Leave Laws and Holidays in Spain: A Guide for US Companies

Interested in expanding your US company to Spain? Read our guide to learn about leave laws and policies in Spain, in preparation for hiring team members there.

Caitlin MacDougall
Caitlin MacDougall
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There are many reasons to love Spain. For one, it's one of the most gorgeous countries in the European Union: with access to Mediterranean beaches and the archipelagoes off the Atlantic coast, you would be hard-pressed to find a bad view. The street culture in Spain is magnificent too, with delicious food, abundant art, and stunning architecture. And for the history buffs: Spain ranks second in the world as the country with the most UNESCO World Heritage cities. There are plenty of art and historical landmarks to take in for visitors and residents alike.

The work culture in Spain is unique as well. Spanish employees are typically about ease, and are more inclined to "go with the flow" — taking time off for long lunches, for instance, or meeting for dinners that run late into the night. The country also knows how to party! Holidays and festivals can stretch for days at a time, with plenty of music and revelry in the streets.

If you're considering expanding your company internationally to Spain, you should familiarize yourself with Spain's paid vacation and other leave laws, as well as a few of its culturally significant holidays and traditions. Before you learn about the vacation laws and holidays, let's make sure you're familiar with the basics of employment contracts in Spain.

Photo of people sitting on a hillside at Sacromonte, Granada

Employment contracts in Spain 📑

There are different types of employment contracts in Spain, and the type of worker you hire will vary based on your company's needs. Most employment contracts do not have to be written, although there are some exceptions based on the employment contract.

Below are a few of the most common employee contracts in Spain:

Casual or temporary contracts

These contracts should be in writing, according to Spanish employment law. Temporary contracts are used for workers with a fixed term, or a finite amount of time that they are required to work on a project or task. An employer will typically use them in these cases:

  • Contract for a specific service
  • Contract for production contingencies
  • Temporary replacement contract

A contract for a specific service is pretty self-explanatory: the worker's contract lasts only as long as the specific project or task. If the service lasts beyond a year, the employer must give 15 days’ notice. In a contract for production contingencies, the contract is limited to six months within a 12-month period.

In a temporary replacement contract, the employer must specify in the written contract which worker is being replaced and the reason for their replacement.

Home work and part-time contracts 👩‍💻

In the case of a home work (telework) or a part-time contract, the contract must be in writing, but the duration can be fixed or indefinite. The employer must designate the place where the employee will work and the hours of the working day.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, few people in Spain worked from home, or teleworked. Obviously the landscape has changed dramatically, with some updates to teleworking regulations. As of September 2020, the Spanish government considers most work from home to be a "flexible working condition," or remote work — not a teleworking contract. A remote worker constitutes an employee who works at least 30% of their total hours remotely within a three-month period, or at least one-and–a–half days a week. The employer is responsible for all the supplies and costs necessary for an employee to work from home.

Photo of a man on a scooter in Fuengirola

Annual leave 📆

Annual leave in Spain is fairly generous compared to other countries around the world. Full time workers are entitled to 30 calendar days, or 22 working days of paid leave, and they may divide this leave period into separate holiday periods as long as at least one of those periods is two weeks.

Unused leave

Annual leave must be used by the end of the year because it typically does not roll over into the next year, except in special circumstances such as maternity leave. Additionally, holidays cannot be replaced by financial compensation unless the employment contract is terminated.

National holidays in Spain 🎊

There are nine national, or public, holidays in Spain where everyone in the country is entitled to the day off. Most of Spain's population identifies as Roman Catholic (about 58%), and most of the holidays celebrated in Spain are Christian holidays. Here are the nine public holidays celebrated nationally:

  • New Year’s Day (Año Nuevo), January 1
  • Good Friday (Viernes Santo), moveable
  • Labor Day (Día del Trabajo), May 1
  • Assumption of Mary (Asunción de la Virgen) August 15
  • Spain’s National Day (also referred to as Columbus Day), October 12
  • All Saints’ Day (Fiesta de Todos los Santos), November 1
  • Spanish Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución), December 6
  • Immaculate Conception (La Inmaculada Concepción), December 8
  • Christmas (Navidad), December 25

Other holidays on the Christian calendar may be celebrated regionally; for instance, the day after Easter Sunday, known as Easter Monday, is not a national holiday, but many other municipalities grant workers that day off. Other localities may have a day to celebrate the saint that represents their city or town. St. Joseph's Day, for instance, is a feast day in March, celebrated solely in Castilla-La Mancha, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Melilla, Murcia, and Valenciana.

Spain celebrates secular holidays too, of course. Spain's National Day became an official public holiday in 1987 to commemorate Christopher Columbus's sighting land under Spain's sponsorship. The law states that the holiday is intended to spotlight “the linguistic and cultural projection of Spain outside of its European limits.” To celebrate, Madrid usually hosts a military parade led by the king and the prime minister.

Photo of Monestir de Montserrat

Employees are entitled to sick leave if they are suffering from a serious illness or an injury. In this situation, an employee must claim an allowance for temporary incapacity so that they may receive their normal wages in addition to healthcare.

How to calculate sick pay

If the employee is still sick after four days of sick leave, they can receive 60% of their normal wages for up to 16 days. After this period, they are entitled to 75% of their wages. In order to qualify for this financial compensation, the employee must receive an exam from a doctor through the Servicio Público de Salud (State Health Services), who can certify the illness and provide a written notice to the employer.

Employees are entitled to paid leave and benefits for an accident at work or an occupational disease (AW/OD) in the following circumstances:

  • Temporary incapacity resulting from an AW/OD: if an injury occurred on the job and the employee is temporarily unable to perform their job
  • Permanent incapacity resulting from an AW/OD: if an employee partially or completely is unable to do their job from a work-related injury
  • Non-invalidating permanent injuries: if the employee suffers from an injury that doesn't incapacitate them, but undermines their physical capabilities

If the employee has an AW/OD and requires leave, they are entitled to up to two years of paid time off. After a year of paid time off, they can extend the period for another 180 days, assuming they will be cured of their injury or illness after this additional period.

During their time off, the employee is entitled to 75% of their salary, starting the day after the initial date of leave. Furthermore, employees are entitled to two days off due to an accident, serious illness, hospitalization, or surgical operation that does not require hospitalization. If the employee needs to travel to receive their treatment, they are given four days' leave.

Family care leave

Employees are entitled to unpaid leave for up to two years in order to care for a family member due to that family member's accident, illness, or handicap. The employee can also receive this leave if their family member needs care due to their age, or if the family member does not have a way to pay for their own care.

Maternity leave and paternity leave 🤰

As of January 2021, both mothers and fathers are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity and paternity leave. This benefit also applies to parents of a newly adopted child or foster parents.

All parents are entitled to take six weeks' leave immediately following the birth of a child, and may take the remaining 10 weeks within the same year that the child was born, i.e. within 365 days of childbirth. In the case of  multiple births, the paternity and maternity benefit is extended one week for each additional child. An additional week can also be added to parental leave if the child suffers from a disability, and 13 weeks can be added to the leave if a baby is born prematurely or if the child needs to be hospitalized.

While every parent is entitled to 16 weeks of unpaid parental leave, they qualify for paid maternity leave or paid paternity leave if they have made social security contributions for 180 days in the last seven years, or 360 days of their entire working life. If these requirements have been fulfilled, employers must pay 100% of their employee's salary during the employee's parental leave.

Even if a mother of a new child has not made social security contributions to qualify for these social security benefits, there is a social security benefit that still guarantees her €530 per month.

Breastfeeding leave 🤱

Both maternity leave employees and paternity leave employees are are also entitled to breastfeeding leave, which allows the employee to take a one-hour break or to reduce the work day by a half hour in order to feed a newborn until that newborn is nine months old.

Other types of paid leave

Employers in Spain allow paid leave for public or personal obligations as well, such as marriage (15 days leave); death, serious accident, or illness of a family member (two days, or four if the employee must travel); jury duty (unlimited time); or performing trade union duties or workers' representative activities (this depends on the collective agreement). Employees are entitled to paid time off also if they are the legal guardian of a child under 12 years who has a disability, in which case the employer can reduce the work day from one-eighth to one-half of the employee's normal working hours.

Photo of Sagrada Família, Barcelona

Rest periods and overtime ⏰

Spanish employees may only work for a maximum period of 40 hours a week, and the maximum working day cannot exceed nine hours. If the employee is under 18, their working day cannot exceed eight hours. Depending on the industry, a collective bargaining agreement may define working hours and breaks differently; but in most cases, the general requirement is that every six hours, an employee must have a rest period of 15 minutes. Employees under 18 may not work over four and a half hours without a 30-minute rest period in between working periods. Employers are required to allow 12 hours of rest for their employees between each shift.

When it comes to overtime hours, an employee must not work more than 80 hours of overtime per year. The payment for overtime depends on the collective agreement, but it cannot be less than the employee's normal hourly wage. An additional 50% of the employee's salary in addition to their normal wages is common practice. If the employee prefers, they can arrange to have their overtime be compensated by time off in lieu of extra pay.

One-and-a-half days of weekly rest is required by labor law. Usually this includes Saturday afternoon or Monday morning in addition to all of Sunday.

Partnering with Pilot 🤝

Requirements for vacation leaves in other countries will differ, depending on where your company decides to hire employees or contract workers. It can be a challenge to keep track of the details of vacation laws, especially if your company has multiple locations internationally. Without help, compliance and labor laws can be tough to navigate.

Pilot can assist your company with the complexities of hiring abroad. We specialize not only in vacation leave for international employees, but also in payroll and employee benefits. With our team of global experts, we can help any company that wants to grow their international presence. Everything from classifying workers to labor laws and tax compliance is easier with Pilot.

One of the reasons customers choose our services is because of the many benefits to using Pilot for contractor payments: we don't mark up exchange rates, and there's no e-wallet required for contractors to access their funds. Instead, funds go straight to your independent contractors’ bank accounts. We support payments in over 240 countries around the world.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a demo with us today.


⚖️ Legal Disclaimer: The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.


Cover photo of Seville by Hasmik Ghazaryan Olson on Unsplash

Photo of people on a hillside at Sacromonte, Granada, by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

Photo of a person on a scooter in Fuengirola by Tom Brunberg on Unsplash

Photo of Monestir de Montserrat by Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash

Photo of Sagrada Família, Barcelona, by alevision.co on Unsplash

Caitlin MacDougall
Caitlin MacDougall
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