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What Are the Maternity Leave Rules in Spain?

July 3, 2023

Spain is renowned for its vibrant culture, encompassing everything from soccer and siestas to a diverse range of attractions such as bullfights, exceptional culinary arts, beautiful beaches, and stunning architecture. Amidst all this splendor, Spain also boasts some of the most rigorous worker protections in the world, including maternity leave regulations that employers must be well-versed in.

So, what are the maternity leave rules in Spain you need to understand as an employer? Let's jump into the details.

Maternity Leave in Spain: The Legal Framework

In Spain, maternity leave is governed by a comprehensive legal framework designed to protect the rights of pregnant employees. The Workers' Statute (Estatuto de los Trabajadores) and the Organic Law for the Effective Equality of Women and Men (Ley Orgánica para la Igualdad Efectiva de Mujeres y Hombres) serve as the primary legislation addressing maternity leave regulations.

Under these laws, pregnant employees are afforded specific rights and protections, which apply to individuals regardless of their employment contract type (whether they are permanent or temporary employees) and working hours. As an employer, you must understand and adhere to the following legal provisions regarding maternity leave in Spain:

  • Protection against discrimination: Employees have the right to continue working while pregnant and to take maternity leave without fear of dismissal or negative treatment. This means that it’s illegal for an employer to fire or terminate an employee's employment contract because of their pregnancy. This protection is in effect from the time the pregnancy is confirmed until the end of the maternity leave period.
  • Salary and employment protections: During maternity leave, employers must maintain employees’ existing salary and employment conditions. Any salary reductions or unfavorable changes to employment terms during this period are prohibited.
  • The right to return to work: Once maternity leave is over, employees have the right to return to the same position they held before their leave. If that position is no longer available, employers must offer an equivalent position with similar responsibilities, status, and remuneration.

To be eligible for maternity leave in Spain, employees must have registered with the social security office and contributed for a minimum of 180 days in the past seven years or a total of 360 days during their career.

Duration of Spain Maternity Leave

Spain’s standard maternity leave is known as Permiso de Maternidad, and it entitles mothers to 16 weeks off work. This increases to 18 weeks for twins and 20 weeks for triplets. If a child is born with a disability, the employee is granted an additional two weeks of leave to make additional arrangements for childcare.

Maternity leave can also be extended in certain circumstances, such as complications during pregnancy or childbirth. For example, if a child is born prematurely or needs to remain hospitalized for more than seven days after birth, maternity leave can be extended for up to a maximum of 13 weeks.

The following are additional things employers need to keep in mind:

  • Maternity leave begins immediately after delivery or when the woman receives a doctor's notice that she may begin maternity leave at any time before the birth.
  • The first six weeks of leave must be taken immediately, but the remaining 10 may be taken any time up to 12 months (one year) after the child is born. The remaining leave must be taken in full weeks, with 15 days' notice to the employer each time.
  • If an employee needs to take time off while pregnant for medical reasons, they are still entitled to the 16-week maternity leave after childbirth.
  • During pregnancy, employees are entitled to time off work for antenatal care and medical examinations.
  • Following the paid leave, employees can take one year of unpaid leave with the assurance that their job will still be available when they return. Employees can also take an additional two years of unpaid leave, but their employer is not required to offer them their previous job when they return to work.
  • Employees have the entitlement to get one hour of paid time off per day to breastfeed their child under the age of nine months. Furthermore, they can accumulate these breastfeeding hours and take a 15-day consecutive break after maternity leave.

Maternity Leave Benefits in Spain

A crucial aspect of Spain’s maternity leave is the provision of financial support to employees. Typically, the leave is paid at 100% of the employee’s base salary, with the entire amount funded by the social security system.

However, the government sets a maximum limit on maternity pay to ensure fairness and sustainability. To receive their pay, employees need to visit their healthcare center with their Spanish National Health System (Sistema Nacional de Salud) card.

In addition to financial support, maternity leave in Spain provides access to essential healthcare benefits and medical assistance for pregnant employees. Throughout their maternity leave, employees have the entitlement to receive healthcare benefits, including prenatal care and medical support. The medical expenses are usually covered by the national healthcare system or the employer's private health insurance, depending on the specific circumstances and coverage.

By offering comprehensive healthcare and medical support, maternity leave in Spain places a strong emphasis on employee wellbeing, enabling workers to prioritize their health during a significant phase of their lives.

Preparing for Maternity Leave

To ensure a smooth transition into maternity leave for your employees, it’s important to be aware of the steps and procedures involved in applying for it. This will not only help you develop compliant leave policies, but you’ll also be able to support your employees during a critical period in their lives. Some top things to consider when managing maternity leave include:

Notification and Timing

Employees are required to notify their employer about their pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave. They should provide written notice to the employer at least 15 days before the start of their maternity leave. That said, this notice period can be shortened in cases of medical necessity or unexpected circumstances. Your organization should be prepared to receive and accommodate such requests on a case-by-case basis.

You should also encourage employees to notify the company of their intention to take maternity leave as soon as possible. This enables adequate planning and coverage while the employee is absent. Additionally, it’s your responsibility as the employer to establish effective communication channels to facilitate this process and provide employees with the necessary support.

Required Documentation

In addition to the notification, employees will generally need to submit a medical certificate confirming the estimated date of delivery. This certificate can be obtained from the employee's healthcare provider or the public health system. As an employer, you should have a clear process in place for collecting and verifying this documentation to ensure compliance with the law.

Maternity Leave Application

The application process for maternity leave may vary depending on the company's policies. Your duty as an employer is to provide employees with the necessary information and forms to apply for maternity leave. These forms should be readily available and easily accessible, either through the company's human resources department or through an online portal. By providing clear instructions and guidance, you can streamline the application process and ensure that employees have a smooth experience.

Understanding the legal framework, duration, and procedures for maternity leave in Spain allows you to confidently navigate this period and effectively support your employees. This is critical for increasing employee job satisfaction, which will ultimately affect retention rates and company success.

Getting the Maternity Leave Rules in Spain Right

While Spain may not offer the most generous maternity leave policies in Europe, such as the 39-week paid maternity leave policy in the UK or the 410 days of leave with 90% pay for employees in Bulgaria, its legislation still provides robust support for its employees. Moreover, the Spanish government is continuously working towards enhancing these benefits. A recent example includes discussions on granting double parental leave to single-parent families.

What does all this mean for you as an employer?

You need to stay updated on this dynamic regulatory landscape to ensure compliance and mitigate any potential liabilities arising from noncompliance. And yes, the law space can get complex quite fast, which is why it’s a good idea to have experts on your side.

Check out this Spain country guide to learn more about how Remofirst’s team of legal and HR experts can help you hire employees in Spain while prioritizing their needs.