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EXPLAINED: What changes about life in Spain in May 2022

May 2022 in Spain brings tax declaration changes, savings on your energy bills, second booster doses, a bank holiday for some, incredible festivals, a big announcement about UK driving licences and more.

What changes in Spain in May?
What changes in Spain in May? Photo: Robert Fotograf / Anatolii_Maks / JOSE JORDAN / AFP / Pixabay

Bank holiday for some regions

Many regions in Spain celebrate the Día del Trabajador or International Workers’ Day, but as this year May 1st falls on a Sunday, several regions have decided to push the holiday over to Monday May 2nd, creating a long weekend.

According to the work calendar of the Government of Spain, seven regions have chosen to move the holiday to Monday. These are Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Murcia and Madrid.

This year, the long weekend coincides with Spanish Mother’s Day on May 1st.  

Spain’s Hipra vaccine to be on the market in May

Spain’s Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, has announced that the Spanish vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) from Hipra laboratories could begin to be marketed, after the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) at the end of May.  

Hipra, which has received €18 million in aid from the ministry for development and production, is to be the first Spanish vaccine against Covid-19.

Going by the brand name PHH-1V, the Hipra shot is being developed as a booster vaccine for adults who have already been fully vaccinated with a different COVID-19 vaccine.

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Annual income tax declaration on the phone

From May 5th 2022, people who prefer to file their annual income tax declaration – la declaración de la renta – over the phone (in Spanish) can do so by calling either 91 757 57 77 or 901 200 347. They will also be able to resolve any doubts you have. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about filing your Spanish tax return in 2022

If you would rather file your annual income tax in person you’ll have to wait until June 1st, but alternatively the whole process can be done online. Here’s our step-by-step guide to completing your Spanish tax return

If you’re not sure if you have to file an income tax return in Spain, this article will help

Fourth Covid vaccine for over 80s and care home residents

According to a report by Spain’s Vaccine Committee published on April 18th, Spanish health authorities will most probably start to offer a second booster dose to over-80s and care home residents in early May 2022.

Until now, the fourth dose has only been made available to around 120,000 people in Spain classified as vulnerable, including people with cancer, HIV patients, those who have had a transplant or are receiving dialysis.

On April 6th, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) backed a second booster dose for over-80s, but added that it was “too early to consider using a fourth dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax) in the general population”.

READ ALSO: Spain set to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to over-80s

Energy prices to fall in May

Spain and Portugal have agreed with the European Commission to set a maximum of €50 for the price of gas over the next 12 months, a measure that will make it possible to lower the energy bill from May by between 30 and 40 percent.  

Electricity prices on the Iberian Peninsula will be slashed under an exemption allowing them to separate the price of gas from that of the rest of the European Union. 

This measure will lead to a substantial drop in the price of the wholesale electricity market. According to Madrid, around 40 percent of households should benefit from the system, and between 70 and 80 percent of companies will be affected.

READ ALSO: Spain and Portugal’s cost-cutting ‘energy island’ plan gets EU approval

UK driving licences of residents in Spain no longer valid from May 1st

On April 29th, the British Embassy in Madrid announced that the UK-issued driving licences of people who’ve been residing in Spain for more than six months will no longer be valid from May 1st 2022, adding that they will “rapidly accelerate talks” to find a solution but giving no further grace period to drivers left in limbo.

The last-minute announcement, posted just hours before the April 30th deadline for UK licence validity, confirms one of the worst case scenarios for British driving licence holders living in Spain.

“Driving a vehicle without a valid licence is illegal in Spain,” the UK embassy stressed.

“If you are affected by this change and need to drive, you should not wait for the outcome of the negotiations and should take immediate steps to apply for a Spanish licence – as we have been advising for some time now.”

Spanish authorities have previously given UK driving licence holders four grace periods (of three or two months in length each), but there has been no further extension of UK licence validity granted this time.

So does this mean there is no deal and UK drivers residing in Spain will have to sit their practical test with a Spanish-speaking examiner to get a Spanish licence?

It’s still unclear. According to the British ambassador, Spanish and British authorities have “agreed to rapidly accelerate talks next week in the hope of reaching an agreement soon as we already have in almost every other EU Member State”.

Another travel ban extension  for unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers

The Spanish government on April 30th extended again temporary restrictions for non-essential travel from most third countries, but this time only for two weeks.

That means non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered from the illness cannot go on holiday to Spain until at least May 15th.

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

Earlier extensions of the July 2020 regulation were usually for another month, but on Saturday April 30th 2022, Spanish health authorities announced they would only extend the restrictions on non-essential travel from outside of the bloc for just 15 days.

This suggests that it may be only a matter of weeks before Spain fully reopens to all non-EU/Schengen tourists even if they aren’t vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19. Whether they will have to provide a negative Covid test to be allowed to enter Spain remains to be seen.

Fiestas are back on

Many of Spain’s beloved festivals are back on this May after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic.

Seville’s famed Feria de Abril, celebrating everything to do with flamenco, horses and Andalusian culture will be held from May 1st until May 2nd, while Córdoba’s Fiesta de Los Patios will be on from May 3rd until the 15th, where visitors will be able to see inside the city’s gorgeous courtyard gardens, decorated with all manner of flowers. 

Other May celebrations taking place include the Cruces de Mayo, where floral-decorated crosses are set up in several cities across the country and Girona’s Temps de Flors flower festival. 

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Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.