Living and working in Spain

18 Ekim 2017

  •   Population: 46.5 million (2017)
  •   Real GDP growth: 3.3% (2016)
  •   Unemployment rate: 19.6% (2016)

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 28 EU Member States. 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 is the Europe 2020 growth and jobs strategy launched in 2010, which has five headline targets, covering employment through to social inclusion and poverty reduction. The strategy is implemented in the context of the European Semester process – the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance – which ensures that Member States keep their budgetary and economic policies in line with their EU commitments through, in part, National Reform Programmes. These programmes form the basis for the European Commission's proposals for country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for each Member State.

European Commission: The European Semester
European Commission: The European Semester - EU country-specific recommendations
European Commission: European Semester documents for Spain

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

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

Read the highlights for 2018 for working life in Spain

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 countries working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Consortium Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona (UAB- QUIT), and Instituto Sindical de Trabajo, Ambiente y Salud (ISTAS)

Eurofound governing board members from Spain

Eurofound's Governing Board represents the social partners and national governments of all Member States, as well as the European Commission. Read more

Domingo Jimenez Valladolid Ministry of Employment, Migrations and Social Security

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

Antonia Ramos Yuste General Union of Workers (UGT)

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


  • Yazar: Jessica Duran, Mikel Muñoz-Baroja, Iñigo Isusi
  • Institution: IKEI
  • Published on: Cumartesi, Temmuz 28, 2018

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 2018

Highlights – Working life in 2018

Author: Oscar Molina, University of Barcelona
Updated on: 13 March 2019
Working paper: Spain: Developments in working life 2018

Social dialogue in Spain gained momentum in 2018 after a period of recovery that followed a crisis characterised by austerity policies and unilateral policy-making. Added to the favourable economic context of moderate growth was a new political context, with a socialist government that, from the beginning of its term, expressed a strong commitment to social dialogue. As a result, tripartite negotiations and consultations were carried out on a number of issues. Moreover, trade unions and employers entered into negotiations on several issues on a bipartite basis.

From the point of view of social dialogue, 2018 was a year in which the social partners, together with the government, tried to improve the wages of workers who had been affected by the economic crisis and whose earnings were still below pre-crisis levels in real terms. Three main initiatives were undertaken in this respect: a framework agreement for public sector workers, a bipartite agreement establishing higher negotiated minimum wages and an increase in the statutory minimum wage to €900. In spite of disagreements between the social partners, especially in relation to the large increase in the statutory minimum wage, there was general agreement on the need for several mechanisms to improve real earnings in the economy and strengthen the contribution of internal demand to GDP growth. From this perspective, social dialogue proved a very effective mechanism to build consensus around a key issue like wage increases. It was nonetheless interesting to note how this time the government in setting the statutory minimum wage went against the standard practice of entering into consultations with social partners in order to reach a consensus and approved it unilaterally.

Social dialogue also contributed to other areas, in addition to wages, including youth employment and decent work. However, by the end of the year, negotiations remained open on a large number of issues. Particularly important was the renegotiation of aspects of the 2012 labour market reform that trade unions had strongly criticised. The socialist government appointed in 2018 showed a commitment to reforming some of its most controversial aspects, preferably after agreement between trade unions and employer organisations had been reached. The weak majority in parliament made it difficult for the government to get some changes in legislation passed and they were obliged to seek the support of social partners in this endeavour. However, by year end, negotiations had not yet delivered an agreement.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Spain




% (point) change







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 2012-2017 (both based on tsdec100). Unemployment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [lfsi_emp_a].



Economic and labour market context

Between 2012 and 2017, GDP in Spain grew 10.4% whilst the EU average for the same period was 7.4%. Total unemployment decreased 7.6 percentage points in these five years, reaching 17.2% in 2017, while the EU average was 7.6%. Male unemployment decreased 8.9 percentage points in the five years considered. Youth unemployment remains high at 38.6% in 2017, in contrast with the EU average of 16.8% for the same year. Total employment rate in 2017 was 73.9%, slightly higher than the EU average of 73.4%. Youth employment figures decreased between 2012 and 2017 (-5.7%) and stood at 33.3% in 2017, against an EU average of 41.7% for the same 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. However, the
structure of collective bargaining, which started to become consolidated during those years, did not achieve a great degree of centralisation, with different agreements at national, regional and local level. This structure is still present today.

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 (Miguélez and Rebollo, 1999).

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 national agreements on collective bargaining started to be concluded by the social partners. 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 (continuation of agreements beyond expiry, favourability principle, etc.).

According to FUNCAS report, 2015, the labour reform has facilitated internal flexibility concerning salaries. The report compares data regarding the ‘stayers’ (those who preserved their job during the period analysed) and the ‘movers’ (those who changed jobs and maybe also experienced periods of unemployment). The data show that between 2008 and 2013, salaries decreased much more among the movers (17% reduction) than among the stayers (1.6%). However, stayers’ incomes dropped rapidly from 2012 onwards, with 5% loss in only two years. Also in 2013, the proportion of movers working part time was 11.63%, three times higher than the rate for stayers (3.84%). Therefore, it can be concluded also that the labour reform has favoured salary flexibility, but the effects on working time flexibility have been lower.

That same report states that the reform has not contributed much to the creation of employment. In spite of a clear improvement in employment figures, the unemployment rate was still at 19.91% in the third quarter of 2016 (against 24.8% in 2012Q3 when the reform came into force). Also, according to the report, the reform has not succeeded in diminishing the duality in the labour market (permanent vs. temporary employees) or reducing employment precariousness (the proportion of temporary employees remains stable since 2012). On the contrary, working conditions – in terms of salary or working time – have tended to deteriorate, particularly for those workers who have had to change jobs (often after a period of unemployment). In that sense, an increase in salary inequality is highlighted.

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 Employment and Social Security and the Employment Departments of the Autonomous Communities. These institutions are in charge of registering the collective agreements. Once a collective agreement has been concluded, the signatory parties must send the collective agreement to the public authority (the Ministry of Employment if it is national and the Employment Departments of the Autonomous Communities if it is regional) within 15 days. Prior to the registration, public authorities make sure the content of the agreement is in line with the legislation. If the collective agreement goes against the 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 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 controlling the performance of the health and safety regulation. Its functions include, among others, validating and promoting the implementation of the health and safety regulation, assessing companies on how to apply the health and safety regulation, elaborating the reports concerning work accidents and professional diseases, suggesting penalties in cases of non-fulfilment to the Labour Administration and ordering the stoppage of work in case of danger.


In Spain, the concept of representativeness guarantees an erga omnes representation for both trade unions and employers’ organisations. Thus, it gives trade unions the capacity to negotiate agreements with the employers’ organisations and with the government on behalf of all the workers. The same applies to the employers’ organisations.

Through the juridical 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 legal representativeness criterion is the basis for getting access to public funds. In addition, Spanish law recognises an intermediate category of ‘representative’ trade unions and employers’ organisations in a specific sector. Those organisations can conclude sectoral collective agreements but are not formally entitled to have institutional representation at national or regional level, nor are they entitled to receive public funds.

The main legal criterion for determining the representativeness of trade unions is based on the election results of workers’ delegates and working committee members at the workplace level (their electoral audience). Accordingly, the electoral process aiming to choose the employees’ representatives at the workplace is used to measure trade union support. The ‘most representative’ trade unions are those that cover a minimum of 10% of workers’ delegates and working committee members at national level or 15% at regional level. ‘Representative’ trade unions in a specific sector are those that cover a minimum of 10% of workers’ delegates and working committee members of the sector at national level or 15% of the sector at regional level.

For the employers’ organisations, the criterion for determining their representativeness is based on their membership. The ‘most representative’ employers’ organisations are those that cover a minimum of 10% of employers and 10% of workers at national level or 15% of employers and 15% of workers at regional level. The ‘representative’ employers’ organisations in the sector are those that cover a minimum of 10% of employers and 10% of workers in the sector at national level or 15% of employers and 15% of workers of the sector at regional level. They can also conclude sectoral collective agreements.

The most important legal texts regulating representativeness are the Statute of Workers’ Rights (1980) but modified by different royal-decrees and laws) and the Organic Law of Trade Union Freedom (1985).

More information on representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found in Eurofound’s representativeness study of the cross-industry social partners or in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

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.

The trend regarding trade union density has been very stable in the last number of years. In 1980, coinciding with an increase in the unemployment rate, trade union density was affected by a significant decrease that persisted until 1986. After that year, it did not manage to reach the previous rate despite a moderate increase. Since the end of the 1990s, trade union density has stabilised. 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. According to OECD figures, trade union density remained stable at 17% from 2010 to 2013.

Nevertheless, in Spain the main criteria for determining union representativeness is the electoral audience, which is determined by the number of delegates and working committee members obtained in the elections. The representativeness of the most important trade unions at national level has remained stable.

Trade union membership and trade union density










Trade union density in terms of active employees








OECD /Visser J. (2014)

Trade union membership in 1,000s








OECD /Visser J. (administrative data)

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 account for more than 70% of the representatives at the national level (according to Jodar in the Labour Annual 2012).

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name



Involved in collective bargaining

Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions


909,052* (2015)


General Workers’ Confederation


928,846** (2015)


Sources: *CCOO report “Affiliation and representativeness in 31-12-2015 (Afiliación y Representación en 31-12-2015)”.
**article in Expansion newspaper.

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. 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).

For both unions, the mergers were carried out in order to combat the reduction in 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).

However, it is worth noting that the procedures to verify the representativeness of the employers’ organisations are not clearly established. Indeed, 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 the affiliation figures of the 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.

The most important developments on the employer side relate to the second electoral process held within the CEOE. Elections were held on 17 December 2014 and the previous president, Juan Rosell, emerged as the winner with 52% of the votes. New elections are expected to take place during 2018.

Employers’ organisations – membership and density








Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees






Visser (2014)

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*






European Company Survey 2013

*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**



*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.The so-called Industrial Observatories operate 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.

The most important body at bipartite level 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.

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, study, documentation and diffusion of them.

In Spain, tripartite and bipartite social pacts are not negotiated under any of the existing institutional bodies.

With regard to bipartite social pacts, one of the most important agreements achieved in the last few years is the ‘agreement for employment and collective bargaining’ (2012–2014) and the ‘Third agreement for employment and collective bargaining’ (2015-2017). This type of agreement has a long tradition in Spanish industrial relations. It is not a mandatory agreement and provides guidelines on different issues, such as pay increases, that the social partners commit themselves to following collective bargaining at different levels, thus providing some degree of coordination and general framework. 

The ‘Third agreement  for Employment and Collective Bargaining 2015-2017’ provided for a 1% pay rise in 2015, increasing to 1.5% in 2016. For the year 2017, it was agreed that the salary increase should be linked to the Spanish GDP and the evolution of the economy. However, throughout the year 2017, social partners were not able to agree on a Pact on Salaries for 2017. A new ‘agreement for employment and collective bargaining’ should be signed in 2018.

There were no tripartite social pacts in the period 2011–2013. Since the Popular Party took office, the most important labour market and pension reforms have been approved unilaterally. The first tripartite social pact within the Popular Party government was concluded in 2014. On 15 December 2014, the government and the most representative social partners at national level (CEOE, CEPYME, UGT and CCOO) agreed on the enactment of a new monthly unemployment benefit equal to €426 addressed to long-term unemployed who ceased being eligible for unemployment benefits and have family responsibilities (dependents). The benefit is conditional upon the participation of the beneficiaries in active labour market policies.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies




Issues covered

Spanish Social and Economic Council



Employment and social policies – consultative body role

Industrial Observatories



Industrial policy

Interconfederal 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 workers’ committees. 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 with 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.

Workers’ committees 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 workers’ committee 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.

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.*

Workers’ committees/ 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.

Employee representation at establishment level

In the figure, we see a comparison between Spain and European Union for the people with 'Establishment size : All' when asked 'Official structure of employee representation present at establishment'. For the 'Yes' answer, Spain's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'No' answer, Spain's score is lower than the European Union score. The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: ECS 2013. Private sector establishments with more than 10 employees. Eurofound data visualisation.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

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 at different levels




All levels


2010 – SES data

All levels


2013 – ECS

All, excluding national level


2013 – ECS

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B–S) – multiple answers possible; Eurostat, Structure of Earnings Survey, companies >10 employees (NACE B–S), single answer: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement.

There are no official national figures on collective bargaining coverage. In previous Spanish Eurofound contributions, collective bargaining coverage has been estimated by crossing figures of the number of employees covered by collective agreements extracted from the Statistics of Collective Agreements with the figures of the Spanish Labour Force Survey. The result for 2014 (the latest year with definitive figures on collective bargaining) was 59.41% (54.41% for sectoral collective agreements and 5% for company collective agreements). 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 2015 will only be definitive once the figures of all the collective agreements have been recorded by 31 May 2017, the economic effects of which started in 2015.

Bargaining levels

The structure of collective bargaining has remained constant since the end of the 1990s. Since 2002 (with the exception of 2009), cross-sectoral-level agreements have only established guidelines on working time and pay that are not legally binding. 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, 2015


National level (intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level



Working time


Working time


Working time

Principal or dominant level





Important but not dominant level


Existing level





The mechanism governing coordination between different levels of collective wage setting was changed in 2011 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 interprofessional level 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.


‘Interprofessional agreements’ (acuerdos interprofesionales) establish the structure of the collective bargaining across sectors, at national level or at Autonomous Community level. They 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 coordination for all of them. The measure is adopted via peak-level agreements between the major employers’ organisations and trade unions. 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 III Agreement for Employment and Collective Bargaining 2015, 2016 and 2017 (III Acuerdo para el Empleo y la Negociación Colectiva 2015,2016 y 2017). 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 concluded the collective bargaining. 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 that allow 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 that allow 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 enterprises to 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. Meanwhile, (‘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

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.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

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

According to the regulation, legally there are two types of industrial action: 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 2013

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: European Company Survey 2013.

Industrial action developments, 2012–2016







2016 (provisional figures for January–September 2016)

Total working days lost







Number of strikes







Main reasons

Labour reasons: 825

Non-labour reasons: 53

Labour reasons: 952

Non-labour reasons: 42

Labour reasons: 682

Non-labour reasons: 95

Labour reasons: 572

Non-labour reasons: 43

Labour reasons: 614

Non-labour reasons: 27

Labour reasons: 454

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 2012 until 2016 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 statutes or arise from collective bargaining. 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 managed by SIMA. From its inception up to 2013, SIMA has continuously increased the number of conflicts it manages. Since then, the number of conflicts managed has been around 400 per year. In 2016 (the last year for which figures are available), 398 conflicts in total were managed. Although only 2 arbitration procedures were implemented, this procedure still exists. Most conflicts are treated through the mediation procedure. 

Use of collective dispute resolution mechanisms

























Source: Evolution of conflicts managed by SIMA (1998–2015) (Evolución de conflictos tramitados en el SIMA (1998 to 2016)) Interconfederal Service of Mediation and Arbitration, SIMA.

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 Spain, maternity leave gives mothers the right to take 6 weeks of paid leave after the birth plus 10 weeks that can be shared between the mother and father. These 10 weeks can be taken full time and part time.

Law 3/2007 for the effective equality between men and women introduced an individual right to paternity leave equal to 13 days, irrespective of the mother’s right to maternity leave. Social Security statistics show that from 2007 to September 2016, more than two million workers availed of tise entitlement. From 2014 to 2015, a slight increase in the use of this right was observed, from 235,678 in 2014 to 238,806 in 2015.

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

6 weeks after the birth + 10 weeks that can be taken by the father or the mother.


100% of the regulatory base

Who pays?

Social Security (Seguridad Social)

Legal basis

Law 4/1995, Law 3/2007

Parental leave

Maximum duration

16 weeks that can be extended to 18 weeks in the case of the birth or the adoption of a child with disabilities. A minimum of 6 weeks must be taken after the birth by the mother. The following 10 weeks can be shared between the mother and father.


100% of the regulatory base

Who pays?

Social Security (Seguridad Social)

Legal basis

Law 4/1995, Law 3/2007

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

13 calendar days (20 days in the case of disabled children). Fathers can take this leave irrespective of the mother’s right to maternity leave.


100% of the regulatory base

Who pays?

Social Security (Seguridad Social)

Legal basis

Law 3/2007, Law 9/2009, Royal Decree 295/2009

Recently, in mid-December 2016, the new Spanish government (formed in October 2016 after the June 2016 elections) announced that paternity leave would be extended from 13 days to 4 weeks duration. This measure is part of the governing pact between the Popular Party (the leading party in the government) and Ciudadanos (who supported the Popular Party to designate Mr Mariano Rajoy as prime minister). This new measure was fixed by Law 9/2009, but due to financial constraints, the different Spanish Budget Laws have been postponing this measure year after year (the last one was by the 11th Final Disposition of the Law 48/2015). Finally, it came into force on 1 January 2017, based on the current extended Budget Law and the Spanish Social Security.

In September 2017, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos agreed to extend the paternity leave to 5 weeks, based on the above-mentioned governing pact, 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).

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.



Pay: 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.

In 2015, the average annual wage for men was € 25,993 (€ 25,668 in 2011) and € 20,052 (€ 19,768 in 2011) for women. In 2015-2016, after years of crisis, Spain started to recover in economic terms and create employment; however, this economic improvement was not reflected in salary levels. The report ‘Graphic Analysis of the Salary Devaluation in Spain’ published in 2015 by the trade union CCOO concludes that salary devaluation affected particularly those groups who were already earning the lowest salaries, as well as those who lost their job and found a new one (usually with a lower salary). Moreover, the increase in part-time work levels also contributed to the decrease in average wages. Furthermore, the report states that salary devaluation was leading to a decrease in workers’ purchasing power. The factors behind salary devaluation were said to be mainly employment destruction, labour precariousness and the 2010 and 2012 labour reforms. It is suggested that salary devaluation was a core strategy in the adjustment plan of the Spanish economy, used as a tool for recovering lost competitiveness.

Figures on average annual wages in 2011 and 2015 are provided in the table below.

Average annual wages per worker (in euro), 2011–2015














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.

Royal-decree 1,046/2013 that regulated the minimum wage in 2013 points out that once the four factors have been taken into consideration, the minimum wage will be frozen. As on previous occasions, the royal-decree does not specify how the four factors have been weighted in order to determine the minimum wage.

In the last few years, the minimum wage was unilaterally agreed by the Government; however, the minimum salary for 2018 was the result of a tripartite agreement reached between the government and social partners.
The increase of the minimum wage for 2018 was agreed in December 2017 between the government (Minister of Employment) and social partners (CCOO and UGT trade unions; CEOE and CEPYME employers’ organisations). They agreed to increase the minimum wage up to 850 euro in 2020, which was linked to two conditions: the Spanish GDP should increase by more than 2.5% each year, and the Social Security should register more than 450,000 thousand affiliated people (i.e. workers) more each year. All in all, in order to progressively reach the level of 850 euro in 2020, it was agreed by all parties that the salary would increase by 4% (up to 735.9 Euro) in 2018. This means an annual wage of 10,302.60 euro, as 14 wages are considered (including two extra wages).

The amount of the minimum wage in 2012–2018 was as follows:

  • 2012: €641.40
  • 2013: €645.30
  • 2014: €645.30
  • 2015: €648.60
  • 2016: €655.20
  • 2017: €707.60
  • 2018: €735.90

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.

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.

Part-time work

In Spain, the percentage of part-time workers has traditionally been low – it was 12% before the crisis (2007) and reached 14.6% in 2017. The percentage of women working part time is higher (23.9% in 2017), albeit lower than the European average of 31.1% for the same year. 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 the third quarter of 2017, 61.3% of the employees who work part time wanted to have a full-time job compared to 33% in 2008.

Persons employed part-time in Spain and EU28 (% of total employment)









Total - EU28








Total – ES








Women - EU28








Women – ES








Men - EU28








Men - ES








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.

Persons employed in involuntary part-time in the Spain and EU28 (% of total part-time employment)








Total (EU 28)







Total (Spain)







Women (EU 28)







Women (Spain)







Men (EU 28)







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.

Do you have fixed start and finishing time in your work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Spain and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have fixed starting and finishing times in your work?'. For the 'No' answer, Spain's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Spain's score is higher than the European Union score. Data is based on question 39d from the sixth "European Working Conditions Survey (2015)The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: European Working conditions survey 2015.

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

According to Eurostat figures on accidents at work (see the table below), Spain has improved health and safety at work over the last few years. The number of accidents has continuously decreased since 2009. The most pronounced drop in the number of accidents was recorded in 2009 and 2013. Unfortunately, in 2014, a small increase in the number of accidents was recorded.

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










All accidents











Percentage 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.

Work intensity: Do you have enough time to get the job done?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Spain and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Do you have enough time to get the job done?'. For the 'Always or most of the time' answer, Spain's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Rarely or never' answer, Spain's score is lower than the European Union score. For the 'Sometimes' answer, Spain's score is higher than the European Union score. Data is based on question 61g from the sixth European Working Conditions Survey (2015). The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

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, the presence of social partners is smaller than before, as 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).

Training: Have you had any on the job training in the past year?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Spain and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Have you had on-the-job training in the last 12 months?'. For the 'No' answer, Spain's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Spain's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 65c from the sixth "European Working Conditions Survey (2015). The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

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.

More information on:

For Spain, the European Company Survey 2013 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 2016 27.2% 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 2016 15.7% of all the companies modified the type of working time (full-time or part-time), whereas 12.3% adapted/modified to some extent working time (e.g. distribution of working hours). Just 3.1% of companies changed the wage system or the wage amount (in contrast to 6.8% in 2013).

Work organisation: Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?

In the figure, we see a comparison between Spain and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?'. For the 'No' answer, Spain's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Spain's score is lower than the European Union score. Data is based on question 54b from the sixth "European Working Conditions Survey (2015). The National comparisons visualisation presents a comparative overview for the values of all answers between two selected countries.

Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015.

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.

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.



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.

Nonell, R., Alós-Moner, R., Martín, A. and Molins, J. (2006), ‘The governability of collective bargaining: The case of Spain’, Transfer, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 349–367.

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

Royo, S. (2007), ‘Varieties of capitalism in Spain: Business and the politics of coordination’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 47–65.

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