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WORKING IN SPAIN

Should my employer cover my bills if I work from home in Spain?

With more people than ever working from home in Spain, one of the main doubts among contract employees, autónomos and remote workers is whether the companies they work for should cover their home internet, electricity and other work costs.

Should my employer cover my bills if I work from home in Spain?
Does my company cover my bills if I work from home in Spain? Photo: Julie JAMMOT / AFP

The answer is a bit of a grey area and will depend on several factors, including the company you work for, whether you’re employed or self-employed or if you’re a remote worker for a company outside of Spain.

If you once worked in the office, but are now working from home all day using more electricity, heating or air-con than you would have before, it makes sense that your company should be contributing to these costs, but is this always the case?

Employed workers for companies based in Spain

The first step in answering this question is to look at what Spain’s Remote Work Law says on the matter – Article 12 of Spain’s Ley 10/2021, de 9 de julio states that “Remote work must be defrayed or compensated by the company, and it must not result in a worker covering expenses related to equipment, tools and other means related to their work activity”.

This seems to suggest that companies are responsible for paying bills related to work tasks, but according to Control Laboral, a website specialising in workers’ rights in Spain, in practice the law is ambiguous.

They say that it doesn’t include any actual figures and doesn’t specify what tools are needed to carry out the work, even though it does seem to suggest that the companies should be contributing to remote workers’ bills.  

In order for this law to hold up, the website suggests that an agreement must be drawn up by human resources, stating exactly what the company will cover and how much, and that it must be signed by both parties for it to be valid.

If you’re working for a company in Spain that doesn’t offer any help in this regard, it’s important to talk to them to see if this can change.

If you were hired as a remote worker and they’ve never offered any payment for bills, it may be in your contract that these aren’t covered, but if you’ve been working from home since the Covid-19 pandemic, a new contract may need to be drawn up and you will need to negotiate with your employer. 

READ ALSO- Readers reveal: ‘Remote working in Spain has been a bittersweet experience’

Self-employed in Spain

If you’re autónomo or freelance and work for multiple companies or even just one, are any of those expected to help pay your bills? Again, this will really depend on the company and what it says in your contract, but generally, if you’re working for multiple companies as a freelancer, they will not pay your bills.

It’s up to you to factor this into your overheads and invoice accordingly. What you can do though, is to offset some of the cost of your bills on your tax returns. Keep in mind it’s a very minimal amount. You will only be able to offset the percentage of the bill that equates to the area you work in – your home office for example and then only the percentage of time you actually work in that room. This means that on an average energy bill you will only be able to offset €3-4, depending on the size of your office and how much energy you use.

Another unfair factor is that energy bills can only in be in one person’s name, so if you and your partner both work from home and the bills are in your name, you are the only one who can deduct them on your tax returns. 

READ ALSO – Self-employed in Spain: What you should know about being ‘autónomo’

Remote worker for a company outside of Spain

If you’re working for a company outside of Spain but live here, then your company will not be covered by Spanish laws. You may have to look at what the laws say in the country the company is based in.

Again this will be something that you’ll have to negotiate with your employer and get added to your contract, if there’s no mention of the company covering any bills. 

It may be a little more difficult for you and your company to define which and how much of the bills they will cover.

For example, unless your company states that you must be living in Spain, they may be unwilling to cover extra electricity bills because of air-con costs. They may also not believe that you need to put your heating on in winter and may need any extra help in the colder months of the year.

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WORKING IN SPAIN

‘Spain must invest in Spaniards rather than turning to migrants’: EU work chief

The European Commission’s head for jobs and social rights has said Spain “must first find a solution for young people, women and the elderly” with regard to its labour market and “see later if they need immigrants”.

'Spain must invest in Spaniards rather than turning to migrants': EU work chief

The European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit recently took part in a summit on job security in Bilbao, where he spoke with Spain’s Labour Minister and Second Deputy Prime Ministers Yolanda Díaz about the state of affairs for workers in the country. 

When discussing potential solutions to Spain’s high unemployment rate, Schmit explained “I would not exclude immigration, but when I analyse the data, I see youth unemployment of 30 percent, more than double the European average”.  

“The priority for Spain must be to invest in its people,” Schmit continued.

“They must first look at their labour market and find a solution for young people, women and the elderly. They will see later if they need immigrants”.

Despite high unemployment levels which currently amount to three million people, Spain has worker shortages in a wide variety of sectors. 

READ ALSO: The ‘Big Quit’ hits Spain despite high unemployment and huge job vacancies

The Spanish government recently changed its immigration laws to make it easier for employers to hire non-EU citizens for sectors with shortages, from waiters to plumbers, whereas previously recruiters were required to prove that they couldn’t find an EU candidate for the job and the skills shortage list was limited and outdated. 

READ MORE: How spain is making it easier for foreigners to work in Spain

In 2023, Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration wants to hire 62,000 third-country workers to cover an array of construction and trades jobs, something the country’s Labour Ministry has not agreed to yet. 

READ ALSO – EXPLAINED: Spain’s plans to recruit thousands of foreigners for construction and trade jobs

The government also recently passed its new startups law to attract foreign investors, digital nomads and talent to the country.

Could Spaniards not be trained to do these jobs as Schmit alludes to? Currently, low wages and unstable working conditions are dissuading many locally trained professionals from staying.

This includes almost 20,000 doctors who have moved abroad in recent years as salaries in other European countries are significantly higher than in Spain, with a newly qualified doctor’s salary only around €1,600 gross per month.

Staff shortages in the health sector are not helped by the fact that foreigners with non-EU qualifications wait for several years for their qualifications to be recognised in Spain through an unnecessarily laborious administrative process known as homologación. This applies to a number of regulated fields, from engineering to dentistry, all of which face shortages. 

READ MORE: How Spain is ruining the careers of thousands of qualified foreigners

Spain’s Socialist-led government has partly addressed some of its labour market issues by reducing the rate of temporary contracts and increasing the minimum wage (SMI), but voices within the opposition have accused Sánchez’s administration of “dressing up” the dire reality.

When asked about the rise in minimum wage, Schmit said that he believes “it will not mean significant changes for Spain, which already has a tradition of updating the minimum wage on a regular basis… but the government must take into account factors such as the cost of living and the economic context”.

“Spain must question whether the SMI allows for a decent life or creates poor workers. Its economy cannot be supported by low wages and low productivity,” he continued.  

When asked if salaries and inflation have to go hand in hand, Schmit argued “wages must be set by collective bargaining. We are experiencing very high inflation because of the explosion in energy and food prices. If there is a large lag between wages and inflation, there will be an impact on demand and the risk of recession will increase”.

With regards to pensions, Schmit explained: “I don’t think that pensions are very high in Spain and if you leave a gap between the rise in benefits and inflation, you can create a situation of poverty among the elderly. Spain has a disadvantage in that it has one of the fastest-ageing societies… The solution is to modernise the economy to make it more productive and attract more people to the job market”.  

Despite these issues, the commissioner acknowledged that the Spanish labour market has surprised many with its resistance this year. “Employment will remain strong if there is no deep recession,” he said.  

“The national plan for access to European funds has a good combination of measures to invest in green energy, digitisation, education and public employment services… Spain experienced its economic miracle due to the real estate boom, which exploded, and now it has to transform to go in the right direction”.

According to a report carried out by human resources company Hays on work trends in Spain in 2022, 77 percent of Spaniards surveyed said they would change jobs if they could. Furthermore, 68 percent of them confessed that they are actively looking for another job and the main reason they argue is to get a better salary. 

According to Eurostat data from January 2021, 37 percent of Spain’s workforce is overqualified, 17 percent higher than the EU average.

READ ALSO: Why more people than ever in Spain are overqualified for their jobs

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