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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Spain’s new clocking-in laws for workers

Spain has introduced measures forcing companies to record the working hours of employees, but what's it all about and who does it affect? Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Spain’s new clocking-in laws for workers
Photo: jukai5/Depositphotos

Earlier this year Spain’s Socialist government brought in a new law that requires employers to keep proper track of working hours, effectively bringing back the practice of clocking in and out, so that overtime hours can be measured.

Why bring in this law? 

The measure was introduced in one of the last acts by Pedro Sanchez and his government before parliament was dissolved ahead of the April 28 election.

It is designed to “help correct the situation of precariousness, low salaries and poverty that affects many workers who suffer abuse in their working day,” according to the wording of the decree.

The latest data reveals that an estimated 2.6 million work hours a week account for unpaid overtime, according to a workforce survey published in El Pais.

Until now, the obligation to record working hours only existed for part time workers and to register extra hours worked to qualify for overtime.

The measures are designed to uncovering the excess hours worked by those mainly in the trade, hospitality and construction sector, which is where exploitation is most concentrated.

READ MORE: La Renta: What you need to know about filing your Spanish tax return


As a worker the big advantage is that the new regulations will put an end to overtimes without remuneration. It also guarantees the right to digital disconnection – not having to read or respond to emails, whatsapps, calls etc outside of working hours – and ensures that there is a minimum 12 hour break between working hours.

May 12th deadline:

The Royal Decree was passed by the Council of Ministers on March 8 with companies given the deadline of May 12th to enforce the clocking in system or face potentially steep fines.

But the government complained that no-one had taken the Royal Decree seriously and have issued guidelines this week to help make obligations clear.

Who does it affect?

According to the decree, every single business, regardless of the size must accurately record working hours of each of its employees.

A record must be kept of the start and end of every working day for each employee, even if they do not work in an office but are travelling, working from home or remotely.

The law requires that records are kept for four years, and must be supplied on request to inspectors, union reps, or even the employees themselves.

READ ALSO: Freelancing in Madrid: A survivor's guide


The new guide issued by the Ministry of Employment explains that senior management are not required to sign up to the scheme but all other workers must – including middle management – even those who have a clause in the contract that they are expected to be available outside regular working hours.

The law is murky regarding 'autonomos'. Those who are registered self-employed but employ other people do have an obligation to keep records, but if you work for yourself, you are exempt. 

What about flexitime?

In theory, those who have arranged “flexible” working hours won’t necessarily be affected as long as they can establish a means to record the actual hours worked.

What are the penalties?

Businesses that fail to comply will face fines ranging from €626 to €6,250 but the penalty structure is not well defined and will be up to the discretion of inspectors after consideration of the size and nature of the business, number of employees and turnover.

Recording working hours will be the responsibility of the employer and not the employee, so it will be the company that face fines.


Unions, although generally positive about the protection offered by the new laws, have complained that workers are not required to sign off on their working hours as recorded by employers.

Others argue that it is hard to classify exactly when work starts for some people, is it when they start they commute? Or what about break times?

Esther González Arnedo, a professor at EAE Business School warned that such a rigid system could backfire. 

“In no other country in Europe is there such a rigid norm today. With the digitalization of work, there is increasing flexibility which allows boss and worker to decide how to carry out their work without needing to see each other, much less to sign in.

“For companies, it could bring additional effort and investment, while for the worker, it will mean a return to a type of control that did not exist before and that reduces autonomy and flexibility.”

How will it work?

It is up to the company to negotiate with its employees to establish a means of recording the working hours. Clocking in /clock out machines won’t be necessary as the ministry insists that there are ways to record the hours digitally.

Apps have been developed to monitor working hours and companies are coming up with different ways to keep track.

Drop us an email, or comment below,  and let us know how your company is doing it. 





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For members


Do I have to take most of my annual leave in August in Spain?

Many Spanish companies still expect their workers to take their holidays at specific times of the year, primarily in August, right in the height of summer when many hotels are fully booked. So what are your rights, are you obliged to take your vacation in one particular month?

Do I have to take most of my annual leave in August in Spain?

While it’s your right as an employee to be able to take holiday days, do you have to take them when your company wants you to take them, or are you able to choose and have more flexibility?

Despite August being one of the hottest months in Spain and the one month of the year when many official companies and offices shut up shop, not everyone necessarily wants to take their break at the same time as everyone else.

Taking your holidays in August means less availability in hotels, overcrowding and more expensive transport and accommodation. If you don’t have children who are off from school during the summer months, then you may wish to take your vacation days at another time of the year, when it’s less busy and cheaper.

To answer the question it’s important to know the details about what the law says about how paid time off is taken, requested, imposed, or granted.

What laws or regulations dictate the rules about paid holiday time?

There are three different sets of rules and regulations, which are responsible for regulating the laws on vacation time in Spain. 

Firstly, you need to look at the Spanish Workers’ Statute, which includes rights, duties and obligations applicable to all salaried workers in Spain.

Secondly, you need to be aware of the collective sector and/or company agreements, which may dictate the rules for a particular industry for example.

Thirdly, you need to look at the contract, which you signed with your employer when you started working for them. This sets out your individual circumstances and the rules you must abide by.   

Workers Statute

As a general rule, all employees are subject to the Workers’ Statute. Holidays are part of this and are the subject of article 38. These conditions can never be contradicted by individual companies and are set as a guaranteed minimum. 

The minimum number of holidays in Spain is 30 calendar days per year. This equals two and a half days per month worked, in the case of temporary contracts. The statute states that vacations must be taken between January 1st and December 31st in separate periods, but one of them must be for at least two weeks. They are always paid and cannot be exchanged for financial compensation.

The period when you can take them is set by a common agreement between the employer and the worker, in accordance with what is established in the collective agreements on annual vacation planning. If there is disagreement, the social jurisdiction is resorted to.

At a minimum, the company must offer vacation days at least two months before the beginning of the holiday period, so that the employee has time to organise and book.   

When the planned time to take vacations coincides with a temporary disability, pregnancy, or childbirth, you have the right to enjoy the vacations at another time, even after the calendar year is over.

Collective agreements on vacations  

Your sector’s collective agreements may also help to answer this question. These aim to improve upon the basic and general rights that are included in the Workers’ Statute. They seek to adapt the rules to each type of industry or company. They could, for example, set out extra vacation days, which are greater than the standard 30 calendar days. 

You will need to find out what your specific sector or company’s collective agreement is. There is a possibility that your sector or company has mandatory summer vacations for the month of August and in that case, you can choose vacation dates, but only within this month.

Your work contract 

Lastly, you will need to consult your individual contract which you signed with the company when you were hired.  As well as the minimum conditions set out in the Workers’ Statute, your contract sets out your particular agreement with your employer in terms of holiday duration, the work calendar and other details.

Therefore, you should state in your contract whether you have to take your holidays during August, or if you’re free to take them at other times of the year.

If after consulting these three sets of regulations and there are still in doubt or in disagreement with your company about vacations, such as having to take them during the month of August, you should consult a lawyer specialising in labor law. They should be able to give you an answer specific to your situation.  

Can I appeal or disagree and what are the consequences? 

To appeal or express disagreement with what is proposed by the company, there is a period of 20 business days from when the vacation schedule is sent out, after which time you don’t have the right to show that you disagree.  

Companies can proceed to disciplinary dismissals due to abandonment of the job if you decide to take vacations that have not been granted or agreed upon with your employer. To avoid this type of problem, always make sure you have a record in writing of your request for vacation time and subsequent approval by the company.