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Spain's employment service overload results in jobless benefits from August still unpaid

Office still amending miscalculations in temporary layoff pays in first wave of Covid-19


10 November 2020 12:47 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Spain's employment service (SEPE) continues to be overwhelmed due to the deluge of benefit requests from temporary layoffs in the first wave of Covid-19, that is, in the spring – and now it not only affects those who are out of work temporarily, but also those who have permanently lost their job. 

The Catalan News Agency (ACN) learned that SEPE has not paid any unemployment benefits to those who reported having lost their jobs from August 12 in the Barcelona region – except for the few people who managed to arrange an in-person appointment at SEPE. 

The office is still dealing with the chaos that began in the first months of Covid-19, when around 70% of the requests were not put in the system in due time.

In the spring, there were no delays in unemployment benefits, but some months ago more public servants were told to tackle the overload in temporary layoff pays, resulting in delays in both allowances.

"The whole system is overwhelmed. For instance, a person requests the entire unemployment benefit as a one-off pay, and when I try to process it, I cannot because they have not recognized the pay yet, after having requested it in August. With this situation, I cannot process the request," says Margarita Rico, member of the trade union CCOO in SEPE Barcelona. She says that she has around 20 similar cases. 

Deyker Castillo is one of the many people affected by the chaos. He requested his unemployment benefit in mid-August and is still waiting for it – he has already found a new job. 

"When I called them I was told that they were processing the June applications, and told me that mine would be processed in November or December, I was given no alternative," he says to Catalan News. 

"For a month I lived off of the settlement of the previous job, but it was very little. I got by on my own and was lucky to find another job, but imagine if I had not," he adds. 

Mistakes in temporary layoff pays

In the first wave, only three out of ten peoples’ requests with a right to a compensation for furlough were processed without delays – but even these were not straightforward.

The companies of around 60% of those who saw their applications processed sent incorrect data about their employees to SEPE, resulting in the office having to fix hundreds of thousands of mistakes in the Barcelona region alone. For instance, 60,000 bank account numbers provided by companies were wrong. 

In the second wave, SEPE employees have only identified mistakes in 6% of the applications. 

The number of people temporarily unemployed due to the second wave is 106,000 as of November 10, according to the Catalan labor ministry – in the spring, the figure surpassed 700,000.  

SEPE workers snowed under

Rico says that they have an "unbelievable level of stress" which will have an impact on their mental health. She also revealed that employees working from home have to do it with their own computer and paying their phone and internet bills. 

"The feeling is that this is never going to come to an end," says another workers member of CGT union, Enric Medina. 

One of the most common complaints in the past few months by SEPE workers is that there is insufficient staff and that they are aging.


  • A man looking at the SEPE webpage, May 22, 2020 (by Aina Martí)

  • A man looking at the SEPE webpage, May 22, 2020 (by Aina Martí)