July 8, 2024

6 mins

Employee Background Checks in Spain

Spain's economy is characterized by a diverse mix of industries, including tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, and services. As one of the largest economies in the Eurozone, Spain has shown resilience and growth in recent years, driven by a robust tourism sector and strong export performance. The labor market is dynamic, with a high demand for skilled professionals in sectors such as technology, healthcare, and engineering. Hiring in Spain involves navigating labor market regulations designed to protect workers' rights, requiring employers to adhere to laws regarding minimum wage, working hours, and employee benefits.

Background checks are an important aspect of the hiring process in Spain, helping employers verify the credentials and history of potential employees. These checks typically include verification of education and professional qualifications, employment history, and criminal records. Employers must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ensuring that all background checks are conducted with the candidate's consent and that personal data is handled with strict confidentiality.

Legal Framework and Consent

  1. Legal Compliance: Background checks in Spain must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Spanish Data Protection and Digital Rights Act 3/2018. These laws mandate that personal data be handled carefully, ensuring its security and confidentiality​.
  2. Consent: Employers must obtain explicit permission from the candidate before initiating any background check. This includes informing the candidate about the purpose of the check, the type of information to be collected, and how it will be used​.

Types of Background Checks

  1. Criminal Record Checks: These are permissible only for specific roles such as those in public administration, the army, police forces, financial institutions, casinos, and positions involving work with children​. The employee must request the criminal record certificate, or Certificado de Antecedentes Penales, from the Central Office for Citizen Services or other designated offices.
  2. Employment History: Verifying a candidate’s employment history involves confirming the details of previous jobs, including roles, durations, and performance. This can be done by contacting former employers or through references​​.
  3. Education Verification: This check confirms the authenticity of the candidate’s academic qualifications and institutions attended. It is crucial for roles requiring specific educational credentials.
  4. Credit Checks: Particularly relevant for roles in finance and insurance, credit checks assess the financial responsibility of the candidate by reviewing their credit history, including debts, loans, and bankruptcy records​​.
  5. Medical Screening: Required only under certain conditions, such as roles that involve physical demands or where health issues could pose risks to others. Candidates can refuse medical exams unless these conditions apply​​.
  6. Social Media Checks: Employers may review a candidate’s social media presence to gain insights into their character and ensure there are no red flags. However, this must be done cautiously to respect privacy laws​​.

 Background checks which are illegal in Spain

In Spain, while many types of background checks are legal and commonly practiced, certain checks are either restricted or outright illegal due to stringent privacy laws and data protection regulations. Here are some key points on what types of background checks are illegal or restricted in Spain:

  1. Criminal Record Checks Without Justification: Employers cannot conduct criminal record checks unless the role specifically justifies such a check. Positions that typically justify criminal record checks include those in public administration, police forces, the army, financial institutions, casinos, and jobs involving children​​.
  2. Medical Checks Without Consent or Justification: Medical checks are only permissible under specific conditions, such as when a medical condition poses a threat to the individual or others, or when legally required to prevent risks in hazardous activities. Candidates have the right to refuse medical exams unless these specific conditions are met​.
  3. Credit Checks Without Justification: Credit checks are generally restricted to roles within the financial sector or other roles where financial responsibility is a key component of the job. Conducting a credit check for roles that do not require this level of financial scrutiny would be considered excessive and not compliant with data protection laws​.
  4. Surveillance or Monitoring Without Consent: Any form of surveillance or monitoring, such as reviewing a candidate's social media profiles, must be done with caution. While not outright illegal, it is heavily regulated to ensure it does not infringe on the candidate's privacy rights. Employers must ensure that any information gathered is relevant to the job and that the candidate is aware of this type of check​​.
  5. Checks Without Proper Notification and Consent: Conducting any background check without the candidate’s explicit consent and without informing them of the specifics (such as the purpose of the check, what data will be collected, and how it will be used) is illegal. The Spanish Data Protection and Digital Rights Act requires transparency and informed consent for all data processing activities​.
  6. Excessive Data Collection: Collecting data that is not relevant or necessary for the job role is prohibited. This includes any personal information that does not directly pertain to the candidate’s ability to perform the job in question​.

These restrictions are in place to protect the privacy and rights of individuals and to ensure that employers handle personal data responsibly and lawfully. Violation of these regulations can result in significant penalties for the employer.

Steps in Conducting a Background Check in Spain

  1. Obtain Candidate Consent

Explain the purpose of the background check to the candidate, the type of data to be collected, and how it will be used. Secure explicit, written consent from the candidate before proceeding with any checks​.

2. Collect Necessary Information

Gather essential details from the candidate, including:

  • Full name
  • Current residential address
  • A copy of the resume
  • Degrees and certificates
  • Proof of identity (e.g., ID card, passport)
  • Date of birth

3. Verify Academic Details

Contact the educational institutions listed on the candidate’s resume to confirm attendance and degrees obtained.​

4. Confirm Employment History

Reach out to previous employers to verify job roles, performance, duration, and salary. This can also involve checking tax records with the candidate’s consent​.

5. Conduct Criminal Record Check (if applicable)

If the role justifies it, request the candidate to obtain a criminal record certificate from the Central Office for Citizen Services or other designated offices. This is particularly relevant for roles in public administration, police, the army, financial institutions, casinos, and jobs involving children.​ 

6. Perform Credit Check

For roles in the financial sector, conduct a credit check to assess the candidate’s financial responsibility. This requires explicit consent and should be relevant to the job role​.

7. Verify Residential Address

Confirm the candidate’s residential address as stated in their documents, typically done by a representative from the background verification agency visiting the address.

8. Analyze Social Media Profiles

Review the candidate’s social media presence to gain insights into their character and verify personal details. This step should be done cautiously to respect privacy laws​.

9. Medical Screening (if applicable)

Conduct medical checks only if the role demands it and the candidate consents. This is required in roles where a medical condition might pose a threat to themselves or others​​.

10. Compile and Review the Report

The background verification agency compiles all collected data into a final report. Review this report to make an informed hiring decision while ensuring compliance with all legal requirements​.

11. Ensure Data Protection and Privacy

Ensure that all collected data is securely stored and only accessible to authorized personnel. Delete or anonymize the data once it is no longer needed, in compliance with GDPR and the Spanish Data Protection Act.​

Best Practices

  1. Transparency: Employers must be transparent with candidates about the data being collected and its intended use. Providing a clear privacy policy is mandatory​.
  2. Proportionality and Relevance: Any background check must be proportionate and relevant to the job role. Unnecessary data collection is prohibited under GDPR​.
  3. Data Protection: Employers must ensure that collected data is securely stored and only accessible to authorized personnel. They must also delete or anonymize data once it is no longer needed​​.

Industries with Specific Requirements

Certain industries in Spain have unique requirements for background checks due to the nature of their work:

  • Education: Verifying the credentials of educational staff to ensure a safe learning environment.
  • Finance: Conducting thorough checks, including credit and criminal records, to safeguard financial operations.
  • Healthcare: Ensuring that healthcare professionals meet high standards of trust and competency.
  • Non-Profit: Although non-profit organizations might operate on limited resources, conducting background checks is crucial to maintain trust and safety.​ 

Recruiting staff and scaling up in a fiercely competitive market filled with highly qualified personnel can be challenging. Collaborating with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and Employer of Record (EOR) service like Niural can simplify your expansion efforts. Our dedicated team of experts assists in legally onboarding your employees and offering top-tier benefits, allowing you to concentrate on your international growth.

Note: This article does not replace professional legal or tax guidance. Always consult official sources or seek the advice of a legal or tax professional before taking any action.


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