Justice scales accompanying guide to employment law in Colombia

Employment Law in Colombia: a Guide

For anyone doing business in Colombia, or planning to launch there, effectively navigating Colombian employment law is essential to maintaining your good standing with local authorities and guaranteeing the success of your business.

Employment law in Colombia is overseen by the Works Ministry, and while many aspects will be similar to those found in other markets, there are also notable particularities to navigate. That means you will need to secure the services of a corporate lawyer in Colombia with a strong track record of assisting investors in the market.

For anyone planning a short-term market entry, or who only needs a small number of local employees, and therefore seeks to hire via an employer of record in Colombia, one of the key advantages of the service beyond avoiding the need to form a local entity is the fact that compliance with local employment law will be guaranteed as part of your services agreement. An Employer of Record, also known as a EOR, can help your company remain compliant and up-to-date with reforms and regulations within the company.

What is an integral salary in Colombia? Clear up this and other doubts about labor law in Colombia with the help of Biz Latin Hub's professional team.
What is an integral salary in Colombia? Clear up this and other doubts about labor law in Colombia with the help of Biz Latin Hub’s professional team.

Below, a quick guide to employment law in Colombia is provided, including what constitutes a standard working schedule, some of the most common types of contract, allowances for different types of leave, and statutory contributions for both employers and employees.

If you would like to know more about how we can assist you negotiating employment law in Colombia, or any other aspect of doing business in the market, contact us today. You can also download a snapshot of employment law in Colombia at the end of this guide.

Standard hours under Colombian employment law

According to employment law in Colombia, the maximum a person should work is 48 hours per week. Regular working hours consist of eight hours per day, for a maximum of six days per week. 

For employees, employers are required to provide the “Día de Familia” and Recreational Days Off. Also, every Sunday is a mandatory rest day in Colombia, so those working six days per week will generally work on a Monday to Saturday schedule, however an employer can negotiate with their employees to elect a different rest day.

Note that in Colombia there are 18 national holidays per calendar year, with February and September being the only months of the year in which at least one national holiday is not observed. In general, those holidays fall on a Monday.

Employment law in Colombia: common types of contract

There are five main types of contract that are used in Colombia, depending on the nature of the business and job someone is being employed for.

There are five main types of employment contracts in Colombia, making it important to have a holistic scope of all to comply with Colombia labor laws.
  1. Fixed-term employment contracts can last for up to three years and extended for as long as needed. If the original contract lasts less than one year, it can be renewed for the same period of time, however any subsequent renewal must be for at least one year.

    Under employment law in Colombia, fixed-term contracts include a trial period, which cannot last for more than two months. For contracts of less than one year, the trial period cannot last for more than one fifth of the contract.

  2. Indefinite-term employment contracts run for an unspecified amount of time, either because of the nature of the role being undertaken, or because of an agreement between the employer and employee. Such a contract can only be terminated when both parties agree, or under circumstances established in the contract that allow one party to act unilaterally.

    The trial period for an indefinite-term contract cannot last for more than two months and must be specified in the contract.

  3. Contracts for a set task are given for the fulfilment of a specific project. Such a contract must have markers or thresholds written in, or a specified endpoint, to clearly establish when the task will be completed and therefore when the contract ends.

    The trial period can be agreed upon by the parties but cannot last for more than two months and must be specified in the contract.

  4. Occasional, accidental, or transitory contracts are used when the work due to be completed falls outside the scope of the company’s standard activities and is generally provided for work that will be completed in less than one month. The intricacies of these contracts need to be fully understood in order to maintain compliance with employment law in Colombia.

  5. Provision of services agreements, commonly referred to as ‘prestaciones’ contracts, can be established between a company and an individual contractor, and must involve the contractor working with a degree of technical and administrative autonomy.

    A prestaciones contract has a civil character and therefore is not considered a labor contract subject to the same provisions under labor and employment law in Colombia. All risks associated with the role being undertaken are therefore assumed by the contractor. 

    Under such contracts, the employer is not responsible for managing employee deductions, while common benefits such as annual bonuses, paid vacations, and severance pay are also not included. 

Note that for all contracts that last at least one year, other than prestaciones contracts, the employee is entitled to a ‘13th salary’ bonus, which totals one full month of salary and is distributed in two parts, one being mid-year and the other in December. A PEO firm in Colombia can help you navigate the Colombia labor laws and maintain compliance for various types of employment contracts.

Employment Law – Vacations, leave, and other absences under Colombian law

After one full year of service with the same employer, employees are entitled to 15 consecutive working days of paid vacation. Under employment law in Colombia, employees must take at least six of those days, but can only carry over any untaken vacation to the following year. Carrying over vacation must be done with the agreement of the company and can be altered at the discretion of both the employee and employer.

Maternity and paternity leave

Female employees are entitled to a total of 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, with the week before the due date being a mandatory leave period, guaranteed by employment law in Colombia. In the case of a premature birth, maternity leave will last for 18 weeks plus the difference between the due date and the day of birth. For example, in the event a baby is born one week early, maternity leave will last for 19 weeks. For multiple births, maternity leave is extended to 20 weeks. 

For new fathers, eight days of paid paternity leave are provided, as long as the employee has been contributing to the Social Security System, which will reimburse paternity leave pay to the employer.

Bereavement

Under employment law in Colombia, employees are entitled to five days of bereavement leave in the event of the death of a parent, in-law, grandparent, sibling, child, spouse, or partner. With regards to kinship through adoption, this provision only applies to an adopted parent or child.

The employee’s company assumes all costs related to bereavement leave.

Voting leave

Under employment law in Colombia, employees are entitled to half a day of personal leave to vote in local and national elections. Upon returning to their place of work, the employee must show their voting card to the employer to demonstrate they voted, and failure to do so will result in the time missed being docked from their salary. 

Military service leave

In the event that an employee is called up for military service, their employment contract is deemed suspended. Under employment law in Colombia, the employee is obliged to allow the employee to resume the same job within 30 days of that service being completed.

Note that military service in Colombia can last either one or two years, depending on the type of service chosen by the employee.

Trade union leave

Colombian labor law dictates that employees are entitled to personal leave in order to serve on a trade union committee. They are also entitled to leave for other trade union purposes, but they must provide adequate notice to the employer, and their absence should not adversely affect the business.

Statutory contributions under Colombian employment law

Under employment law in Colombia, all employees whose work contract is governed by labor regulations must be affiliated with the integral social security system, which includes:

  • General pension system
  • Health and social security systems
  • General system of professional risks
Contributions differ based on income, under Colombia labor laws.

Contributions are determined by the employee’s monthly salary and capped at 25 times the monthly minimum salary. That means if you earn more than 25 times the monthly minimum salary, your contributions are still based on that cut-off.

In 2021, the monthly minimum salary was set at 908,526 Colombian Pesos (approximately US $239.27 as of September 2021), meaning that the maximum salary amount on which contributions can be based is 22,713,150 Colombian Pesos (approximately US $5,981.79).

Contributions total approximately 28.5% of an employee’s salary, of which roughly three-quarters are assumed by the employer and the remainder is deducted from the employee’s salary. That means contributions totaling roughly 20.5% of an employee’s salary must be borne by the employer, while roughly 8% will be deducted from the pay an employee receives.

Those contributions are broken down as follows:

Pension system contributions total 16% of an employee’s salary, of which 4% is deducted from the employee’s salary and the remaining 12% is provided by the employer.

Health system contributions total 12.5% of an employee’s salary, of which 4% is deducted from the employee and the remaining 8.5% is provided by the employer.

Professional risk contributions vary from 0.522% to 6.96% of an employee’s salary, based on the nature of the role being undertaken, and are borne entirely by the employer.

Additional contributions
For employees who earn more than four minimum monthly salaries per month (3,634,000 Colombian Pesos, or roughly US $960), an additional 1% contribution must be made to the national pension solidarity fund. 

Meanwhile, for anyone earning more than 16 minimum monthly salaries per month (14,536,000 Colombian Pesos, or roughly US $3,800) a further additional contribution of between 0.2% and 1% must be made, depending on the salary.

For employees with salaries that exceed 10 minimum monthly salaries (9,085,260 Colombian Pesos per month, or roughly US $2,392.67), employers must pay an additional 9% payroll tax on salary items only.

These contributions need to be fully understood and conducted by employers who are operating within employment law in Colombia.

Integral salaries

An integral salary is a salary that includes all mandatory benefits and contributions, such as fringe benefits and overtime payments. It does not include paid vacation allowance, which stands at 15 days, or the 13th salary bonus.

The minimum integral salary in 2021 is 11,810,839 Colombian Pesos (approximately $3,109.43). For such contracts, pension system contributions are based on whichever is the lowest figure between 70% of the total salary and 25 minimum monthly salaries (22,713,150 Colombian Pesos, or approximately US $5,981.79)

That means, anyone earning above 32,447,357 Colombian Pesos per month in 2021 (approximately US $8,541.08) will pay a contribution based on 25 minimum monthly salaries.

Common FAQs about Employment Law in Colombia

In our experience, these are the common questions and doubtful points of our clients.

1. What are the labor laws in Colombia?

In Colombia, labor laws dictate a 48-hour workweek, overtime regulations, minimum wage, paid vacations, sick leave, maternity and paternity leave, workplace safety, and union rights. Termination requires a valid reason, possibly including severance pay.

2. What are working conditions in Colombia?

Working conditions in Colombia include a 48-hour workweek, one day off per week, paid vacations, social security, and healthcare benefits. Adherence to these regulations may vary across industries.

3. How many hours are in a standard work day in Colombia?

The standard workday in Colombia is 8 hours, with a maximum of 2 hours of overtime, making a workday up to 10 hours long.

4. What is the minimum salary in Colombia?

As of January 2023, the minimum wage in Colombia is 1,300,606 COP, approximately USD 322/month (at an exchange rate of USD to COP of 3,988)

5. How is overtime paid in Colombia?

Overtime is paid at 125% of the regular wage. Night overtime (9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.) and work on Sundays and public holidays are paid at 175%. Overtime is capped at 2 hours per day, or 12 hours a week.

6. What are the laws regarding employment termination in Colombia?

Employment termination can be for just cause or without cause. Just cause includes misconduct, negligence, or consistent and documented underperformance. Termination without cause requires severance pay based on years of service and salary. Notice periods or indemnity may apply.

7. What are the requirements for terminating an employee in Colombia?

In Colombia, the employer has the discretion to unilaterally terminate an employee’s employment, either with or without cause.
Termination Without Cause:
Written Notice: The employer must provide the employee with a written notice of termination.
Severance Pay: Colombian law mandates the payment of severance pay, which includes compensation for unused vacation time, bonuses, and other benefits. The specific calculations may vary based on the length of service and the type of contract.
Notice Period: Depending on the contract, there may be specific notice periods that must be adhered to.
Termination With Cause:
Fair Causes:
The employer must identify and invoke one or more fair causes for dismissal, as defined by Colombian law.
Communication: These causes must be communicated to the employee, detailing the reasons for termination. The employee must be allowed to justify and defend themselves.
Notice Period: Generally, a 2-week notice is required for termination due to low performance or other specific causes.
Severance Pay: Unlike termination without cause, termination with cause does not require the payment of severance pay. However, all accrued labor benefits must still be paid to the employee.
In both scenarios, adherence to legal procedures and proper documentation are essential to ensuring compliance with Colombian labor laws. Consulting with a legal expert or labor attorney is often advisable to navigate the complexities of employment termination in Colombia.

8. What happens when an employee quits in Colombia?

An employee can quit without a notice period. The employer must pay outstanding wages, accrued vacation, and other legally required benefits.

Biz Latin Hub can assist you in doing business in Colombia

At Biz Latin Hub, our multilingual team of corporate support specialists has the knowledge and expertise to support you in doing business in Colombia. Our comprehensive portfolio of services, including company formation, accounting, tax advisory, and hiring & PEO, means we can provide tailored packages of integrated back-office solutions and be your single point of contact for doing business in Colombia, or any of the other 17 markets around Latin America and the Caribbean where we have local teams in place.

Contact us now to discuss how we can support your business.

Or learn more about our team and expert authors.

Biz Latin Hub’s snapshot of employment law in Colombia
The information provided here within should not be construed as formal guidance or advice. Please consult a professional for your specific situation. Information provided is for informative purposes only and may not capture all pertinent laws, standards, and best practices. The regulatory landscape is continually evolving; information mentioned may be outdated and/or could undergo changes. The interpretations presented are not official. Some sections are based on the interpretations or views of relevant authorities, but we cannot ensure that these perspectives will be supported in all professional settings.
Legal Team Colombia

Legal Team Colombia

Legal Team Colombia is the Biz Latin Hub leading experts on doing business in Colombia The Team writes on the news, doing business, law, and changing regulations. Read more about them here. You can contact Legal Team Colombia via our "contact us page".

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