Innovative Policy 2013 on Employment

Spain’s meaningful employment through support  

Aiming to boost open labour market inclusion, Spain increased progressively the scope of its Supported Employment Programme and introduced, for the first time, a legal definition in a country where employment of persons with high support needs in sheltered workshops is the norm.

The Royal Decree 870/2007 on Rules for Supported employment
Founded on:2001
of origin
Beneficiaries targetedPersons with cerebral paralysis, with mental illness or with intellectual disability to a degree equal to 33% or greater; and persons with physical or sensory disability to an attested degree equal to 65% or greater
Responsible bodyMinistry of Employment and Social Security
StakeholdersPublic and private sector


Recognizing that supported employment has been demonstrated to be an effective means through which people with high support needs can obtain meaningful employment, Spain put in place in 2007 its Supported Employment Programme introducing adequate rules alongside a legal definition. By developing an individualized workplace adaptation plan with the help of specialized job coaches, the programme provides guidance, advice and support, specific training, monitoring and evaluation of the worker’s process of integration. Spain’s programme was highlighted as good practice by the European Commission.


  • Currently about 200-300 (mainly private) service providers employ between 400-500 job coaches who assist about 5,000 persons with high support needs in the open labour market.
  • Thanks to the various supported programmes, during the period 1995-2008, 14,159 people with disabilities found employment and of those, 5,090 persons, or 32.33%, were still working in 2008.
  • Indeed, in 2011, the Spanish Supported Employment Programme was mentioned as good practice in a European Commission’s report.


Multistakeholder participation
All stakeholders, such as disabled people’s organizations, trade unions, employers’ representatives and regional governments, were consulted.

The goal of open employment
Overcoming the view that persons with high support needs cannot work in the open labour market, the decree defines, for the first time, supported employment and provides for ways of accessing it.

Breaking down barriers
More than any public awareness campaign, real labour market inclusion of persons with high support needs breaks down successfully attitudinal barriers.

Sustainable use of financial resources
Compared with sheltered employment, less money per person is spent when providing meaningful employment in the open labour market with the help of a job coach.


Supported employment has demonstrated to be an effective means through which people with intensive disabilities can acquire skills and obtain and retain meaningful employment – more effective than traditional centre-based approaches to skills development. In fact, supported employment was already practiced in Spain before it was regulated by the Royal Decree No. 870 of 2 July 2007, entitled Rules for the Supported Employment Programme, as means to achieve employment of persons with disabilities in the regular labour market. It was included in several other documents, such as the National Reform Programme of Spain of 2005 that was a fundamental source for the government’s economic policy until 2010. The new Decree introduced the Supported Employment Programme as a strategy to build an inclusive labour market for employees with disabilities, in which both funding and exemptions are set for employers and services that provide support. As a result, the programme has progressively increased its scope. In addition, supported employment is incentivized by the employment quota system. However, the enforcement system for this regulation is still under development and at present it is only compulsory for enterprises with more than 50 employees. A new Government Action Plan 2009-2012 aims at levelling regional disparities in funding and standardizing programme quality.

«It is imperative to introduce an EU-wide Supported Employment Labour Contract in order to provide support according to the employee’s and employer’s needs and to overcome the lack of funding.»

Fernando Bellver Silvan, European Union of Supported Employment (EUSE)


The Spanish Royal Decree No. 870 of 2007 regulates supported employment projects that help persons with cerebral paralysis, with psychosocial or intellectual disability, or with an extensive physical or sensory disability, to obtain and retain meaningful employment. Supported employment projects provide guidance, advice and support through an individualized workplace adaptation plan, specific training of workers in the tasks inherent to the job and monitoring and evaluation of the worker’s process of integration into the workplace. Central for such projects are specialized job coaches, who are provided by private providers. In general, a cooperation agreement with the employer must be signed and the worker must be hired by the company through a permanent or fixed-term contract, for at least six months. Support services can last from six months up to one year with a maximum period of two years. However, in the case of a particularly difficult situation, this may be extended up to another six months. Project funding has to be obtained through public and private tenders, and, if available, is granted for up to a year, which can be renewed.


In contrast to well-funded sheltered employment, the lack of steady funding for supported employment still jeopardises the programme’s potential. As long-term support needs are still uncovered, many projects can only exist when families or users or private service providers co-finance them.


Vice President of the European Union of Supported Employment (EUSE) and Honorary President of the Spanish Association of Supported Employment (AESE)
+34 91 85 59 47 3


Spanish Government, Royal Decree No. 870 of 2 July 2007, Rules for the Supported Employment Programme as means to achieve employment of persons with disabilities in the regular labour market, is available in Spanish at:

European Commission, Study Report Supported Employment for People with Disabilities in the EU and EFTA-EEA. Good practices and recommendation in support of a flexicurity approach, 2011:

M.A. Verdugo et al, Evaluation and follow up of Supported Employment initiatives in Spain from 1995 to 2008, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 33 (2010), pp. 39-49

Nominated by: Ms. patricia CUENCA GÓMEZ, Universidad Carlos III