Fixed contract after six months: How Spain plans to solve job instability for its temporary workers 

The Spanish government is trying to address the precariousness of the country's job market by shortening the maximum length of temporary work contracts so that these employees can access fixed positions sooner.

How Spain plans to fix job instability for its temporary workers
Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Spain’s Labour Ministry has presented a draft proposal to the unions and business associations which aims to give temporary workers better working rights and job stability.

This is a big problem in a country where around a quarter of work contracts are temporary, in large part due to the seasonal nature of Spain’s all-important tourism industry.

The standout feature of the draft bill headed by Spanish Labour Minister and third vice president Yolanda Díaz is the proposed maximum new length of temporary contracts: six months or one year at the most.

Obra y servicio job contracts, which up to now could run for up to four years (three years which can be extended for another year), would cease to exist. These ‘work and service’ contracts are temporary agreements through which an employer can hire a worker to carry out a specific service within the company with no fixed end date, so the employer can end it whenever they want and without prior notice.

If the Labour Ministry’s measure is approved, it would mean that the 1.5 million people in Spain who are currently on this type of temporary contract would be able to request a fixed contract with no end date after a year in the role, if the company in question wanted to keep using their services.  

In essence, the Spanish government wants to make fixed job contracts the norm, known as  contratos indefinidos in Spanish. “The employment contract would be assumed to be an indefinido one,” reads the ministerial draft bill. 

They would have a limit of six months, which in exceptions where there are sector-wide collective agreements, could be extended to one year maximum. 

Under their new plans, temporary contracts would ideally only be drawn up in two scenarios.

Firstly, for reasons of productivity during periods of peak demand, but this would not apply to temporary employees carrying out normal and permanent work activity for the business. Seasonal or summer workers couldn’t go on temporary job contracts either, they would need to be on fijo discontinuo contracts.  

If the length of the temporary contract agreed between worker and employer is less than the legal maximum, it could be extended without exceeding that twelve-month limit.

And secondly, for organisation purposes to temporarily replace workers who have a right to hold on to their jobs (maternity leave, unpaid leave). If the original employee did not return after 24 months of absence, the substitute worker (interino) would have the right to the position and a fixed contract. 

If Spain approves the bill, employees in fixed positions who were laid off or left their jobs willingly couldn’t be replaced with substitute workers or employees on temporary contracts; they would have to get a fixed indefinido contract as well. 

The draft law also suggests that if an employee has been on several temporary job contracts which add up to 24 months over a 30-month period, they should automatically become a fixed contract employee.

The main types of temporary contracts in Spain currently are the interinidad contract for the temporary replacement of a returning worker, the obra y servicio contract, the eventual temporary contract due to production circumstances, the formación y prácticas training contract.


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How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain.