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Social Security and Welfare

Spain - Social Security and Welfare

The system for social security in Spain works in a similar way to the UK system. Employees make contributions each month and this gives entitlement to a series of benefits. The amount of benefit or pension that can be claimed is based on the amount of contributions that have been made. It is the employer’s responsibility to register each employee in the social security system and in order to be registered you must have the NIE number first. The employer will take the contributions from the monthly wage and pass them to the social security department. There are many employers in Spain who pay workers cash in hand and these workers may not be eligible for the social security benefits.

Those who are self employed need to visit their local social security office and complete the necessary paperwork. This can be a difficult process for those who do not speak good Spanish, so many will hire the services of a ‘gestor’. There is a minimum monthly contribution for those who are self employed and this sum is reviewed regularly. Those who are registered on the UK social security system are able to spend 2 years working in Spain and be entitled to healthcare benefits. The system for those who are self employed is known as ‘regimen especial de autonomos’ and the self-employed need to make far higher contributions as they do not have an employer to top this amount up. The minimum amount must be met each month, regardless of the level of earnings.

Those who are claiming benefits when they leave the UK to move to Spain may be able to claim some benefits there when they arrive, although those who leave a job to go will not. Contributions must be made first in most cases before a claim can be made, but all workers who are part of the social security system are entitled to claim benefits when they have made the qualifying number of contributions.

Generally, in order to be able to claim unemployment benefit in Spain you will need to have worked in the country for a minimum of 6 months. The system works on a time scale so that the benefit can only be claimed for a certain period of time depending upon the length of time that they have worked and the contributions that have been made. In order to claim unemployment benefit you must register with the Institute of Employment known as INEM and do so within 15 days of becoming unemployed. If you choose to leave your job you are not entitled to unemployment benefits.

Making regular contributions will also entitle you to sick pay, maternity benefits and an old-age pension, as well as compensation for industrial injury, death benefits and invalidity claims. Maternity benefits can be claimed for up to 16 weeks, during which time the employment contract is suspended. More leave is available in the event of a multiple birth and the employer is obliged to keep the job available. For this period the mother will receive her salary as usual. In order to qualify for this she must be registered with the social security department and have made contributions for a minimum of 180 days within the five years prior to the birth of the baby.

It is considered that those who are employed by another person have a good deal in the social security system as the employer will also add to the contributions on their behalf. The Spanish government has programmes for different types of workers such as those in the military and civil servants.

The system includes an old-age pension and in order to claim this you must have made a minimum of 15 years contributions. Two of these years must be within the 15 immediately prior to retirement. The amount of pension received is based on the contributions which have been made in the 8 years prior to retirement, so many people will choose to make higher contributions during this period. Many people will also have a private pension or company pension to add to their earnings as the state pension pays out an average of €700 per month.

Healthcare is generally free or very low-cost for those who are part of the social security system although many people choose to top this up with a private healthcare insurance policy as this allows them to seek treatment much more quickly in non-urgent cases.

There are agreements with some countries regarding residents making claims based on social security contributions made in their home country. It is a good idea to contact the social security department in your home country before leaving to determine your status as a benefit claimant in Spain.

Useful Resources

Social Security Department website (English language option available)

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

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