Capsule Vocabularies: Basic Labor and Employment Law Terminology in English and Spanish

Labor Law Vocabulary

As everyone is quite aware, here in Madrid and the world over, our daily routines have been interrupted by the closing of our universities and subsequent confinement at home in an attempt to control Covid-19 expansion. And, I’ve been away from this blog for several weeks, learning a new program (Blackboard Collaborate) to be able to teach the remainder of my Legal English course at the Universidad Carlos III online. I’m happy to report that the first 18-hour session on Property Law went well.

Our Labor Law unit was cut short, and I’ll be having a make-up session with my students soon. But to get back to the blog, and in the event this may be of interest to translators or others working from home, I’m sharing here some of the main terms and concepts discussed in class, with Spanish translations.

Note: There may be several other possible translations for this vocabulary and, it goes without saying, there are often no any real equivalents for many legal terms.

employer (empleador)-employee (empleado)

employment contract/agreement (contrato laboral; contrato de empleo)

full-time/part-time contract (contrato a tiempo completo/a tiempo parcial)

self-employment (trabajo autónomo; trabajo por cuenta propia)


conditions of employment (condiciones laborales)

to hire (US)/to engage (UK)/to employ an employee (contratar a un empleado)

probation; probationary period (período de prueba)

probationary employee (empleado en período de prueba)

status employee (empleado que ha superado el período de prueba)

full-time employee (empleado/trabajador a tiempo completo)

part-time employee (empleado/trabajador a tiempo parcial)

seniority (antigüedad)


discharge/dismissal (despido)

to discharge/to dismiss/ “to fire” (US)/ “to sack” (UK) an employee (despedir a un empleado)

wrongful dismissal (despido improcedente)

reinstatement (readmisión de un empleado despedido)


vocational/occupational training (formación profesional)

on-the-job training; onsite training (formación en el lugar de trabajo)

offsite training (formación fuera del lugar de trabajo)

promotion (ascenso, subida de categoría laboral)

demotion (descenso; bajada de categoría laboral)

job mobility (movilidad laboral)


labor/trade union (sindicato)

union dues (cuota sindical)

fair share fee (canon de negociación—cuota que pagan los no afiliados al sindicato beneficiados por un convenio colectivo)

collective bargaining (negociación colectiva)

collective bargaining agreement/contract; labor agreement/contract (convenio colectivo)

no strike-no lockout clause (cláusula de paz social)


labor (US)/industrial (UK) dispute (conflicto laboral)

lockout (cierre patronal)

strike (huelga)

sit-in strike (ocupación de talleres; huelga de brazos caídos)

slowdown/go-slow strike ( huelga de bajo rendimiento; ralentización de producción; “operación tortuga”)

walk-out strike (abandono de talleres)

work-to-rule strike (huelga de celo)

sympathy strike (huelga de solidaridad)

wildcat strike (huelga salvaje)

strikebreaker; “scab” (US); “blackleg” (UK) (“rompehuelgas,” “esquirol”—Spain)

picketing; picket (piquete)


wages (salario)

salary (sueldo)

minimum wage (salario mínimo)

cost-of-living index—COL)

consumer price index (índice de precios al consumo—IPC)

hours of work (horas laborables)

work week (semana laboral)

work schedule (horario de trabajo)

flextime (horario flexible)


shift work (trabajo a turnos; turnicidad)

to work shifts; to do shift work (trabajar a turnos)

work shift (turno de trabajo)

day shift; night shift (turno de día; turno de noche)

shift differential; differential pay (plus de turnicidad; suplemento salarial por trabajo a turnos)


overtime (horas extras; horas extraordinarias)

overtime pay (horas extras remuneradas/retribuidas; horas extraordinarias remuneradas/retribuidas)

compensatory time (compensación [de horas extras] por tiempo equivalente de descanso retribuido)


day off (día libre)

vacation (US)/holiday (UK) pay; paid vacations (US)/holidays (UK) (vacaciones remuneradas/retribuidas)

backpay (salarios atrasados/devengados y no pagados)


leave (permiso; baja; excedencia)

personal leave (permiso por asuntos personales)

sick leave (baja por enfermedad)

maternity leave/paternity leave; parenting leave (baja por maternidad/paternidad)

family leave (permiso por asuntos familiares)

bereavement leave (permiso por defunción)


retirement fund (US)/scheme (UK) (fondo de pensiones)

retirement pension (pensión de jubilación)

unemployment benefits (prestación por desempleo)

workers’ compensation; workers’ comp (US); industrial injury compensation (UK) (prestación por accidente laboral)

occupational (US)/industrial (UK) accident (accidente laboral)

occupational (US)/industrial (UK) disease (enfermedad laboral/profesional)

occupational safety and health; safety and health in the workplace (seguridad y salud laboral; seguridad y salud en el trabajo)

job safety (seguridad en el trabajo) vs. job security (estabilidad laboral)

6 thoughts on “Capsule Vocabularies: Basic Labor and Employment Law Terminology in English and Spanish

  1. It’s all really interesting, thanks a lot, Rebecca. I have a question – could we say the terms/concepts “H&S” (health and safety) –in the UK “HSE” (environment, health and safety)??– or “OSH” (occupational health and safety) are akin to the Spanish “prevención de riesgos laborales (PRL)”? I have found myself hesitating quite a few times when faced with these concepts and have translated it thus yet really unpersuaded that I was going for the right term. Thanks.


    • Hi, Iñaki. Sorry to have taken so long to answer–lockdown and preparing online classes took me away from the blog for quite some time. I do think HSE and OSH are closely related to Spanish PRL, precisely since PRL puts into practice measures to ensure health and safety in the workplace. So I imagine that there could indeed be contexts in which the English terms could be translated as PRL.


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