Fixed contract after six months: How Spain plans to solve job instability for its temporary workers 

Fixed contract after six months: How Spain plans to solve job instability for its temporary workers 
Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP
The Spanish government is trying to address the precariousness of the country's job market by shortening the maximum length of temporary work contracts so that these employees can access fixed positions sooner.

Spain’s Labour Ministry has presented a draft proposal to the unions and business associations which aims to give temporary workers better working rights and job stability.

This is a big problem in a country where around a quarter of work contracts are temporary, in large part due to the seasonal nature of Spain’s all-important tourism industry.

The standout feature of the draft bill headed by Spanish Labour Minister and third vice president Yolanda Díaz is the proposed maximum new length of temporary contracts: six months or one year at the most.

Obra y servicio job contracts, which up to now could run for up to four years (three years which can be extended for another year), would cease to exist. These ‘work and service’ contracts are temporary agreements through which an employer can hire a worker to carry out a specific service within the company with no fixed end date, so the employer can end it whenever they want and without prior notice.

If the Labour Ministry’s measure is approved, it would mean that the 1.5 million people in Spain who are currently on this type of temporary contract would be able to request a fixed contract with no end date after a year in the role, if the company in question wanted to keep using their services.  

In essence, the Spanish government wants to make fixed job contracts the norm, known as  contratos indefinidos in Spanish. “The employment contract would be assumed to be an indefinido one,” reads the ministerial draft bill. 

They would have a limit of six months, which in exceptions where there are sector-wide collective agreements, could be extended to one year maximum. 

Under their new plans, temporary contracts would ideally only be drawn up in two scenarios.

Firstly, for reasons of productivity during periods of peak demand, but this would not apply to temporary employees carrying out normal and permanent work activity for the business. Seasonal or summer workers couldn’t go on temporary job contracts either, they would need to be on fijo discontinuo contracts.  

If the length of the temporary contract agreed between worker and employer is less than the legal maximum, it could be extended without exceeding that twelve-month limit.

And secondly, for organisation purposes to temporarily replace workers who have a right to hold on to their jobs (maternity leave, unpaid leave). If the original employee did not return after 24 months of absence, the substitute worker (interino) would have the right to the position and a fixed contract. 

If Spain approves the bill, employees in fixed positions who were laid off or left their jobs willingly couldn’t be replaced with substitute workers or employees on temporary contracts; they would have to get a fixed indefinido contract as well. 

The draft law also suggests that if an employee has been on several temporary job contracts which add up to 24 months over a 30-month period, they should automatically become a fixed contract employee.

The main types of temporary contracts in Spain currently are the interinidad contract for the temporary replacement of a returning worker, the obra y servicio contract, the eventual temporary contract due to production circumstances, the formación y prácticas training contract.

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