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EXPLAINED: What you need to know before hiring a worker in Spain

If you’re setting up a business in Spain and need to hire staff, you’ll need to know all the legalities involved. Here’s what you need to know when you employ someone in Spain.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know before hiring a worker in Spain
In early February 2022, the Spanish government raised the minimum wage to €1,000 gross per month. Here's what else you need to know about recruiting a worker for your company. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Employment is regulated in Spain by the convenio colectivo, a set of rules which regulate things such as working hours, number of vacation days, and salary.

Here’s what you need to know about each of these, as well as sick pay, maternity and paternity leave, and how to terminate a contract. 

Working hours

The general number of working hours per week in Spain is 40 hours, however you can also choose to hire someone for slightly less. If you choose to shorten the working week, you could distribute the extra hours how you see fit, with some longer weeks for example.

Employees can choose to do overtime if you offer it to them. You can compensate this either as extra pay or as additional holiday days within four months. Usually, paid overtime cannot exceed 80 hours annually.

You will also need to work out what type of contract to offer them, you can find out about the different types of contracts available in Spain below. 

READ ALSO: What are the types of work contracts in Spain and which one is the best?

Salary and payroll

You can choose to pay your employee 14 payments per year or 16 1/2 payments per year. If you choose 14 payments, you must pay the monthly salary plus two extra payments due by July 10th and December 15th. In early February 2022, the Spanish government raised the minimum wage to €1,000 gross per month.

Make sure that you specify that the salary is gross in the contract with your employee, as certain taxes and social security contributions will have to be deducted from this.

You must also pay a social security tax for each of your workers. This equals 29.9 percent of the employee’s salary up until a certain amount 

READ ALSO: Spain posts record drop in summer unemployment as tourists return


Besides public holidays (usually 10 national holidays and four regional public holidays), employees are allowed 23 vacation days for a full year worked.

Employees also have the right to take extra days for exceptional circumstances. These include two days for the death of a family member, one day for moving house, up to 15 days if they get married, and three to four days for the illness of a family member.

Spanish law also allows for 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. After the maternity period is up, employees may take a further additional year of unpaid leave. In January 2021, Spain also changed the law so that new fathers can also benefit from 16-week paternity leave.  

READ ALSO: New fathers in Spain can now enjoy 16 weeks paternity leave

Sick days

Spanish employment law doesn’t provide separate days for sick leave, instead, if an employee is sick, they must get a note from a doctor so they can go on ‘baja’.

During this time, you will be reimbursed by the social security system for payments. Employees typically receive at least 60 percent of their usual wages while they are out sick, but it will depend on your industry.


Generally, there is a two-month probationary period, so you can decide if your employee is a good fit for your company and works well.

After this time, you can only fire an employee if you have justified grounds for dismissal, for example, if they are not performing their role correctly. However, if you don’t have grounds for dismissal then you will have to pay for wrongful termination of the contract. This is usually from 20 to 33 days salary per year that the employee has worked for you.

You must also pay finiquito, which covers any vacation that the employee has not yet benefitted from.

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Spain and the US to exchange more language assistants in bilingualism push    

The governments of Spain and the United States have agreed to recruit more English and Spanish-language assistants from each other’s countries as a means of bolstering bilingual education in the two nations.

Spain and the US to exchange more language assistants in bilingualism push    

Spain’s Education Minister Pilar Alegría and US ambassador to Spain Julissa Reynoso met on Wednesday to sign a memorandum of understanding which will reinforce educational cooperation between the two countries. 

The agreement had been previously signed by Miguel Cardona, the United States Secretary of Education, who tweeted: “This week, alongside [Spanish] Ambassador [Santiago] Cabañas, I signed a memorandum supporting the study of Spanish language & culture in the US, and the study of English in Spain”.

It is in fact a renewal of a memorandum between the United States and Spain which has facilitated mobility of both conversation assistants and students between the two countries in recent years.

The aim of this newest memorandum of understanding is to further strengthen student and teacher exchange programmes and promote bilingual and multicultural teaching in both educational systems.

No exact details have yet been given about how many extra language assistants will be given grants to join the programme. 

Several teacher recruitment sources suggest the current number of North American language assistants (including Canadians) heading to Spain every year is between 2,000 and 2,500. 

The Spanish government has stated that in 2023, this figure will be around 4,500, which represents a considerable increase in the number of US and Canadian citizens who can apply through the NALCAP programme, which stands for North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain. 

According to Spain’s Foreign Ministry, the following requirements must be met by US candidates in order to participate in the programme:

  • Be a U.S. citizen and have a valid passport
  • Have earned a bachelor’s degree or be currently enrolled as a sophomore, junior or a senior in a bachelor’s programme. Applicants may also have an associate degree or be a community college student in their last semester.
  • Have a native-like level of English
  • Be in good physical and mental health
  • Have a clean background check
  • Be aged 18 – 60.
  • Have at least basic knowledge of Spanish (recommended)

NALCAP recipients receive a monthly stipend of €700 to €1,000 as well as Spanish medical insurance.

Application dates for 2023 are usually announced in late November. See more information on the NALPAC programme for US nationals here

According to The Fulbright Program, one of several US cultural exchange programmes that organises the recruitment of US nationals for Spain: “English Teaching Assistants assist teaching staff at the early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, vocational and/or university level for up to 16 hours per week, with an additional two hours for planning & coordination meetings. Responsibilities include assistant-teaching, in English, subjects such as social studies, science and technology, art, physical education, and English language.”

READ MORE: The pros and cons of being an English language assistant in Spain

There are also currently more than 1,000 Spanish teachers working as visiting teachers in the United States, Spain’s Moncloa government has said, without adding yet how many more will be recruited in 2023.

Additionally, more than 1,000 North American students now take part in the Spanish Language and Culture Groups managed by the Spanish Education Ministry’s Overseas Education Action (or Acción Educativa Exterior, AEE).  

Canadian applicants can find out more about working as language assistants in Spain by visiting the NALCAP Canada website.