A postcard from... Spain


Could I please make a comment about the autonomous communities? Spain is made up of 17 autonomous communities plus two autonomous communities Ceuta (not an island) and Melilla, both of them located ...

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Our 'postcard from' series keeps you updated on key HR areas in different countries

Economic briefing

The Spanish economy is the fifth-largest in Europe. However, the financial crisis of 2007 hit Spain hard; resulting in a strong economic downturn, an increase in unemployment, and bankruptcy of major companies.

This crisis inflamed calls for Catalonia, a wealthy region, to become independent. However, it remains unrecognised by the Spanish government and other countries.

A report by the European Commission in November warned that the country is the worst performer in the union for income inequality, with the richest 20% of households in the country receiving an income 6.5 times that of the poorest 20%, compared to an average of 5.1 times across the union.


Spain is made up of 19 autonomous communities, the most populated of which is Andalusia, and the least the tiny island of Ceuta.

As of 2014 there were more than 5,023,487 foreign-born people in Spain, which represents around 10.7% of the total population. Substantial foreign nationalities include Romanians, Moroccans, Ecuadorians and Italians, and the country is home to one of the largest British-born populations outside the UK.

Legal lowdown

As of July 2017 the minimum wage in Spain is $825.65 per month. It is revised each year by the government, taking into account productivity and employment levels. Failure to adhere to these regulations could see employers investigated and fined.

Working hours should average 40 hours per week maximum, calculated on an annual basis.

Workers who are responsible for a child under six, people with disabilities, or those with family members in certain circumstances are entitled to a reduction in their working day, along with a proportional reduction in wages.

From the HR frontline

David Frost, organisational development director at Total Produce, told HR magazine that you should pay particular attention to which region in Spain you will be operating in. “Unlike the UK, in Spain the contract will vary depending on what region you are based in,” he says. “This adds an additional layer of complexity.”

Culturally there are differences too. “When you go to see your Spanish colleagues they will always make time to engage socially,” Frost says. “Just interacting over the course of a meeting is not enough to build a relationship. You need to spend some time face-to-face discussing life outside of business.

“You also won’t see someone eating at their desk,” he adds. “Spanish people value personal time and will ensure they sit somewhere else to eat.”


Unfortunately, the reason why there is income inequality is that labour legislation is not being adhered to. Precarious employment is rampant. 40 hours is not what people usually will be contracted to work. They may work 50 hours but be contracted to work 25. And they will get paid minimum wage for that. If you don't like it, you can leave but they have hundreds of people waiting to take that 50 hour role while being paid 25. Workers with children can't really access their right to reduced hours for fear of being given the sack. Also, there is gender inequality when it comes to accessing full employment, with employers choosing men over women of childbearing age (employees discriminated against rarely take the employer to employment tribunal, if you did that you would have a mark against your name and depending on the sector and the area you live in, it is quite likely you won't get employed again) and also choosing younger workers rather than older (40 onwards), due to their perception that they are too old. I know it sounds bizarre but that mentality is entrenched, especially in some regions.


Could I please make a comment about the autonomous communities? Spain is made up of 17 autonomous communities plus two autonomous communities Ceuta (not an island) and Melilla, both of them located in the North of Africa.


There is some information that is not totally correct. Workers who are responsible for children they have the possibility to reduce their working hours with a wage reduction proportionally for children under 12 if they require not only under 6.

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