At Work in Barcelona

Work Usage in Barcelona

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Spain has always been haven for retirees and international students studying abroad. There has been an increased interest over the years for people between these two age groups to find work in Spain. It is important to know what are the norms before finding employment there.

Entitlement to Work

EU citizens (plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Spain) are free to move and work within the union.

The situation is more difficult for people from outside the EU. This doesn't mean impossible, but it is difficult. To increase your chances, it helps to have an education or special skill and speak at least one of the official languages. Start applying before arriving and have enough savings to subsist for a while.

Working Hours

The typical Spanish working hours are between 9:00 - 17:00, with some places still taking a siesta. This is less common in Barcelona, but some places may still close sometime between the hours of 14:00 and 17:00. Spanish hours are a frequent topic of debate, with the government working to change a factor in economic problems, long work days and sleep deficits among Spaniards.

A standard work week is 40 hours, with a daily work hours at a maximum of 9 hours. There should be a minimum of 12 hours between work sessions. Overtime is limited to 80 hours annually.


The Minimum Professional Wage is set by the Spanish Government. It is currently set at €663 per month. Anyone receiving over 75 percent of this amount may not be entitled to benefits if this income is received through capital gains, property or other investment, pension or other unemployment benefits, income from other employment or professional activity. Income received through child allowance, payment for community work, or certain subsidies does not count towards this figure.

Salaries are normally paid in 14 instalments per year with extra payments in June and December.


An employment contract should be in writing and the employee should read and understand all conditions before signing. If it is in a language other than your mother tongue, you should allow a trusted advisor (like a lawyer or financial advisor) that is fluent in that language to inspect it.

An employment contract must specify the employer's and employee's names, the start date of the contract, the work to be performed and the remuneration to be paid in return. Other important provisions of a contract are the probation period, benefits, and the period of notice. In addition, employment contracts must not provide for immoral or illegal tasks.

Basic Types of Contracts

Indefinite Contracts - This is the typical contract in which an employee work for an employer for a consideration (pay). The contract is concerned with certain rights and obligations: the employee must perform the relevant work, while the employer must pay the employee's remuneration and social security contributions, allow the employee paid holidays, etc.

Collective Labor Agreement - Based on negotiations between unions and employers, it contains provisions on the conclusion, content and termination of individual employment contracts, the rights and obligations of the contracting parties and how the agreement itself shall be applied and monitored. In many cases a standard employment contract is also signed.

Work Experience Contract - This contract can be arranged with university or junior college graduates or persons with vocational qualifications or recognized equivalent qualifications, provided that not more than four years have elapsed since they completed the related training. The duration is usually from six months to two years.

Trainee Contract - This type of contract can be arranged with workers aged 16 to 21 who do not have the necessary qualifications to obtain a "work experience contract". The duration of this contract ranges from six months to two years, although it may be extended to three years by a collective labor agreement.

Probationary Period

It is common for a new employee to undergo a probationary period. Spanish legislation allows the parties to make a written agreement arranging a probationary period of the duration laid down by collective agreement or, failing any such provision, lasting for a maximum of six, three or two months depending on the employee's occupational category or the size of the enterprise. The contract of employment is in full force during this period, but the parties can withdraw at will.


After the probationary period, dismissal of an individual employee is allowed for the following reasons:

  • Non-attendance
  • Alcohol or drug problems
  • Disciplinary reasons
  • Verbal or physical abuse
  • Breaking of trust or confidence
The employer must pay compensation of 20 days salary for each year that the employee has worked for the company, up to a maximum of a year's salary. These periods may be amended by a written agreement, a standard contract or a collective labor agreement.

If you are dismissed from your job in Spain, you have up to 20 days to apply for a conciliation. If this fails, you can take your employer to court.

Time Off

Annual Leave

Holiday entitlement is a minimum of 30 days per year, with the addition of about 14 public holidays per year. This minimum may be increased by contractual agreement.

The leave allowance may be reduced if an employee is off work for a prolonged period owing to a long illness, long-term unpaid leave, etc. While on leave, employees continue to receive their full pay.

Sick Leave

If an employee is too ill to work, they should find a doctor to sign a baja confirming that they are unable to work. Social security then pays the salary of the employee after a period of time.

Maternity Leave

All mothers are entitled to paid maternity leave for 4 months.

Other Types of Leave

Other types of leave can also be applied for, such as moving house, death of a family member etc.


Public holidays celebrated in Spain include a mix of religious (Roman Catholic), national and regional observances. Each municipality is allowed to declare a maximum of 14 public holidays per year. Up to nine of these are chosen by the national government, and at least two are chosen locally.

Among the most important of these days is Spain's National Day (Fiesta Nacional de España The celebration is held October 12th and it is celebrated throughout Spain.

    During Public Holidays:
  • All public offices close
  • All shops and 90% of commercial centers close
  • About 60% of bars and restaurants are open as normal
  • Reduced public transport services
  • Museums remain open
  • Extended opening hours at many attractions
  • Reduced medical and emergency services
  • There is the possibility of increased taxi fares and limited availability

Business Etiquette

Spain's culture is still rooted in tradition, and that continues into the business world. The nationalized economy has been scaled down since 1975, but many practices and norms are still rooted in that era. Bureaucracy is high, and change is slow. Be patient and decisive to succeed.

Hierarchy is extremely important. Managers and CEOs have the authority to make important decisions without consulting anyone and often do. Mid to lower-level positions should show the respect for the seniors and expect to remain separate. There is an over-arching emphasis on personal pride, social status and character attributes.

Face-to-face interactions form the base of business relationships. There is a fine line between being personal and engaging while retaining a degree of formality. A successful businessman should be well-dressed, dignified, honorable, and entertaining.

Politeness does not necessarily mean an excess of "please" and "thank-you's". "Por favor" is often expressed as overly formal or a sign of exasperation. Remember patience as the Spanish work on their own time and pushing will usually irritate rather than motivate.

Women moving to Spain may have some adjustments to make. Machismo originated in the Spanish speaking world. Cities are quite modern, but the effects of long held patriarchal beliefs still persist. However, there are few legal, educational or cultural impediments to female advancement in the work place and the law protects gender equality.

Bureaucracy can be stifling in Spain. It is common for Spanish to take a lot of time negotiating any deal and developing complex contracts.

It is good practice to have business cards printed with one side in English and one side in Spanish. Present the cards Spanish side up upon arrival, along with a handshake, eye contact and a warm greeting.

Update 17/10/2011


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