54.8% of the employees who work part time wanted to have a full-time job.

Persons employed part-time in Spain and EU27 (% of total employment)








Total (EU27)







Total (Spain)







Women (EU27)







Women (Spain)







Men (EU27)







Men (Spain)







Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

Involuntary part-time

Involuntary part-time workers can be defined as those working part time because they could not find a full-time job. As could be expected, the evolution of involuntary part-time work in Spain follows a counter-cyclical pattern as it increases in periods of crisis (as workers find it more difficult to find a job, and in particular a full-time job) and declines when the economy is growing.

Persons employed in involuntary part-time in the Spain and EU27 (% of total part-time employment)








Total (EU27)







Total (Spain)







Women (EU27)







Women (Spain)







Men (EU27)







Men (Spain)







Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsa_eppgai]- involuntary part-time employment as a percentage of the total part-time employment, by sex and age (20 to 64 years of age)

Night work

The work done between 22.00 and 06.00 is considered to be night work. A night worker is a person who normally works during the night period no less than 3 hours of his or her work day, as well as a person who foresees that no less than one third of his or her annual working day will be done during the night period (Source: the Statute of Workers’ Rights).

Shift work

Shift work is considered to be all kinds of teamwork organisation, in which workers take up successively the same work positions, according to a certain pace of work– continuous or discontinuous – implying for the worker the need to offer his or her services in different hours over a given period of days or weeks (Source: the Statute of Workers’ Rights).

Weekend work

In the Spanish labour legislation there is no provision for weekend work. A similar figure in the legislation is work during the rest days (Descanso semanal) (Source: the Statute of Workers’ Rights).

Rest and breaks

Rest and breaks terms are defined as periods of time when the worker is not obliged to provide their services to the employer. Workers have the right to rest days, which can be accumulated in periods up to 14 days, of a day and a half uninterrupted. As a general rule, it involves Saturday afternoon, or Monday morning, and the entire day of Sunday. Also, there is the right to have a break for 15 minutes if 6 uninterrupted hours are worked during the day.

The government, on the proposal of the Minister of Employment and Social Security and having previously consulted the most relevant trade unions and employers’ organisations, can establish extensions and reductions in the duration of the work day and rests, for those sectors and services that because of their particularities demand it. (Source: the Statute of Workers’ Rights)

Working time flexibility

Working time flexibility is regulated by collective bargaining or individual contracts under the limits established by the law. According to the Spanish legislation, 10% of the annual working time can be distributed irregularly throughout the year, thus increasing the maximum working hours (40 hours) in some weeks. In addition, overtime can be compensated with rest.

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be high-priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce; organisations lose productivity through ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in Spain.

Health and safety at work

Health and Safety at work is regulated in Chapter X of Workers’ Statute which details those bodies in charge of monitoring the right application of health and safety regulations as well as the employers’ obligations in relation to preventing accidents at work.

According to Eurostat figures on accidents at work (see the table below), the number of accidents has increased since 2015, reaching 398,108 in 2019.

Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost







All accidents






Percent change on previous year






Per 1,000 employees






Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed]

Psychosocial risks

Spain does not have specific legislation on psychosocial risks. However, Law 31/1995, which transposed the Health and Safety at Work Framework Council Directive 89/391 to Spanish law, makes some references to these risks. For instance, Article 4.7.d. states that the organisation and management can affect the magnitude of the risks the workers are exposed to. There are other provisions related to psychosocial risks too, such as the duty to adapt the job to the person (Article 15.1.d) and the need to implement prevention actions in a coherent plan that integrates technology, work organisation, working conditions, social relations and the influence of environmental factors at work (Article 15.1.g). The Labour and Social Security Inspectorate is in charge of enforcing these provisions.

More recently, the Spanish Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2015-2020 (Estrategia Española de Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo 2015-2020) includes the objective of promoting the participation of social partners and Autonomous Communities, and improving working and health conditions at work, especially in sectors, activities, collectives and companies with higher risk. More precisely, it includes developing and disseminating methodologies of psychosocial risks evaluation, which could lead to a better understanding and prevention of those risks.

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Spanish system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

National system for ensuring skills and employability

Since the Organic Law 5/2002 of 19 June on qualifications and vocational education and training was approved, the main mechanism to identify and define vocational qualifications for both the Initial Vocational Education and Training system (IVET) and the Continuing Vocational Education and Training system (CVET) is the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications (CNCP). The General Council on Vocational Education and Training (CGFP), together with the technical body, the National Institute of Vocational Qualifications (INCUAL), are in charge of identifying and updating the qualifications of the CNCP. They follow a demand-driven approach that aims to identify the most significant qualifications needed in the productive system.

The methodology for developing the standards is rather participative. It involves employers, trade unions and administrations at both the central and regional levels and works as follows. Professional qualifications are designed by working groups comprised of experts in the professional field and in vocational training. There are 26 working groups (one working group for each professional group). The working groups are proposed by the General Council on Vocational Education and Training (CGFP) and are directed by the INCUAL. The working group’s first task is to design and describe the unit of competence. The unit of competence is the minimum aggregate of competences that can be recognised. Units of competences are expressed as professional outcomes. Then the unit of competence is associated with a training module that includes learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Once the unit of competences and learning modules have been established, the INCUAL classifies and controls the outcomes. After that, the Council of Ministers can approve the qualification to be included in the CNCP after consulting with the CGFP, the Scholar State Council and the ministry affected. Qualifications must be updated at least every five years.


The main national public institutions responsible for training regulation and development are the General Council on Vocational Education and Training (CGFP), the National Institute of Vocational Qualifications (INCUAL) and the State Foundation of Training for Employment (Fundae), former Tripartite Foundation of Training for Employment (Tripartita).

On 23 March 2015, the Royal Decree-Act reformed the Vocational Training System, in order to gain efficiency and transparency in the management of public resources, and established Fundae, the State Foundation for Employment Training (Fundación Tripartita para la Formación en el Empleo). Nowadays, employers’ organisations and trade unions are no longer the principal training providers, and do not directly manage training programmes (for that purpose, they are now under the same conditions as other private training centres). However, social partners do take part in the design and planning of training programmes.

The composition of the foundation’s patronage has also changed, in that now the proportion of public administration representative members is higher: the state has 36 seats, Autonomous Communities 18 (one each) and social partners only 18 (representative unions 9 and main employers’ organisations 9).

According to the Annual Labour Survey (Encuesta Annual Laboral), 73.7% of Spanish companies provided some form of training to their employees in 2017. This number reaches 99% in the case of companies with more than 250 employees, but goes down to 66,1% in companies with 5-9 employees.

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effect on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

For more detailed information on work organisation, please consult:

For Spain, the European Company Survey 2019 shows that between 2010 and 2013, 49.4% of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 40.9% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers and another 27.6% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

The Working and Living Conditions Survey ( Encuesta de Calidad de Vida en el Trabajo, ECVT) conducted by the Ministry of Employment in 2010 (the last year in which it was conducted) provides some information on work organisation and job satisfaction, but unfortunately it is not very recent.

In general, this survey, carried out in a relatively early stage of the crisis, shows that Spanish workers record positive ratings with regard to subjective indicators on job satisfaction. For instance, on a scale of 0 to 10, employees rate personal development at 7.6, 7.5 for autonomy and 7.2 for motivation. However, according to this same source, 38% of employees had a high or very high level of monotonous routine in their work tasks, 31% had a mid-level of monotony and 30.5% had a low or very low level of monotonous routine in their work tasks.

The contrast between subjective and objective factors related to job quality in Spain has been stressed by some authors (Prieto et al, 2009) who have called for multidimensional approaches to measure job quality.

The Ministry of Employment and Social Security publishes the Annual Labour Survey (Encuesta Anual Laboral). According to this survey, in 2017 25.5% of the surveyed companies applied internal flexibility measures. In 2013, the first year when this survey was conducted, 27% of the companies applied internal flexibility measures; however, these figures contrast with the lower percentages of 2014 (24.3%) and 2015 (20.7%). In 2016, 41.4% of all employees were working in companies which applied internal flexibility measures (46.1% in 2013; 42.2% in 2014; 37.2% in 2015). Normally, the use of this type of measure is more frequent in larger companies (54.3% of the companies with more than 499 workers applied these measures). Flexibility is mainly related to working time, whereas changes in wages have lost importance in the last years. In particular, in 2017 14.7% of all the companies modified the type of working time (full-time or part-time), whereas 11.3% adapted/modified to some extent working time (e.g. distribution of working hours). Just 1.9% of companies changed the wage system or the wage amount (in contrast to 6.8% in 2013).

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Article 4.2 of the Statute of Workers’ Rights formally acknowledges the right not to be discriminated against at work due to sex, civil status, social origin, race, religious or political ideas, affiliation to a trade union or by reason of language.

Law 14/2003 on the treatment of migration in Spain acknowledges as indirect discrimination the adoption of criteria that discriminate against a worker due to his or her nationality, religion, ethnicity or race.

Law 3/2007 on effective equality between men and women established that gender be mainstreamed in public policies in order to achieve effective equality in all areas of economic, social, cultural and political life.

Employees’ representatives at the workplace are responsible for ensuring equality at work.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

The main bodies ensuring equal pay for equal work are labour inspectors and employees’ representatives at the workplace.

The observed gender pay gap (unadjusted) declined in the years previous to the crisis. There was a recorded a drop from 22% in 2002 to 16% in 2008. However, since the onset of the crisis it has risen again; it was recorded at 18% in 2012. Research conducted by Murillo and Simon (2011) shows the same trend after 2008. According to them, the main factors that explain the new increase in the gender pay gap relate to the improvement of men’s wages due to the employment destruction in relatively low-wage sectors and the increase of the ‘glass ceiling’ effect. A more recent study by FEDEA (Anghel et al. 2018) showed that women earn on average 12.7% less (hourly earnings).

The most important legislative initiative aimed at combating gender pay discrimination was the Organic Law 3/2007, for Effective Equality between Women and Men. One of its main contributions directly affecting pay discrimination was the obligation to companies with over 250 workers to draw up and apply equality plans, which have to contain measures dealing with professional classification, promotion and training, and payroll retributions, among other issues.

An interesting social partner initiative is the Observatory of Measures and Equality Plans in Collective Bargaining, a body created by the General Workers Union (Unión General de Trabajadores, UGT) and financed by the European Social Fund and the Women’s Institute. This body publishes reports analysing how equality is treated in collective bargaining and in the equality plans. The last report was for 2013.

The Institute of Women, together with the Spanish Statistical Office (INE), publishes the report Women and Men in Spain (Mujeres y Hombres en España), which uses a group of indicators to review the situation of women in different aspects of society, including the labour market. The last report compiling all the data on the subject was issued in 2017.

Quota regulations

Organic Law 3/200 for Effective Equality between Women and Men introduced a quota regulation for electoral lists. Since 2007, a minimum of 40% people of each sex must be included in all the electoral lists for municipalities with a population higher than 5,000.

With regard to disadvantaged groups, Law 13/1982 regulated a quota of 2% of disabled workers in private and public companies with more than 50 employees. However, Royal-decree 364/2005 introduced some exceptions and provides alternative measures that companies can implement if they cannot hire a disabled worker.



Anghel, B., Conde-Ruiz, J. I., & Marra de Artiñano, I. (2018), Brechas salariales de Género en España. Madrid: FEDEA. Accesible en: http://documentos. fedea. net/pubs/eee/eee2018-06. pdf.

Eurofound (2020a), Industrial relations: Developments 2015–2019 , Challenges and prospects in the EU series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

Eurofound (2020b), Minimum Wages in 2020: Annual review , Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Eurofound (2020c), Collective agreements and bargaining coverage in the EU: A mapping of types, regulations and first findings from the European Company Survey 2019 , working paper, Dublin.

Eurofound (2020d), Employee representation at establishment or company level: A mapping report ahead of the 4th European Company Survey , working paper, Dublin.

Eurofound (2021), Working conditions and sustainable work: An analysis using the job quality framework , Challenges and prospects in the EU series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Eurofound and Cedefop (2020), European Company Survey 2019: Workplace practices unlocking employee potentia l , European Company Survey 2019 series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

Eurostat, Unemployment statistics , webpage, accessed 30 October 2015.

Eurostat, LFS ad-hoc modules: 2019. Work organisation and working time arrangements . Eurostat database.

Eurostat, Part-time employment and temporary contracts - quarterly data [lfsi_pt_q]. Eurostat database

Funcas (2015), La reforma laboral de 2012: primer balance (mayo - junio), nº 246, May 2015.

Miguélez, F. and Rebollo, O. (1999), ‘Negociación Colectiva en los noventa’, in F. Miguélez and C. Prieto (eds), Las relacíones de empleo en Espania, pp. 325-346. Madrid: Siglo veintiuno.

OECD (2021), OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database , version: 17 Feb 2021, Paris

Prieto, C., Arnal, M., Caprile, M. and Potrony, J. (2009), La calidad del empleo: Una aproximación teórica y empírica, Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración. Madrid.

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