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How parents in Spain can balance work and kids during the school holidays

The Local Spain
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How parents in Spain can balance work and kids during the school holidays
Knowing what to do with their kids during the school summer holidays is an issue for many working parents in Spain. (Photo by Jeff PACHOUD / AFP)

With schools closing for three months every summer in Spain, many working parents struggle to take care of their children whilst working. These tips regarding workers’ rights and available childcare options can come in handy.


School children in Spain enjoy some of the longest summer breaks in Europe, with roughly 2 and half months to three months off from late June until early or mid September.

This represents a problem for working parents who don’t have family members to take care of their children whilst they continue slogging it out at work during the hot summer. 

Spaniards refer to it as conciliación familiar, work-family balance, or the lack thereof.

Madrid's regional government recently announced its schools will be open during school holidays throughout the year from 2024 onwards, offering extracurricular activities to kids in Spain's capital, but other regional governments across the country are yet to address this ongoing issue which affects vulnerable low-income families in particular.

It’s not so much a problem for those who have babies and young children at a nursery in Spain, as these stay open during the summer months, albeit usually with shorter opening hours.

But for parents with kids in primary or secondary school, it can be far harder to find a way for their children to be cared for and entertained while they’re at work. 

So what options are available to them?


Workers’ rights and negotiating power

According to the Workers’ Statute of Spain, parents of children up to 12 years of age can potentially adapt their work hours during the summer period (number of hours and distribution) without their salary being affected. 

This change, brought in by law in 2019 and referred to in Spanish as adaptación y distribución de jornada, can be requested but not necessarily accepted by your company. 

Law firms that have commented on the legislation have said it lacks detail, but what it does do is force the company to negotiate.

It may be more suitable to try to reach an agreement with your boss whereby you work from home during the summer period part-time or full-time so you can care for your kids from home.

If this isn’t possible, for example because your job can only be carried out at your workplace, you may have to resort to the pre-existing option: reducción de jornada laboral (workday reduction).


This agreement again applies to parents with children under the age of 12, and involves shortening your workday by between an eighth (usually one hour in an eight-hour workday) and half (four hours mostly), with the corresponding salary reduction.

Once again, it’s not a given that you will be granted this workday reduction, but the fact that your employer will be able to pay you less and the existence of collective bargaining agreements that stipulate make it more likely than the fully-paid workday reduction.

As a last resort there’s the option of asking for an excedencia, unpaid leave of absence. The company is forced to keep your job position for you for a year.

It's also worth noting that many companies have what’s called la jornada de verano (summer work day) or jornada intensiva or contínua (intensive or continuous work day).  

This schedule usually runs from June 1st until September 30th, and means employees work continuously from 8am until 3pm with a 15-minute break.

That means workers one or two hours less per day, potentially allowing working parents to get home sooner to take care of their child/children. 

July 2023 update: The Spanish government has given the green light to three new leave of absence schemes to allow people time off work to care for children and other family members during holiday periods, when they're unwell or for other urgent reasons. This includes an unpaid leave of absence of up to eight weeks a year, which can be taken continuously or discontinuously, full-time or part-time, until the child reaches the age of 8. It is designed, for example, to provide a solution for parents to cope with adaptation periods in nurseries and schools or for periods without classes, namely during the summer or Christmas period.

External childcare options 

Many schools in Spain offer campamentos de verano or summer camps. This means that your kids can carry on going to their normal school, even after the term ends. But instead of doing their lessons, they’ll get to do fun daily activities, crafts and games, as well as a variety of day trips.

Keep in mind that there are themed summer camps across the country, focused on everything from sports and languages to music or even theatre.

If you’re worried about the cost, search for municipal summer camps for children as these are likely to be free and public.

If summer camps or schools are not an option, or you’d prefer for your kids to get more attention or be around the house, hiring a summer nanny or au-pair is also a good choice.

You can read about childcare options during the summer in Spain in the article below.

READ MORE: What childcare options are available during the summer in Spain?


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