8 things employers need to know about Colombian labor and employment laws


Aug 3, 2023

Like many countries, Colombia has a complex web of labor and employment laws that can be labyrinthine to those who aren't familiar with them. When you're headquartered outside of Colombia and hiring inside the country, you need to account for the differences in labor laws between the two places.

So how do you navigate all the regulations and nuances to stay compliant with Colombian labor laws? This guide will help get you up to speed on the basics, so you can hire Colombian employees with confidence.

1. Written employment contracts aren't required, except in certain cases

First things first: While they're definitely recommended, written employment agreements aren't required in Colombia except for certain types of contracts, and in certain cases.

You're legally required to put the agreement in writing if:

  • It's a fixed-term contract.
  • There's a probationary period.
  • The employee is being paid an integral salary (more on that below).
  • The employee is receiving non-salary payments.

For all other work arrangements, an oral agreement is fine—and without a stated agreement, the employee is assumed to be on an indefinite-term contract. However, written employment contracts are a best practice, since they outline the responsibilities of both the employee and the employer.

2. Misclassifying employees could cost you thousands of dollars

While hiring contractors rather than employees can help employers save on payroll taxes, Colombia is cracking down on this. If you're caught misclassifying employees, you could be required to pay back wages, missed contributions to the social security system, back taxes, plus penalties and other sanctions.

3. Working hours are tightly regulated

Colombia's Labour Code allows workers to work up to 47 hours a week, typically eight hours per day, up to six working days. Sunday is a mandatory rest day, though employees can negotiate a different rest day if they want to work a schedule other than Monday-Saturday (or if their work requires it). 

Employees who work more than 47 hours in a week are entitled to overtime pay of an extra 25% on top of their usual salary (or 75% if they work overtime on their usual rest day). Overtime work cannot exceed two hours per day or 12 hours per week.

Night work is any work that takes place between 9pm and 6am. Employees who work at night are entitled to 35% more pay, plus 75% more for overtime.

4. Colombian workers have the right to unionize

Workers in Colombia have the right to form unions. Employers should recognize collective bargaining agreements and include them with their own employment agreements.

5. Certain benefits are required for full-time employees

Employees in Colombia are entitled to statutory benefits, including public holidays, maternity leave, paternity leave, sick leave, annual leave, and more. It's also common for employers to provide supplemental benefits like private healthcare and other fringe benefits.

6. You can pay employees an integral salary if they agree to it

If both the employer and employee agree to it, the employee can opt to receive an integral salary instead of many of their required benefits. This means that in addition to their regular salary payments, they also receive remuneration for their benefits, not including annual leave.

7. Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are legally binding in Colombia as long as they comply with contract law

NDAs can be used to protect a company's confidential information. They're generally considered valid and legal in Colombia, as long as they comply with contract law, meaning they must have the basic elements of a contract. This includes:

  • An agreement (offer and acceptance)
  • A lawful purpose
  • Lawful consideration

8. A few different visas allow people to live and work in Colombia

There are several types of visas that allow foreign nationals to legally work while living in Colombia. During a time when many global companies are outsourcing work like programming to skilled professionals in Latin America, Colombia's government is making the process easier with multiple paths for people to live and work in the country:

  • Migrant or M visas allow foreigners to live and work in Colombia temporarily.
  • Resident or R visas allow foreigners to establish themselves in Colombia permanently.
  • Technical visas allow skilled professionals to work in Colombia on short-term assignments.
  • A digital nomad visa allows remote workers to live in Colombia while working for companies based in other countries.

It's up to employers to ensure any Colombian hire has a valid work visa. Note that a visitor visa or V type visa does not allow someone to legally work in Colombia.

Frequently asked questions about Colombian labor laws

What are the minimum wages in Colombia?

As of January 2023, Colombia's minimum monthly salary is 1,300,606 Colombian pesos (COP). Any employee's salary must be at least that much to comply with Colombian labor laws.

What are the overtime laws in Colombia?

Employees can work up to two hours of overtime per day, and up to 12 hours per week.

Standard overtime pay kicks in if an employee works regular, daytime hours and works over 47 hours in a single week. For overtime, they're paid an extra 25% on top of their regular salary.

If the overtime takes place on their regular rest day, a public holiday, or during overnight hours (between 9pm and 6am), overtime pay is increased to an extra 75% on top of their regular salary.

What are the required benefits in Colombia?

Statutory benefits in Colombia include:

  • Social security contributions
  • Minimum wage
  • Healthcare
  • Annual leave: 15 days for each year of service after their first year
  • Sick leave
  • Parental leave
  • Public holidays
  • 13th month salary

How do I terminate employees in Colombia? 

Termination of employment can happen at any time. Colombian law doesn’t require notice periods.

Severance payments are typically required, except in cases of termination for just cause. Severance pay is based on the employee's length of service and salary:

  • For employees earning less than 10x the minimum wage: 30 days of salary for the first year of employment, plus 20 days for each additional year.
  • For employees earning more than 10x the minimum wage: 20 days of salary for the first year of employment, plus 15 days for each additional year.

Approval from the Ministry of Labour is required for collective layoffs or redundancy.

Hire and onboard Colombian employees with Rippling

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Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: August 3, 2023

The Author

Christina Marfice

Christina is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in Chicago. Having lived and worked in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, she’s bringing her expertise on hiring in Latin America to Rippling.