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Can my employer make me work if I test positive for Covid-19?

In March 2022, the Spanish government scrapped quarantine for those with mild or asymptomatic Covid symptoms and now masks are no longer required in most indoor situations. So what happens when you get Covid -can your employer still make you go to work?

working while ill
Woman sick with Covid-19. Photo: Bermix Studio / Unsplash

The end of most self-isolation and mask rules in Spain means that many people may now be going to work while infected with Covid-19 and putting their colleagues at risk.

Recently, there have been several reports of companies telling their employees to come into work, even if they’re testing positive for Covid, saying that if they’re well enough to work remotely, then they’re well enough to come in and work in person.

READ ALSO: How masks became an integral part of life Spain

But can your employer really make you come to work if you have Covid? What are your rights?

Of course, if you have a serious case of Covid-19, then you can get a ‘baja’ or sick note from your doctor saying you don’t have to work.

But what if your case is milder? It’s now not uncommon for doctors to give their Covid patients a ‘baja’ for just a few days while symptoms are at their worst.

However, many people are still testing positive for Covid-19 even after the worst of their symptoms have passed and are no longer eligible for a ‘baja’, meaning that they have to go to work while they still have the virus.

The Spanish government recommends that those who test positive for Covid-19 be allowed to work from home where possible.

“Teleworking or job re-adaptation is recommended to avoid interaction with vulnerable groups,” says the document from the Public Health Commission, both in the case of workers with “symptoms compatible” with Covid-19 and those who already have a positive diagnosis.

If this is the government’s recommendation, is it still possible for companies to make their employees go into work and not be allowed to work from home?

According to the General Union of Workers (UGT) “At the moment, there is no obligation to offer employees the possibility of teleworking in the legislation”.  In the event that the company does not enable this alternative, “preventive measures should be adopted such as cross-ventilation, a distance of one and a half meters, constant hygiene in common areas and providing everyone with masks”.

Ángela Domínguez, coordinator of the Vaccination Group of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology says “In principle, as in any disease, if a person is sick, it is better not to go (to work), especially in the acute phase. If you have very few symptoms or no symptoms and have tested positive, you can go, but it’s important that you wear the mask and respect the rest of the measures”.   

The Spanish government has said that it’s up to each individual company whether they want to continue using the mask or not, but has pointed out a series of factors that should be taken into account when making it, such as the possibility that employees keep a distance of 1.5 meters, the ventilation of the space or the time in which they remain in it and has stressed that the company must take into account the “opinion” of the workers through their representatives. 

The general consensus is that if you do have mild Covid symptoms and you can’t get a ‘baja’ to stay home from work, then remote working is the best option. If your company won’t let you work from home or it’s not possible, then wearing a mask at work and ensuring that the room is well ventilated is the best option to protect your colleagues.

READ ALSO – Have your say: Will you continue wearing a mask indoors in Spain?

Domínguez referred to a study by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) which calculated the time needed to become infected in a closed space without ventilation.

The analysis concluded that, in the presence of a positive, another person can become infected in 15 minutes if neither of them is wearing a mask. If you and the those you interact with use an FFP2 mask, this time can go up to as much as 25 hours.

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TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Britons, Americans and other non-EU/Schengen travellers who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from Covid-19 will not be able to visit Spain for tourism for at least another month, Spanish authorities have confirmed.

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

The Spanish government has again extended temporary restrictions for non-essential travel (including tourism) from most third countries for another month, until June 15th 2022.

That means that non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and who haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the illness in the past six months cannot go on holiday to Spain during the next month. 

Therefore, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, Indian or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third country nationals would be allowed into Spain in May.

But in the end, Saturday May 14th’s state bulletin confirmed that Spain will keep the same measures in place for another 31 days, stating that they “will eventually be modified to respond to a change of circumstances or to new recommendations in the context of the European Union”.

Spain’s ban on unvaccinated non-EU travellers is arguably the last major Covid-19 restriction in place in the country, and other EU countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland are allowing unvaccinated tourists in.

This latest announcement by the Spanish government marks the umpteenth extension to non-essential travel from outside of the EU/Schengen area over the past two years of the pandemic, the previous one was due to expire on May 15th. 

But perhaps this extension is the most surprising, as the Spanish health ministry has modified its rulebook to treat Covid-19 like the flu and the country wants to recover the tourism numbers it had pre-pandemic.

The ban affects unvaccinated British tourists in particular, as the UK is still the biggest tourism market for Spain, but Britons’ non-EU status means they have to follow the same Covid-19 travel rules as other third-country nationals.

Vaccinated or recovered third-country travellers

Those who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 more than two weeks prior to travel to Spain will need to show a valid vaccination certificate with an EMA or WHO approved vaccine.

If their initial vaccination treatment was completed more than 9 months ago (270 days), they’ll need to show they’ve had a Covid-19 booster shot. 

As for non-EU/Schengen travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they will need to show a recovery certificate to prove this

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, recovery certificates accepted as valid are those “issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or RAT, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling”, as well as being issued by the relevant authorities.


In early February, Spanish authorities also decided to start allowing unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen teenagers aged 12 to 17 to visit Spain for tourism if they provided a negative PCR.

Spain continues to have a small list of low-risk third countries whose travellers visiting Spain for non-essential reasons can enter without having to present proof of Covid-19 testing, recovery or vaccination. 

This is updated weekly and can be checked here by clicking on the PDF under “risk and high risk countries/areas”. 

READ ALSO: Can I travel to my second home in Spain if I’m not vaccinated?

If you’re not vaccinated or recovered, the exceptions for travel to Spain from third countries that fall under the non-essential travel restrictions are:

  • You are a resident in the EU or Schengen country.
  • You have a visa for a long duration stay in an EU or Schengen country.
  • You work in transport, such as airline staff or are in a maritime profession.
  • You work in diplomatic, consular, international organisations, military or civil protection or are a member of a humanitarian organisation.
  • You have a student visa for a country in the EU or Schengen zone.
  • You are a highly qualified worker or athlete whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely.
  • You are travelling for duly accredited imperative family reasons.
  • You are allowed entry due to force majeure or on humanitarian grounds.
  • And as mentioned earlier in the article, if you have a vaccination certificate that Spain’s Ministry of Health recognises, as well as for any accompanying minors (unless they’re under 12 years of age).

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?