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Probation period in Spain – Overview

In Spain, probationary period enables employers to evaluate new hires, while offering employees a chance to assess the company’s work environment. This guide explores the legalities, duration, and important details surrounding this initial phase of employment.

What is a Probation Period in Spain?

The probation period in Spain serves as a preliminary phase for employers to evaluate the suitability of new hires, with its duration varying by employment contract but generally not exceeding six months for technical positions or two months for most other jobs, as outlined in the Workers’ Statute (Estatuto de los Trabajadores).

Throughout this period, employees are subject to the same rights and protections as regular employees, yet either party may terminate the employment relationship without notice.

Probation Period at Work Video:

Employment Contracts and Probation Periods

Let’s start by understanding the various types of employment contracts recognized by Spanish labor law, as each type has its own characteristics and implications for the probation period:

Employment Contracts

Indefinite-term contracts: 

These are the most common type and offer long-term employment with no pre-determined end date.

Fixed-term contracts:

As the name suggests, these contracts have a predetermined end date and are typically used for temporary, seasonal, or project-based work. The maximum duration for fixed-term contracts is generally 3 years, with specific regulations and limitations depending on the reason for the contract.

Training and apprenticeship contracts:

Designed for individuals acquiring professional skills or qualifications, these contracts have specific training and learning components alongside work experience.

Part-time contracts:

These are employment arrangements where individuals work fewer hours than a full-time employee.

With a clear understanding of these different contract types, we can now delve deeper into how probation periods are determined and implemented within the Spanish employment landscape.

Probation Period and Seniority

While the Workers’ Statute establishes maximum durations for probation periods, seniority does not directly influence the duration. The regulations are primarily based on two factors:

  1. Employee qualifications: “Qualified” employees, typically referring to those with specific professional certifications or technical expertise, are eligible for a longer probation period of up to 6 months.
  2. Company size: Companies with more than 25 employees can offer a shorter probation period of 2 months for “unqualified” employees, while smaller companies with 25 or fewer employees can extend the period to 3 months.

Therefore, when determining the allowable probation period, employers must consider both the employee’s qualifications and the company’s size, adhering to the legal limits set by the Workers’ Statute.

Legal Rights of Spanish Employees under Probation Period

It’s crucial to understand that probationary employees in Spain possess the same fundamental legal rights as their non-probationary counterparts. This is expressly guaranteed by the Workers’ Statute, the cornerstone of Spanish labor law. These rights include protections such as minimum wage, overtime pay (if applicable), mandatory social insurance coverage, rest periods, and all stipulated leave benefits.

Even during the probationary period, actions such as unfair termination, discrimination on any prohibited basis, or any violation of an employee’s fundamental rights are illegal. Probationary employees experiencing these violations maintain the right to file a complaint to the Ministry of Labour and Social Economy of Spain.

Legal Obligations of Spanish Employers

During the probationary period in Spain, employers have several legal obligations they must uphold towards new employees. These obligations stem from corresponding rights enjoyed by employees and ensure fair treatment throughout the initial phase of employment.

Provision of Work and Training

Employers are obligated to provide the agreed-upon work and necessary training, resources, and guidance to allow the new employee to perform their duties effectively. This enables a fair assessment of suitability during the probationary period.

Safe and Healthy Work Environment

Regardless of the employee’s probationary status, employers must maintain a safe and healthy working environment that adheres to all relevant health and safety regulations.

Fair and Non-discriminatory Treatment

Spanish labor law strictly prohibits all forms of discrimination during the probation period. This includes terminating a contract based on an employee’s protected characteristics such as pregnancy, maternity leave, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Timely Payment and Compensation

Employers are legally bound to pay the employee punctually according to the agreed-upon or legally established wage, including overtime pay if applicable.

Compliance with Termination Notice Periods

While notice periods are generally shorter during probation, employers must still adhere to the stipulated legal minimums or the terms outlined in the employment contract when terminating a probationary worker. Additionally, any termination must be justified and non-discriminatory.

Respecting Employee Rights

Employers must respect the employee’s privacy and dignity, ensure protection from harassment based on protected characteristics, and fulfill the duty to provide vocational training as mandated by law. 

Are Probation Periods Optional in Spain?

Probationary periods are not optional under Spanish labor law. The Workers’ Statute specifically recognizes the framework for probationary periods. However, it allows for flexibility within certain limitations. 

The specifics of the probation period, including its duration and notice period for termination, must be explicitly outlined within the employment contract between the employer and the employee.

Benefits of Probation Periods

Probationary periods offer advantages to both employers and employees within the Spanish employment system:

Benefits for Employers:

  1. They provide an opportunity for employers to evaluate a new employee’s skills, work ethic, and overall compatibility with the company culture before committing to a long-term employment arrangement.
  2. Early termination of an employment contract is often easier during the probationary period, with shorter notice periods generally required. This can help mitigate risk if an employee proves to be a poor fit for the position.

Benefits for Employees:

  1. Just as employers can assess new hires, employees also benefit from the probationary period. It allows them to evaluate whether the job, work environment, and company culture meet their expectations before committing long-term.
  2. Employees also have the flexibility to terminate the contract with shorter notice periods if they deem the working arrangement unsuitable.

Managing Employees During the Probationary Period in Spain

Effectively managing employees during the probationary period in Spain requires a balanced approach emphasizing assessment, support, and clear communication. Here are some key guidelines:

  • Establish clear expectations at the outset. Define goals, roles, and responsibilities for the new employee, creating a foundation for performance evaluation.

  • Conduct regular reviews with constructive feedback. Foster open communication by offering feedback, allowing for timely identification and improvement of any performance issues.

  • Maintain documentation of progress, feedback, and areas of concern.These records can provide objective evidence for future training, support, or termination decisions.

  • Provide a comprehensive onboarding program. Introduce new employees to the company and their specific role, setting them up for success from the start.

  • Offer necessary training and resources. Equip employees with the skills and resources needed to adapt quickly and perform their duties effectively.

  • Maintain clear and open communication channels. Encourage employees to express any difficulties they experience, facilitating proactive problem-solving and addressing concerns.

Implementing these best practices helps employers in Spain manage employees effectively during the probationary period. This ensures transparency, support, and legal compliance, fostering positive experiences for both parties from the start of the employment journey.

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In Spain, employers are not required to give notice before terminating employment during the probation period.
In Spain, employees are not required to give notice before terminating employment during the probation period.

The standard probation period offered to employees in Spain is three months.

For indefinite-term contracts (which make up the majority of employment contracts), the maximum legal probation period is six months. For non-qualified workers, the maximum is two months.

Any sick leave taken during this time will suspend the probation period until the employee returns to work.

The employer can extend the probationary period in Spain up to a maximum of 6 months total. However, such a possibility for extension must be specified in the employment contract. If, for example, the employer and employee agree to a 3 month probationary period, it should be specified in the employment contract that the probation period may be extended for a maximum of 3 more months. If it is not specified in the employment contract, there is no legal basis for extending the probationary period.

When terminating an employee during their probation period, there is no mandatory notice period or requirement to give a reason for termination.

No, employees in Spain do not have to give notice during their probation period.

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