Work-life balance

Spain-flag-140There are only a very limited number of measures aimed at balancing work and family life in Spain and those that exist are often found to be ineffective, especially those focusing on extended leave and reduced working hours. Since the economic crisis of 2008, many families cannot afford to take leave and reduce their income. Also, people are reluctant to accept reduced working hours, as they believe their professional careers would be impaired as a result. The work-life imbalance can also have a deleterious effect on companies, as workers’ productivity may decline, absenteeism may increase and accidents may occur.

Particularly affected by the new pace of working life are households where both parents are working full-time. Combined with a chronic lack of childcare facilities, this often means that they are unable to take care of their children during the week. So, grandparents often play a significant role in supporting Spanish families coping with limited resources.

As a result, the government is searching for new initiatives and public measures. Many professionals also argue that there is need to bring about a change in cultural attitudes. Authorities suggest that men, in particular, should be fully committed to taking care of children and the elderly, in order to achieve a satisfactory balance between work and family life. Apart from various legal frameworks concerning the work-life balance, there are plans to build more nursery schools and promote family-friendly working schemes within Spanish companies.

The family is the cornerstone of Spanish culture and serves as a social and financial support network.

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National holidays

Spain has 14 public holidays each year, 2 of which vary depending on the local municipality. Employees are normally entitled to 30 calendar days of paid holiday each year, except where a collective agreement or contract has been established. Holidays are usually taken in July, August or September, with August being the most popular month.

The dates of the national public and religious holidays (bank holiday) are as follows:

  • 1st January – New Year
  • 6th January – Epiphany
  • Good Friday and Easter Monday – Easter falls on a different date in late March or early April each year.
  • 1st May – Labour Day
  • 15th August – Day of the Assumption
  • 12th October – National Holiday of Spain
  • 1st November – All Saints Day
  • 6th December – Spanish Constitution Day
  • 8th December – Immaculate Conception
  • 25th December Christmas Day

Working Hours

The typical Spanish working day tends to be from around 8.30am or 9am to around 1.30 pm and then from 4.30pm or 5pm to around 8pm.

The famous siesta, whilst declining in the larger cities, is still a major part of the working day in Spain. The siesta is a mid-afternoon break, usually around three hours, which gives employees a break from work during the intense midday heat. Most people tend to go home for lunch, spend time with their family or relax during this time.

The Spanish tradition of long lunches and afternoon breaks has been challenged in recent years. Increased competition from other European and worldwide markets has resulted in many employers abandoning long established practices in favour of the intensive working day, where employees have a short lunch break, and finish earlier in the afternoon. Many employees in offices in the cities remain at their desks throughout the afternoon and only rural areas largely retain strict adherence to the siesta, where the pace of life tends to mean that the siesta is still a key part of the day.

The standard working week is 40 hours in Spain but this does vary between occupations. The law also ensures there is a minimum of twelve hours rest between working days and that employees cannot work more than eighty hours of overtime in a single year unless there is a collective agreement in place.

hours for banks and public offices:


  • Monday to Friday: 8.30am to 2pm
  • Saturday: 8.30am to 1pm
  • From April to September: closed on Saturdays

Public offices

Monday to Friday: 8am to 3pm


Monday to Saturday: 10am to 1.30pm and from 5pm to 8.30pm

Health Insurance

As a citizen of the European Union, you are entitled to free medical and hospital care when visiting Spain. Should you need medical assistance, you should first visit a GP at a local health centre. If it is necessary to go to hospital, the doctor will provide you with the relevant medical certificate. In case of an accident or emergency, you should contact the ambulance service on the international number 112. On the 1st of July 2004, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) replaced the former E111 form and is issued by the national health care providers in each EU member state. The card entitles you to the same level of medical care as received by Spanish citizens for healthcare services and emergency medical treatment; however it is not a replacement for private medical insurance. The EHIC is not accepted by private doctors and hospitals in Spain and, should you require private healthcare, you must be prepared to cover all the costs yourself. Private medical insurance is required to cover dental treatment (apart from emergency extractions) as well as any specific medical treatments and repatriation. If you require any type of special medical treatment during your stay in Spain, you will need the E112 form and authorisation from your GP.

If you forget your EHIC, you will have to pay for medical treatment and claim your expenses back after your return to your home country. Make sure that you keep all receipts and copies of any documentation. Prescriptions are issued by doctors and dispensed through local pharmacies (farmacia), along with over-the-counter medications.

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