Thursday, 19 July 2007

Dole scum! On how to become unemployed in Spain

Last week I was informed by Cris, my boss, that for her to be able to give me a permanent contract in October I need to be officially unemployed. A little strange I thought, but then again, we are in Spain, home of ridiculous bureaucracy and neverending paperwork.

So that is why I have spent three mornings this week, my supposed week off, at the unemployment office, or INEM, as it's known here. To begin with, I had to find the place, which you would think would be simple. I checked the address on the offical INEM website - it was to be found in a town down the valley - printed out a large scale map showing me exactly where the street was and off I went. I spent five minutes walking up and down this street, map in one hand, address in the other, before I realised that I was in the right place but the INEM office most definitely was not. A lovely lady in a perfumería informed me that it had indeed been on that street but had moved a few months ago and kindly gave me directions, stupid bloody website.

This did not bode well and I felt the little enthusiasm I had for dealing with yet more Spanish bureaucracy wane as I made my way to the new office. Once I eventually got to the place, I discovered it was not what I had been expecting. Let me tell you, the unemployment system here differs greatly to the one back in the UK - or at least the one I had to deal with many years back.

For a start, you only have 15 working days after the end of your contract to ask for unemployment benefit. Fortunately, even though blissfully unaware of this, I went on day 14. Even so, I encountered problems almost straight away as I apparently should've gone to the Ministry of Education on my arrival in Spain to have all my academic qualifications recognised (never mind that we're all in the European Union), so when it came to putting them on the computer we hit a problem, which the nice man there solved by ignoring the rules and putting me down as having a Spanish degree in Spanish language. Next up, my driving licence. Can I drive? I most certainly can? Do I have a car? No, but I can use my partner's. Very good. How long have I had my driving licence? I remember this one because I passed on my mum's birthday when I was seventeen. Ah. It transpired that because Spaniards are not allowed to drive until they are eighteen, the system would not allow a date which made the driver seventeen. I even got my licence out - still one of the old folded paper ones - and showed the date to the man who indeed admitted that I had been seventeen on passing my test. But the computer could not be persuaded and in the end we had to change the date to a year later. Great stuff, we were getting somewhere. However, I then discovered that to register yourself unemployed you also have to take a copy of your old contract (tick) and an employer's certificate, which of course I didn't have in my possession.

Reading the information I was then given, an employer's certificate is a signed and stamped letter from the employer stating that you've been working there for the last 180 days. So, after a mad dash to see Cris at the academia, this is what I returned with the following day. But no, the following day I was informed that an employer's certificate is an official document that gives lots of boring details about social security paid, etc. and didn't we tell you abut this yesterday? Grrr. This is where I panicked a bit. I was on day 15 without this complicated certificate and hopes of a permanent contract seemed to be going down the plughole. Luckily for me, the people in the Spanish job centre are very unlike their UK counterparts and offered to start the process with the documents I did have if I took them the certificate the following day. Which is what I've just been doing.

Now I just have to wait for my request to be processed and the money to appear in my account. I'm not sure how much I'll receive as it's linked to how long you've been working and how much you've earned. I was informed that I've only worked long enough for four-months benefit - not a problem as I know I'm officially back to work in October. The other good thing is that I don't have to show I'm looking for work - none of those horrible booklets to fill out stating exactly what you've been doing to find employment. I suppose they don't need it - limited benefit is incentive enough.

So now I have one extra day before the weekend to relax and congratulate myself on successfully navigating yet another Spanish bureaucratic nightmare. Well done me!


Ingrid said...

¡Magnífico! Congratulations on getting the bureaucrats on your side.

lorenzothellama said...

Yes, well done you.
Inland Revenue please note. Lorenzo.

Melody said...

Well done!