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Do I have to take most of my annual leave in August in Spain?

Many Spanish companies still expect their workers to take their holidays at specific times of the year, primarily in August, right in the height of summer when many hotels are fully booked. So what are your rights, are you obliged to take your vacation in one particular month?

beach in Benidorm
Do I have to take my holidays in August? Photo: JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP

While it’s your right as an employee to be able to take holiday days, do you have to take them when your company wants you to take them, or are you able to choose and have more flexibility?

Despite August being one of the hottest months in Spain and the one month of the year when many official companies and offices shut up shop, not everyone necessarily wants to take their break at the same time as everyone else.

Taking your holidays in August means less availability in hotels, overcrowding and more expensive transport and accommodation. If you don’t have children who are off from school during the summer months, then you may wish to take your vacation days at another time of the year, when it’s less busy and cheaper.

To answer the question it’s important to know the details about what the law says about how paid time off is taken, requested, imposed, or granted.

What laws or regulations dictate the rules about paid holiday time?

There are three different sets of rules and regulations, which are responsible for regulating the laws on vacation time in Spain. 

Firstly, you need to look at the Spanish Workers’ Statute, which includes rights, duties and obligations applicable to all salaried workers in Spain.

Secondly, you need to be aware of the collective sector and/or company agreements, which may dictate the rules for a particular industry for example.

Thirdly, you need to look at the contract, which you signed with your employer when you started working for them. This sets out your individual circumstances and the rules you must abide by.   

Workers Statute

As a general rule, all employees are subject to the Workers’ Statute. Holidays are part of this and are the subject of article 38. These conditions can never be contradicted by individual companies and are set as a guaranteed minimum. 

The minimum number of holidays in Spain is 30 calendar days per year. This equals two and a half days per month worked, in the case of temporary contracts. The statute states that vacations must be taken between January 1st and December 31st in separate periods, but one of them must be for at least two weeks. They are always paid and cannot be exchanged for financial compensation.

The period when you can take them is set by a common agreement between the employer and the worker, in accordance with what is established in the collective agreements on annual vacation planning. If there is disagreement, the social jurisdiction is resorted to.

At a minimum, the company must offer vacation days at least two months before the beginning of the holiday period, so that the employee has time to organise and book.   

When the planned time to take vacations coincides with a temporary disability, pregnancy, or childbirth, you have the right to enjoy the vacations at another time, even after the calendar year is over.

Collective agreements on vacations  

Your sector’s collective agreements may also help to answer this question. These aim to improve upon the basic and general rights that are included in the Workers’ Statute. They seek to adapt the rules to each type of industry or company. They could, for example, set out extra vacation days, which are greater than the standard 30 calendar days. 

You will need to find out what your specific sector or company’s collective agreement is. There is a possibility that your sector or company has mandatory summer vacations for the month of August and in that case, you can choose vacation dates, but only within this month.

Your work contract 

Lastly, you will need to consult your individual contract which you signed with the company when you were hired.  As well as the minimum conditions set out in the Workers’ Statute, your contract sets out your particular agreement with your employer in terms of holiday duration, the work calendar and other details.

Therefore, you should state in your contract whether you have to take your holidays during August, or if you’re free to take them at other times of the year.

If after consulting these three sets of regulations and there are still in doubt or in disagreement with your company about vacations, such as having to take them during the month of August, you should consult a lawyer specialising in labor law. They should be able to give you an answer specific to your situation.  

Can I appeal or disagree and what are the consequences? 

To appeal or express disagreement with what is proposed by the company, there is a period of 20 business days from when the vacation schedule is sent out, after which time you don’t have the right to show that you disagree.  

Companies can proceed to disciplinary dismissals due to abandonment of the job if you decide to take vacations that have not been granted or agreed upon with your employer. To avoid this type of problem, always make sure you have a record in writing of your request for vacation time and subsequent approval by the company.

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For members

WORKING IN SPAIN

Spain’s public and regional holidays in 2023: How to make the most of them

2023 will be a good year for long weekends and bank holidays. Here’s how to plan ahead and turn Spain's national and regional holidays into extended breaks without using up your annual leave.

Spain's public and regional holidays in 2023: How to make the most of them

People in every region of Spain will enjoy 14 public holidays in 2023, 8 of which are national holidays that can’t be omitted or replaced from the calendar. 

What’s more, 4 of these 8 fall on Monday or Friday, which give you the option of taking a three-day weekend without having to book out any leave from work. 

Two others fall on a Tuesday and a Thursday, which means that by taking one day off from work you can have four days off in a row. 

Spain’s public holidays in 2023 are:

  • Friday April 7th: Good Friday (Viernes Santo)
  • Monday May 1st: May Day (Día del Trabajo)
  • Tuesday August 15th: Assumption of Mary (Asunción de la Virgen)
  • Thursday October 12th: Spain’s National Day (Día Nacional)
  • Wednesday November 1st:  All Saints Day (Día de Todos los Santos)
  • Wednesday December 6th: Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución)
  • Friday December 8th: Immaculate Conception (Inmaculada Concepción)
  • Monday December 25th: Christmas Day (Navidad)

Spain’s official national holidays list is missing two key dates: Three Kings Day (which falls on Friday January 6th and is a holiday in all of Spain’s regions) and New Year’s Day. 

Because January 1st 2023 falls on a Sunday, not all regions are making Monday January 2nd a holiday; so far only Andalusia, Murcia, Aragón, Asturias and Castilla Y León.

Everyone in Spain will also get at least 2 days off for Easter. Apart from Friday April 7th (which is a holiday across Spain), Maundy Thursday 6th will be a holiday in every region except Catalonia and the Valencia region, which instead have Monday April 10th off. In the Balearics, La Rioja, Navarre and the Basque Country it’s a holiday on Thursday, Friday and Monday, which equates to five days off in a row.

It’s worth noting as well that the December 2023 puente (how Spaniards refer to ‘bridging’ the days between official public holidays and the weekend to maximise time off) has two public holidays on a Wednesday and a Friday and can therefore be turned into a five-day holiday by just taking one day of leave.

That means that overall in 2023, pretty much everybody in Spain will have at least 7 puentes to enjoy, and they will only have to take 3 days off in total from their annual leave to enjoy all of them. 

So apart from Spain’s public holidays and the differences in New Years’ and Easter holidays that we’ve covered above, what other regional holidays can residents in Spain look forward to?

Well, each region has at least its own specific holiday to celebrate its region and heritage, many of which fall on Mondays and Fridays, allowing for even more long weekends. 

Keep in mind that there are also festivos (holidays) in specific provinces, cities and towns and even islands, such as in the Canary Islands, where each island enjoys its own day off.

Spain’s regional holidays in 2023 are:

Andalusia: Tuesday February 28th (Andalusia Day)

Aragón: Monday April 24th (Aragón Day)

Asturias: Friday September 8th (Asturias Day)

Balearics: Wednesday March 1st (Balearics Day)

Canary Islands: Tuesday May 30th (Canaries Day)

Cantabria: Friday July 28th (Cantabria Day), Friday September 15th (La Bien Aparecida)

Castilla-La Mancha: Wednesday May 31st (Castilla-La Mancha Day), Thursday June 8th (Corpus Christi)

Castilla y León: Tuesday July 25th (Saint James Day)

Catalonia: Monday September 11th (Catalonia Day), Tuesday December 26h (San Esteban)

Madrid: Monday March 20th (San José Day), Tuesday May 2nd (Madrid Day)

Valencia region: October 9th (Valencia Day)

Extremadura: Tuesday February 21st (Carnival Tuesday), Friday September 8th (Extremadura Day)

Galicia: Wednesday May 17th (Galician Writing Day), Tuesday July 25th (Galicia Day)

La Rioja: Friday June 9th (La Rioja Day) 

Murcia: Friday June 9th (Murcia Day)

Navarre: Tuesday July 25th (Saint James Day)

Basque Country: Tuesday July 25th (Saint James Day)

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