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Rising above the ‘competitive’ €1200 teaching salary

Each year the Spanish government issues their Convenio Colectivo, a.k.a Collective Agreement, that stipulates the regulations for language schools in Spain regarding:

  • Salary 
  • Leave
  • Contract conditions
  • Trial periods
Convenio Colectivo Anexo 1
Convenio Colectivo Anexo 1

So when you see in an advert promising competitive pay, the language school will basically be paying the lowest they can legally pay according to the Convenio.

English Teacher Required

So you may be wondering what is the lowest that language schools can competitively pay? 

Well up until the end of 2017, the base annual salary was €14,243.06 for a profesor/titular, basically a teacher with a degree. I was unable to find the figures for 2019 but you can work on the table below and come up with the base salary for 2019. 

So whilst the salary does improve year by year in accordance with inflation do not expect it to rise above the minimum base salary.

Further disadvantages of being a contract teacher

So as we’ve mentioned before, salaries only increase by the minimum stipulated by law and are hardly competitive. 

New teachers in Spain will be allured by the promise of a contract. Be warned you will probably not receive a fixed contract, known as contrato figo in Spanish. Most teachers are given contratos fijos discontinuos that are basically short-term contracts to fulfil the time required to do a “project”. These were typically given to people like painters who had to complete a small job that would take less than a year. Language schools love these contracts as they decide when the “project” starts and finishes. 

So forget job security. 

By law, companies are supposed to give an employee a fixed contract after two years on a contratos fijos discontinuos but language schools will change your job title to something different to avoid this happening. In one language school, I went through three different job titles including being a commercial agent even though I was still a teacher. 

So once again getting a fixed contract is beyond your reach unless you are prepared to file a lawsuit, both costly in terms of time and money.

The other disadvantage is that your “competitive” salary will require you to often teach class sizes that are unmanageable and do not cover travel expenses to far-away classes. I once travelled two hours to do a one-hour exam preparation class with no travel reimbursement. 

Lastly, language schools will do their best to make you end your contract willingly thus ending your right to get unemployment benefits during the months of July and August when there is no work to be had. 

The last complaint often heard by teachers is being paid late. Most Spanish companies pay their staff in the last week of the month, but for some reason ESL teachers are paid well after this. Some teachers have reported waiting close to a month for a salary.

Pros of being a contract teacher over a self-employed teacher

Whilst your contract is weak in terms of long-term job security it does mean that the language school will find it hard to dismiss you before the contract’s end date. 

As an employee you only pay 6.35% of your salary towards social security whilst your employer is supposed to pay an additional 29.90%. Most language schools will try to reduce how much they pay so make use of this government tool to check that they are following the rules. 

This leads onto the next benefit over self-employed teachers. After contributing towards social security for a minimum of 365 days you are entitled to receive 4 months of unemployment benefit calculated at 80% of your gross salary. 

Once again most language schools have swindled their employees of this and when the day comes to get paid out, most are in for a nasty surprise.

Contact teachers are entitled to two days of paid leave per month as well as Easter, Christmas and other national holidays. Self-employed teachers are not allowed this privilege unless they have an agreement with their clients.

How to make above the ‘competitive’ salary, a.k.a minimum wage, of contract teachers?

Well, the first step is simple: become an autónomo or self-employed

However, this word is whispered in fear amongst most teachers as being: 

  • Unable to access unemployment benefits
  • No job security on paper
  • No paid leave

You can ignore this as the pros far outweigh the cons. 

As an autónomo you can decide the amount of classes that you have with a given agency or language school. This reduces the risk of putting all your eggs (i.e your salary) in one basket with one language school. I generally get paid at the very latest by the 7th of the month and in full.

Unlike contracted teachers, autónomos are entitled to declare certain expenses as tax deductible, provided they can be proven as being needed to do your job.

So forget your emergency coffee in the mornings.

So for example I declare the following when I do my taxes each April:

  • Meals that I take clients to (around €1000 each year)
  • My metro card top up for the city centro (€54.60 monthly cost X10 working month=€546)
  • Accounting fees (€100 a year)
  • Unprovable expenses (by law I can declare 5% of my net yearly earnings towards work expenses that are difficult to prove, e.g paperclips. So around €1000 a year)
  • Social security expenses (as a new autónomo in Madrid under the age of 30 for men and 35 for women I do the discounted payout of €60 month so €720 a year) 

Overall that amounts to €4366 a year or about €400 more per month than a contract worker.

Forming a legal partnership (Sociedad Civil)

In order to get to the next level you need to form a Sociedad Civil (S.C) that is basically a limited partnership. A local lawyer can set one up in less than a week and it will cost you about €140 a month to maintain. 

This structure will allow you to offer contracts to big and small companies. By and large, companies do not like hiring autónomos as it’s illegal to hire one beyond 40 hours a week. But they can invoice an S.C without limit.

The next step is getting registered with Fundae, the government Department for Education, to be allowed to offer government subsidized courses. There are a whole range of bureaucratic processes and papers to fill in that you can find here. Without the Fundae support, many companies will not work with you as they will miss out on saving over 50% on courses with government support.

Lastly, know the rates to sell at

A good starting point is to offer between €30 to €35 within the city centre and €50 and more for outside of the city centre. This applies to presencial (face-to-face) classes but English classes by Skype are around €37 per hour.

And there you have it…

The process is long but by the end you will be working the same number of hours, 25/week, but earning at least €3000 before taxes (100 hours a month by €30 in the city centre). And that’s before you deduct your deductible expenses.

Written by Ryan Sheehan for TEFL.net September 2019
Ryan Sheehan has been teaching in Madrid for over 3 years. He now runs his own English classes by Skype.

One Comment

  • R J says:

    Thanks. Very useful to know as im thinking of working in Spain the future but, after teaching in Asia, i am in no way prepared to accept €1200 pcm! It s an unacceptably low salary.

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