Have you arrived in Barcelona and are looking for work? Here we explain a few features of the job market and provide you with advice and information on resources that may help you in your job hunt.

How does the labour market work in Barcelona?

The Barcelona area is currently offering opportunities in sectors such as artistic and creative industries, leisure and entertainment, hospitality and tourism, construction, commerce, logistics, telecommunications, and information and communication technologies (ICTs).

There is also high demand for highly qualified and specialist profiles, especially in the technology field.

Foreign nationals with managerial experience or skills in such profiles can find interesting work in the Barcelona area. What is more, if certain specialist jobs are not covered by local workers, immigration legislation allows non-EU citizens, subject to certain requirements, to obtain work permits.

However, if you have just arrived in Barcelona and you want to learn about how the job market works and the basic rules to be aware of when choosing your first job in Catalonia, you will find the basics below: types of work contract, payslips, rights and obligations regarding the tax office, social security and the ways to do your job.

Do I start with a work contract or as a self-employed person?

Work can be carried out through an employment relationship (work contract) or a commercial contract, if instead of working for someone else, you decide to start your own company.

Work contract (employment relationship): a worker provides services to a company, using their working resources and following their instructions, in return for payment that can be fixed or, in part, variable.

A self-employed person is someone who works independently with its own resources. They are not subject to the instructions of another company or person hiring them. This means they can freely decide on their schedules and how they organise their work. They are paid directly the price of their services as per the work contracted.

Self-employed people are not ordinary workers. Rather, in legal terms, they are classed as business owners, which means the same rules do not apply to them. They do not have the same rights or benefits as those protecting workers. It is important for you to assess your own situation prior to registering as a self-employed person if you are actually going to be hired by a company on a regular basis.

If I decide to work as a self-employed person, can I get any assistance?

There is currently a range of support for entrepreneurs to promote the start of professional activities, as self-employed persons, such as low fixed fees during the initial phases of your business. Barcelona Activa can help you with this process. Learn more about their services for entrepreneurs.

What regulations protect me as a worker?

The Workers’ Statute is the legal framework regulating the obligations and minimum rights for workers who work for another person or company, under contract):

The same statue states that the most representative business associations and trade unions in each sector shall form agreements or collective bargaining agreements stipulating working conditions, rights and obligations applicable to a particular sector or territory.

These regulations must be complied with by employers and workers. Worse conditions cannot be put in place than those stated in the Workers’ Statute.

Similarly, these agreements also stipulate the minimum payment for workers in each sector. This depends on the professional category of each worker, which in turn depends on the type of training and education they have, and the work carried out. There is a minimum inter-professional salary (SMI) in place, set by the Government on a yearly basis. Additionally, you can consult the statistics on average salaries by sector and age in Barcelona.

Labour relations are regulated by what the parties (employers and workers) establish in the work contract. The work contract must not provide for worse working conditions than those established in the Workers’ Statute or in the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Any pact that goes against workers’ rights as established in the statute or collective bargaining agreement will be considered null and void by the courts. They will therefore not be regarded as applicable or in force.

What type of contract can I be given?

There are different kinds of contract to formalise an employment relationship. The most common contract is the open-ended contract (with a start date but no end date) and it can be full time (40 hours) or part time.

Workers can also be hired in the following ways:

  • For a specific length of time (temporary contract for a specific length of time or to carry out a specific job or piece of work or to cover a substitution).
  • Through training or apprenticeship contracts (in which a worker does vocational training and works simultaneously).
  • By means of an internship (a relationship established after the completion of studies related to the job).

In open-ended contracts, a probation period may be set. During this period, the employer and the worker may leave or terminate the contract with no prior warning. The duration of the probation period is limited by each collective bargaining agreement, according to the category and type of contract.

 What is a payslip?

The remuneration that an employer pays a worker must appear on the payslip that every worker should receive as proof of payment at the end of month. This can be in paper form or digital. The payslip should detail and give a clear breakdown of the remuneration and taxes applied.

The payslip must include the identification number of both the employer and the worker. It must also include the period to which it refers (normally, the corresponding month or days in that month).

The payslip must include both salary payments (such as the basic salary, supplements, seniority or company enhancements) and non-salary payments (such as expenses or transport allowances). These are often expenses that the worker has accrued while carrying out their work.

On the whole, remuneration is usually in the form of money. However, work can also be paid by other means, such as, through the assignment of a vehicle or residence, or by paying for various services for the worker (health or life insurance, childcare, restaurant vouchers, etc.). This type of payment is generally known as payment in kind.

In any event, you should consult the collective bargaining agreement applied to each activity (normally indicated in the work contract) and check if the payslip or payment includes all payments stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement. You should also check the salary charts that often appear at the end of every agreement to see whether you are being paid in line with the role for which you have been hired.

In the event that extra pro-rata payments are received, these should also be indicated on the payslip. When we talk about extra pro-rata payments, we are referring to those payments distributed proportionally in the payslip each calendar month. However, it should be remembered that there are agreements that prohibit payments being made on a pro-rata basis over 12 months and oblige the payment of extraordinary pay in other periods (for example, the Christmas payment, in December and the summer payment, in June).

The period to lodge a dispute regarding missing pay is 1 year.

If you want to learn more about the agreement for your activity or company, you can do so by visiting the Catalan government’s agreement search tool

What is the social security system and who pays into it?

Social security is the responsibility of the State. It is the State which pays, among other things, benefits and financial aid to those who are unemployed and to workers who find themselves incapacitated and unable to work (sick leave or disability). To pay for this, all business owners and workers must pay into the social security system, in the form of a contribution. The level of contributions is based on workers’ salaries.

From these salaries (contribution base), the employer has to pay social security contributions which are calculated by applying different percentages depending on the type of contract and activity.

This percentage is often around 30% of the worker’s salary and is fully paid by the employer. For their part, the worker also makes a contribution to the social security system, taken out of their salary, at around 6.35% of their pay.

In certain cases, and in order to encourage the hiring of certain groups, the State applies a discount on the contribution of certain workers in the form of a rebate or reduction of the social security contribution to be paid. This varies according to the type of contract agreed (interim, conversion of an internship contract into an open-ended one) or the group whose hiring is encouraged (victims of gender or domestic violence, workers in a situation of social exclusion, long-term unemployed workers, etc.).

What benefits do I get from the social security system?

By contributing to the social security system, workers receive the protection of the system in numerous situations:

Should a worker find themself sick for reasons not related to work, they will receive a temporary incapacity benefit. In this case, a doctor registered with the social security system must provide a document authorising sick leave which is required in order to receive this benefit. If the reason for the sick leave results from an accident or illness resulting from work, it will be the work insurance company who will come and visit the worker. The sick leave will then be granted for professional reasons:

Workers may receive benefits in the event of incapacity or permanent disability if due to their physical or psychological state they are unable to carry out their work, or another type of work, in its entirety or partially (permanently, without the possibility of improvement or full recovery). Unemployment benefit can be received for the loss of work if certain criteria are met (previous contributions made, out of work but actively looking for employment, etc.). Benefits are also available on retirement, once the retirement age has been reached and the minimum period of contributions has been met. Workers can also benefit from assistance from the Salary Guarantee Fund (FOGASA) in the event that their employer is unable to pay them due to insolvency. Likewise, workers are entitled to use the health system which offers healthcare to all citizens requiring free medical assistance.

What taxes do I have to pay out of my salary?

Besides social security contributions, a personal income tax (IRPF) must also be paid by workers. This is paid directly by the employer to the Treasury. 

The type of personal income tax paid varies depending on whether the worker is a tax resident in Spain or not.

Generally speaking, a natural person is considered a tax resident in Spain if they meet the following criteria:

 Resides at least 183 days during a calendar year in Spanish territory.  The main centre or base of their economic activities or interests is directly or indirectly located in Spain. The spouse (non-legally separated) and children (under 18, dependants of the natural person) lives in Spain on a habitual basis. After having been resident in Spain, the residence has moved to a country or territory classed as a tax haven (during the first year and for four years afterwards).

Workers and employers can calculate the percentage that applies, for guidance, by entering the salary and specific personal circumstances.

In the case where the worker is a tax resident in Spain but undertakes part of their job abroad for companies of the same group as the contracting company in Spain, they will not pay income tax on that salary (up to a limit of €60,100 a year).

Alternatively, if they work in Spain, but do not meet the conditions to be considered a tax resident in Spain, they will contribute to the system through the payment of non-resident income tax (IRNR). This is calculated solely on income obtained in Spain. In this case, the tax to be paid is set at a fixed percentage of the worker’s salary, depending on if the worker is a resident of the European Union, Iceland or Norway (19%) or other countries (24%), and then the non-resident income tax return must be submitted for any tax to be paid.

A natural person will be classed as non-resident in Spain should they not fulfil the aforementioned criteria.

In the case of being considered a tax resident in Spain, the percentage of personal income tax withheld is set according to the personal characteristics of the worker (disabilities, number of children), type of contract (temporary or occasional) and, progressively, according to the worker's pay.

The minimum percentage is often 2% for temporary contracts and gradually increases to a maximum level of 45% for the highest salaries. Personal income tax and its payment to the Treasury is the obligation of the employer. However, it is permitted not to apply this to workers with certain personal circumstances.

What will my working hours be?

The Workers’ Statute sets out that the maximum number of hours to work is 40 per week, on a yearly calculation. However, certain collective bargaining agreements in various sectors establish a lesser number of hours.

Ordinarily, no more than nine hours may be worked per day, although the rest between days must be respected in any case (there must be a minimum of 12 hours rest between the end of one day and the following day, and one and a half days at the weekend).

Minors under 18 years of age have a higher degree of protection with regard to both the working day (maximum 8 hours a day) and rest times (2 full days a week).

Workers must clock in and out of work to register their working hours. In this way, checks can be made to ensure that the limits to the working hours and rest times are legally respected. Should the working hours be exceeded, the extra hours must be counted as extraordinary work hours and should be paid or compensated with time off.

Many agreements place a higher value on extraordinary hours than ordinary ones (both in terms of compensation by time off and pay). However, they should have at least the same value as ordinary hours.

At the most, a worker can work 80 extraordinary hours per year (not compensated by time off) and these must be reflected in the monthly payslip.

In order to ensure a work-life balance, and depending on the personal circumstances of the worker and the organisation of the company, workers may be entitled to request the adaptation and distribution of their working hours to their circumstances, including working from home, whenever this is possible, depending on the activity. This adaptation shall be negotiated between the employer and the worker and may not be unfairly refused by the employer.

In any event, when workers have dependants, family members with disabilities, or children under the age of 12, they shall be entitled to reduce their working hours, from a minimum of one eighth (1 hour) to a maximum of half of their working day (4 hours), with a proportional reduction in their pay.

You can consult the Labour Guide produced by the Ministry of Work and Social Economy for more information regarding working hours, leave and holidays. 

How many leave days and days off am I entitled to?

Annually, workers are entitled to a minimum of 30 calendar days of paid leave, which cannot be substituted by pay, except in the event of the termination of a contract.

The period of leave shall be agreed between the employer and the worker with at least two months’ notice prior to the start date of the leave.  If annual leave cannot be taken due to sick leave or under other specific circumstances (pregnancy, nursing leave, etc.), it can be taken after.

As a minimum, and with prior approval from and notice to the employer, workers are entitled to be absent from work and must still be paid under the  following circumstances:

Getting married (15 calendar days). Birth or death or serious accident or illness of a child (2-4 calendar days). Moving house (1 day). Prenatal and childbirth preparation tests, adoption, etc. carried out within the working day (the necessary time required). Training (20 hours annually). Attending exams. Workers' representation activities.

Who looks out for my interests as a worker if I have problems?

Workers are entitled to choose their representatives to look out for and defend their interests and rights against employers. These representatives can associate in the form of trade unions and be elected democratically from among the workforce. 

The number of workers’ representatives in each company varies depending on the number of employees. There can be one representative as a minimum, or a committee with various representatives, known as the ‘works council’.

Workers’ representatives enjoy a greater level of protection than the rest of the workforce. This is so they can perform their task without fear of retribution from employers. Their role is recognised under the law to represent workers in taking decisions that affect the whole collective (dismissals and changes to collective conditions, negotiations of agreements, application of prevention measures against occupational hazards, etc.).

Workers’ representatives or ‘works councils’ are often the first point of contact and assistance for workers in the event of a conflict with their employer.

What happens if I decide to leave my job or I am dismissed?

Should a worker wish to leave their job, they should check what the minimum notice period is as established in the applicable collective bargaining agreement for their professional category. The minimum is 15 days. Should the minimum notice period not be respected, the employer may retain the worker’s salary for the days not respected up to the final settlement.

If the contract is terminated due to a decision taken by the employer, it may be based on different reasons. These include not passing the probation period, reaching the end date of a temporary contract, due to disciplinary action taken against the worker, redundancy due to objective causes justifying the elimination of the role.

Should a worker not agree with the reason for dismissal, it should be contested within 20 working days (not including public holidays or weekends) from its effective date.

 The dispute should be first notified through the presentation of a conciliation form to the Department of Conciliation at the Department of Work, in order to try to reach an agreement with the employer and, where appropriate, by means of an action brought before the competent social court.

In the event that the dismissal is caused by the violation of a fundamental right or discrimination (racism, gender inequality, special protection of certain groups, retaliation against the exercise of labour rights, etc.), the dismissal may be deemed void by the courts, and the worker shall have the right to be reinstated to their job, and to receive the wages lost since the dismissal.

In the event that the dismissal is not deemed void, but is in fact upheld (inadmissible), the employer should decide between reinstating the worker and paying them the wages from the date of dismissal or offering them legal compensation calculated based on the salary and seniority.

Temporary contracts also give workers the right to legal compensation at the end of their contract (except for interim or training contracts), which in this case is 12 days' wages for each year worked.

As long as the contract is terminated for reasons beyond the worker’s control, if the worker does not have any other employment, they will be legally classed as unemployed. This will entitle them to unemployment benefits (el paro) or, if applicable, subsidies, provided they meet the legal criteria for each benefit (to receive unemployment benefits, they should have worked and contributed for at least one year). Unemployment benefits should be applied for within 15 days following the termination of a contract.

In any event, the termination of a work contract does not imply any loss of entitlement to health care assistance which is extended to all residents of Catalonia.

Job-hunting tools and resources

You will find a practical way to start your job hunting, along with the tools to help you to do it, through Barcelona Activa, Barcelona City Council’s local development agency.

It offers you free tools, digital resources, advisory services and training activities for guidance in your academic or professional career and to help you with knowledge development.

In addition, its website also provides information on the sectors creating the highest demand for jobs and the most sought-after professional profiles, as well as tools for preparing your CV, presentation letter and job interviews. It is important for you to know how to adapt your CV to the Spanish labour market and to prepare your job interviews, to avoid any possible cultural misunderstandings.

When it comes to job hunting, it may be useful for you to create a network of contacts, for example, by looking in social group networks of foreign nationals living here, or business and local people in your line of work.

Professional development in new technologies

If your speciality is new technologies, Barcelona Activa, the City Council’s local development agency, has a Cibernàrium technology training and dissemination programme aimed at ordinary and professional people as well as companies.

It offers training for professionals and companies, as well as introduction to the Internet activities for all city residents. It also publishes information resources in several formats: video courses, dossiers on activities and multi-media content.

In addition, it has an IT Academy, a high-specialisation programme in new technologies for training the qualified profiles that are most in demand from Barcelona’s companies. Sign up for it if you’d like to improve your possibilities of finding work!

Professional contacts

If you'd like to boost your professional career through useful contacts, you may also be interested in joining professional, business or financial associations. Highlighted below are some of these international platforms that can be found in the city:

For further information on jobs, you can visit the following websites:

Have a look to the following formalities if you are a national from a non-EU or EEA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland: