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Religion in the workplace

The Spanish Constitution (1978) and the Organic Law of Religious Freedom (1980) recognise and developpe the right to religious freedom in Spain. Yet, although these cover all social arenas, there is no specific reference to the sphere of labour relations and the workplace.

The labour legislation only contains very broad reference to these topics. Article 4 of the “Law of the Statute of Workers” on labour rights of states that workers have the right not to be discriminated against directly or indirectly on grounds of religious ideas at the moment of being hired or once hired. Article 17.1. of the same document establishes a sanction that enforces the prohibition of discrimination.

The Law of the Statute of Workers also states that workers have the right to intimacy and dignity, including protection from harassment based on religion or convictions. Violation of this right by the employer, or by other employees, can lead to the termination of the employment contract.

Case law
There have been two cases where the Constitutional Court intervened (ruling 177/1996 and 101/2004) in matters of religion and the workplace. The complainants were respectively a member of the army and a member of the police force, who claimed that the participation in a religious ceremony as part of their professional duties (in the first case the ceremony paid tribute to the Virgin Mary, in the second case the ceremony consisted of a procession where the National Police body was nominated honorary member of a religious brotherhood) violated their right to religious freedom (Vázquez García-Peñuela, 2016).

However, the rulings of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts do not contain elements referring to the practice of specific religious practices, such as the performance of rituals, the wearing of religious symbols or clothing, and so on. In the cases where there has been a clash, the rulings have tended to give primacy to the rights of the employer to organise the professional activity in the way that is more convenient for the productive ends of the company (Vázquez García-Peñuela, 2016).

Holidays and weekly break
The specific Cooperation Agreements between the Spanish State and the national federations of Jewish (FCJE), Islamic (CIE) and Protestant (FEDERE) communities state the regulations and rights concerning the weekly breaks and other holidays.

Policy guidelines
In 2022, the Catalan Government issued new guidelines on how to deal with religious diversity in the workplace. Entitled Guidelines for the respect of the freedom of religion and consciousness in labor relations (in Spanish), it offers an overview of the legal framework as well as provides examples of best practices.

Similarly, in 2023, the Fundación Pluralismo y Convivencia, dependent on the Spanish Ministry of Justice, published its guidelines on religious diversity in the context of companies. In its Guidelines for best practices in dealing with religious diversity in the context of companies (in Spanish), the foundation alsooffers examples of good practices as well as a list of indicators that help each individual company to evaluate the degree of their commitment to religious diversity.

For futher information, see Vázquez García-Peñuela, José María, "Law and religion in the workplace in Spanish legal system " in RODRÍGUEZ BLANCO Miguel (ed.), Law and religion in the workplace, Proceedings of the XXVIIth annual conference of the European Consortium for Church and State Research, Alcalá de Henares, 12-15 November 2015, Granada, Comares, December 2016, p. 373-386.

D 28 March 2024    AJulia Martínez-Ariño

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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