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A Guide to Employee Background Checks in Spain

Learn the steps of running employee background checks in Spain, and enhance your candidate's hiring and screening process.

Michał Kowalewski
Written by Michał Kowalewski
February 21, 2024

Key takeaways

  1. Well-executed employment background checks ensure a detailed verification of employment history, education, criminal records, and other relevant checks for informed hiring
  2. Employee background checks in Spain are legal but require strict adherence to data protection laws (LOPDGDD and GDPR). Obtain informed consent, prioritize relevant info, and respect privacy concerns
  3. To ensure a respectful and legally compliant background check, avoid common mistakes such as discriminatory practices, privacy law violations, and lack of clarity in communication with candidates

Employee background checks should be an integral part of your recruitment process when looking to hire in Spain. Although not mandatory, they are a common practice, especially in finance, banking, healthcare, education, security services, and government organizations.

Running a pre-employment background check of your job applicants not only helps confirm the competencies of your new hire but also ensures a safe and reliable working environment. 

Beyond idyllic beaches, Spain boasts a young, tech-savvy workforce across diverse sectors. Ranked third in the EU for talent availability, it offers competitive labor costs compared to other European hubs, which makes it a great place to hire from globally. However, employers should remember that background checks, governed by Spanish data protection laws and European privacy regulations, are key to a safe and efficient recruitment process.

In this article, you will discover:

  • How to run an effective and legal employment screening in Spain
  • What types of checks are the most common
  • What mistakes to avoid when performing a background check in Spain

Essential information for a background check in Spain

An employee background check is the process of verifying a potential hire’s work history, education, professional qualifications, and any criminal records they might have. It’s particularly beneficial to run before finalizing an employment offer or signing a contract, as it ensures the candidate meets the company's standards and requirements. 

In Spain, the Organic Law on Data Protection and Guarantee of Digital Rights (LOPDGDD) complements the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to address specific Spanish legal requirements related to data protection and digital rights. The Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) is responsible for enforcing these regulations, ensuring that personal data is processed lawfully, fairly, and transparently.

When conducting employee background checks in Spain, recruiters must obtain explicit consent from candidates, clearly explaining the purpose and scope of the data collection. Although it’s not specified in the law, written consent is recommended for documentation and compliance purposes. This is in line with both LOPDGDD and GDPR requirements, which emphasize the importance of consent and transparency in data processing activities. 

Additionally, the cultural emphasis on privacy in Spain means that individuals are generally protective of their personal information, so recruiters should approach background checks with sensitivity and respect for privacy concerns.

Are background checks legal in Spain?

Employee background checks are legal in Spain, provided that they comply with the data protection laws outlined in the LOPDGDD and GDPR. 

Recruiters can conduct background checks with the candidate's explicit consent and must ensure that the information gathered is relevant to the position for which they are being considered. It is essential for employers to be transparent about the purpose of the background check, the type of information that will be collected, and how it will be used in the hiring process.

Regulations dictate that certain information, such as criminal records, can only be requested for specific roles that involve particular responsibilities or access to sensitive data. 

For example, schools must conduct criminal background checks on teachers and administrators to ensure they pose no risk to student safety due to their direct involvement with children.

Similarly, roles in financial institutions, where employees have access to sensitive financial information and large sums of money, might also require thorough vetting of criminal records to prevent fraud and maintain trust.

What types of background checks are illegal in Spain?

In Spain, background checks that infringe upon an individual's privacy or gather excessive, irrelevant information are considered illegal. 

  • Discriminatory practices, such as conducting checks based on race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, are strictly prohibited
  • Requesting information on an individual's health status or genetic data is prohibited unless it is directly related to the specific requirements of the job
  • Employers should refrain from requesting information that is not pertinent to the role or that could lead to discriminatory practices 

Violating data privacy laws during employee background checks in Spain can lead to significant legal repercussions due to strict adherence to the GDPR and local data protection laws.

Specifically, the GDPR outlines a two-tier fine system for infringements. Less severe violations can result in fines up to €10 million or 2% of the firm's global annual revenue from the previous fiscal year, whichever is higher. More serious infringements, however, can attract fines of up to €20 million or 4% of the firm's worldwide annual revenue from the preceding financial year, again whichever is higher.

Common background check industries

In Spain, various industries rely on employee background checks to ensure the integrity and reliability of their workforce. Some of the common industries where background checks are prevalent include:
  • Finance and banking: Extensive background checks, including credit history and professional license verifications, are essential due to the handling of financial transactions and sensitive information
  • Healthcare: Checks focus on verifying qualifications and professional history to ensure patient safety and compliance with healthcare standards
  • Education: Verification of academic credentials and criminal background checks are standard to maintain a safe and trustworthy environment for students
  • Security services: In-depth criminal background checks are crucial due to the nature of the work, which requires high levels of trust and integrity
  • Government positions: Often involves comprehensive screening, including criminal records, to ensure the suitability and reliability of individuals in public service roles
These sectors often involve roles with high levels of responsibility, access to sensitive information, or direct interaction with vulnerable populations, making thorough background checks essential in the hiring process.

Types of background checks in Spain

In Spain, effective employment screening covers essential aspects to evaluate a candidate's abilities. Knowing these areas helps employers tailor screening processes to meet job requirements and legal standards.

Type of Check Common in Portugal? Reason
Criminal Record Check Common Essential for roles involving security, finance, and working with vulnerable populations.
Employment History Verification Common Crucial for assessing the candidate's work experience and performance.
Credit History Check Common Relevant for positions involving financial responsibilities or access to sensitive financial information.
Academic and Professional Qualifications Verification Common  Ensures the candidate possesses the required education and skills for the role.
Reference Checks Common Provides insights into the candidate's character and work ethic through past colleagues or supervisors. 
Social Media Screening Less common Social media screening is still less common in Spain compared to other countries. However, it is gaining traction as employers seek to understand candidates' online presence and professional conduct.    

Background check mistakes to avoid in Spain

Whether you’re hiring employees or contractors in Spain, there are a few things you shouldn’t do as an employer when it comes to background checks:

  • Discriminatory practices: Avoid requesting information that could lead to discriminatory practices based on race, ethnicity, religion, or other protected characteristics
  • Violation of privacy laws: Ensure that background checks comply with the LOPDGDD and GDPR, respecting the candidate's privacy and handling personal data lawfully
  • Lack of transparency: Communicate clearly with candidates about the purpose and scope of the background check, obtaining their explicit consent before initiating the process
  • Neglecting cultural sensitivities: Consider the cultural value placed on privacy in Spain and approach background checks with respect for individuals' personal data
  • Inadequate documentation: Failure to maintain detailed records of the background check process can lead to compliance issues and challenges in case of disputes or legal inquiries

Step-by-step guide to employee background checks in Spain

Below is a list of steps that employers in Spain should follow to ensure legal and effective background checks:

  1. Obtain candidate consent: Before initiating a background check, recruiters must obtain explicit consent from the candidate, clearly outlining the purpose and scope of the check
  2. Identify relevant information: Determine the specific information that is relevant to the role and ensure that the background check aligns with the job requirements
  3. Check criminal record: If the position requires access to sensitive data or involves specific responsibilities, recruiters can request a criminal record check from the Ministry of Justice
  4. Verify academic and professional qualifications: Verify the candidate's educational and professional credentials through official channels, such as universities and professional associations
  5. Verify employment history: Contact previous employers to confirm the candidate's work experience, job responsibilities, and performance
  6. Check credit history: If the role involves financial responsibilities, recruiters can request a credit history check from credit reference agencies with the candidate's consent
  7. Check references: Reach out to provided references to gain insights into the candidate's work ethic, skills, and character
  8. Check social media: Conduct a professional review of the candidate's public social media profiles to ensure alignment with the company's values and culture
  9. Document the process: Maintain detailed records of the background check process, including consent forms, communication with third parties, and the information gathered
  10. Inform the candidate: Once the background check is complete, communicate the findings to the candidate and allow them to address any discrepancies or provide context for the information obtained
You can also automate this process using Deel, and get a fast employee background check, with results coming in a matter of minutes.
I have been using Deel since 2019. The Deel platform makes hiring international employees and contractors easy. I am glad that they collect the relevant information for fulfilling tax compliance.

Myoung Kang, CFO, Mother Duck

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