Spain is made up of 17 regions or “autonomous communities”. While some powers are decentralised to the regions, employment legislation is primarily national in scope, though there are regional differences in areas such as public holidays and some social security benefits.

The most important item of employment legislation is the Workers’ Statute (Estatuto de los Trabajadores), which regulates many aspects of individual and collective employment relations. Other laws, decree-laws and decrees deal with a number of related matters, such as health and safety, trade unions, strikes, special types of employment contract/relationship, social security, training and temporary agency work. The Workers’ Statute does not apply to certain categories of worker, who are instead covered by specific legislation: as well as groups such as domestic servants, professional sportspeople, actors and certain doctors and lawyers, these include senior managers.

The Workers’ Statute and the various other employment-related statutes are collected, for administrative convenience, in a single Labour and Social Security Code (Código Laboral y de la Seguridad Social). Outside the scope of this Code, legislation in areas such as equality/non-discrimination and data protection/privacy are also relevant to the employment relationship. Case law, especially that of the Supreme Court, plays a significant role in interpreting employment-related legislation.

Pay and conditions for a majority of Spanish employees are set by collective agreements, which are signed mainly at industry level for a particular geographical area (in a number of specified subject areas, such as pay, the provisions of company-level agreements take precedence over those of industry-level agreements). The general rule is that collective agreements cannot provide for employment conditions that are less advantageous for employees than statute, and that individual employment contracts cannot provide for employment conditions that are less advantageous for employees than either statute or an applicable collective agreement. In the event of any conflict between sources of regulation, the provisions that are most advantageous for the employee must be applied.

This topic refers to employment law in the private sector only.

Temporary COVID-19 Crisis Measures (as at 15 May 2020)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spanish government has taken a number of temporary measures affecting some of the issues dealt with in this topic. For example:

  • objective reasons related to the COVID-19 crisis are not legitimate grounds for dismissal (see Dismissal for Objective Reasons) and the crisis cannot be treated as a “force majeure” event that terminates the employment contract (see Other Forms of Termination)

  • employees have enhanced rights to request adaptations to their working hours and patterns, and working time reductions (see Normal Hours)

  • certain employees who do not work in essential services and cannot work at home may be obliged to take “recoverable” paid time off that they will have to work to make up in future.

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