Spain has most inflexible working conditions in the European Union

Spain, along with Portugal, has the most rigid working conditions in the European Union, says a new report, which encourages the country to embrace more flexible ways of working.

Spain has most inflexible working conditions in the European Union
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The stereotype often involves starting work late, taking two-hour-long lunches and having an afternoon siesta, but Spaniards actually work some of the longest and most inflexible hours in Europe, something which is having a serious impact on work-life balance, according to a new study released on Tuesday.

Ten phrases you'll only hear at work in Spain

Spain is, along with Portugal, the most inflexible country in the whole of the European Union when it comes to working hours and over 60 percent of Spaniards believe inflexible hours have a negative impact on their family lives, according to the study, “Reconciling work life and family life in Spain” conducted by Spain’s Institute for Family Policies (IFP).

The study collated data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute, as well as the country’s Health Ministry and Eurostat, the EU's statistics office. 

The vast majority of Spaniards – eight out of ten – think that their long working hours have a negative impact on work-life balance, with the majority agreeing that working hours are “very strict” and “should be more flexible”.

“Spanish working hours are not very conducive to parents as they do not coincide with childcare or school timetables,” Liz Fleming, VP International of Spain Startup, told The Local.

“Longer lunches and later evenings don’t make a lot of sense for working parents who need to pick up kids at 4 or 5pm,” she added.

“Talking about work-life balance is a utopia even today and after the elections, unfortunately, it will continue just the same.”

And while companies in many northern European countries, such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, allow their employees to work remotely when they need to, the concept of working from home is alien in Spain: 92 percent of Spaniards “never work from home” says the study.

“There is a clear lack of remote working culture in Spain which leaves us lagging behind in Europe, way behind countries such as Sweden, Luxembourg, the UK, Austria, France and Portugal,” said Eduardo Hertfelder, president of IFP.

In the report, the IFP calls for Spain to take measures to improve work flexibility, including promoting flexible working hours, increasing parental leave and getting rid of the culture of “presenteeism” (staying late at the office for fear of not being seen to be working). 

It is not just for the sake of employees' work-life balance that companies should become more flexible; it could also be good for business.

“Flexible working hours can be an important part in attracting talent. Spain has a massive opportunity to attract international talent, but would have to adapt to suitable and flexible working conditions,” said Liz Fleming.

“In Northern Europe and the US, workers have a lot of autonomy and responsibility and are often results-driven, so the number of hours worked, when or where is not really relevant once the job gets done.”

There could be a glimmer of hope on the horizon, however, as the success of Spain’s burgeoning startup sector means more companies are adopting more progressive timetables.

“Startups provide more flexibility in every sense,” said Fleming, “they often can’t pay as well as bigger companies, so they attract talent by offering greater autonomy and flexibility.”

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La Renta: What items can you deduct on your Spanish tax return?

Find out what costs you can and can't claim back on your annual Spanish tax return or 'declaración de la renta'.

La Renta: What items can you deduct on your Spanish tax return?

Spain’s annual tax return is known as the declaración de la renta and completing it or knowing what you can claim back as an expense can be quite tricky, particularly because there are many regional differences too. 

Anyone residing in Spain for more than 183 days and earning over €22,000 a year, who is self-employed (autónomo), or moved here in the last year, must complete it. 

Your Spanish income tax return has to be filed by June 30th for the preceding year, in this case for 2021.

READ ALSO – La Renta: The important income tax deadlines in Spain in 2022

There are many different allowances or deductions that can be made on your tax return such as deductions for couples, children, single parents, elderly parents, disabilities and large families, may of which we have covered in previous articles such as this one here

This article, however focuses specifically on costs that you can claim back on your tax return. For example, can you deduct rental or mortgage expenses, property tax or private health expenses? Read on to find out. 

READ ALSO: How to complete Spain’s Declaración de la Renta tax return

Spanish pension contributions

Up to €2,000 can be deducted for contributions to pension plans or up to 30 percent of the tax base (total income).

Property tax

Those who own a property in Spain will pay the yearly Impuesto Sobre Bienes Inmuebles, better known as IBI. This is similar to council tax in the UK and one of the expenses you can claim back on your annual declaration.

The costs of renovating your main home

Keep in mind, that you can’t just deduct the cost of any renovations on your home, particularly if they’re just cosmetic, but you can deduct for any renovations which reduce the demand for heating and cooling by at least seven percent. In this case, you can apply a 20 percent deduction, with a maximum of €5,000. 

Buying or rental costs of your main home

This expense can only be deducted by those who bought their property and signed the mortgage before January 1st, 2013 and must have included it in previous declarations. In the case of those who are renting, the signing of the contract must have been made before January 1st, 2015.

The tax benefit is up to 15 percent with a maximum limit of €9,040, while the maximum deduction will be €1,356.  

Some regions will also allow you to deduct further expenses if you buy a house in a rural area or habitually live in an area at risk of depopulation, such as in Andalusia, Cantabria, Castilla La-Mancha, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja and Valencia.  You can also deduct expenses for the cost of buying a residence for a particular group of people, be it young people in need, victims of domestic violence, disabled people or large families.


Donations of many kinds can be deducted on your annual tax declaration, whether they’re charitable donations, donations to cultural institutions, donations for scientific advancement, innovative technologies or the environment.

Generally, you can deduct 80 percent of the first €150 and 35 percent of any donations after that. If you have any doubts as to whether the donations you made last year can be included, it’s best to check with your accountant or gestor.

For educational studies and textbooks

Many times, you can deduct the cost of education and the textbooks associated with them. In general, you can deduct 15 percent of school fees; 10 percent of language courses and; five percent of the cost of purchasing clothing for exclusively school use.

However, this does not include claiming back for all courses, unless you are autónomo (self-employed) and they are designed to help improve your business. If you’ve taken a course, it’s best to check with your gestor or accountant to see if the fees can be included on your declaration as there are slight variations between regions too.

Investments in environmental installations (some regions only)

Many regions in Spain allow you to deduct costs of investing in environmental installations such as solar panels, thermal installations, and water-saving devices. This category also includes improvements made to your habitual residence due to disability or adaptation because of technical or structural issues. Some of the main regions you can deduct these expenses include Valencia, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Murcia and Galicia. Unfortunately, these are not included for Madrid or Catalonia.

Domestic help (some regions only)

In some regions in Spain, you can even deduct expenses for domestic help, such as cleaners, nannies or au-pairs. This is true in Madrid, Andalusia, La Rioja and Castilla y León.

Electric cars (some regions only)

Those who make an investment in buying an electric car may also be able to deduct the cost of this, depending on where they live. This is true if you live in Valencia, La Rioja and Castilla y León.

Standout regional differences

  • The Canary Islands and Cantabria are the only two regions that allow you to deduct private health insurance and other health-related expenses, but make sure you contact your gestor to find out exactly which health costs can be claimed for.
  • Andalusia is the only region where you can deduct legal expenses.
  • Public transport costs can be deducted in Aragón and Asturias.

Please note, we at The Local are not financial experts. What we’ve learned, we’ve learned the hard way — by getting on the phone and listening to all those frustrating automated messages. 

The information above is designed to help, but if you are in doubt or unsure of exactly what you can claim back, seek professional advice.