Working in Costa Rica

Working hours, salaries and labour regulations

Depending from where you are coming to Costa Rica, it might take some time to adjust to the working culture, hours and salaries. This section will tell you what to take into account when working in Costa Rica.

Working hours and salaries

The maximum daily number of working hours depends on the kind of working day you have, of which there are two in Costa Rica:

  • Normal Working Days or Jornadas Ordinarias Normales
  • Special Working Days or Jornadas Especiales o de Excepcion

Both kinds of working days can be subdivided in day and nightshifts. Normal daytime working days may be of maximum 8 hours or 10 hours per day, if the work performed is not heavy or unhealthy work. However, the maximum hours one may work per week is 48. Normal daytime working days take place between 5 AM and 7 PM. Night time jobs are those jobs that take place between 7 PM and 5 AM. Night time jobs may be of no more than 6 hours per day and a working week may be of no more than 36 hours. A mixed working day is when you work shifts that are partly considered daytime and partly considered night time. Mixed shifts may be of 8 hours daily unless you work until 10.30 PM or later in which case shifts are considered night time and may be of only 6 hours. The maximum of hours a week allowed for the mixed shifts is 42 hours. 

Working on a Saturday is considered a Special Working Days. Special working days also apply to several fields of employment among which domestic servants who can work up till 12 hours a day. If working 12 hours daily one is entitled to a break of at least 1.5 hours. People over 15 years of age but under 18 years of age are also considered to work special working days. People in this age group are not allowed to work more than 6 hours a day and 36 hours per week. 

Wages

Wages in Costa Rica are much lower than in the US and Europe. It is important to take into account that the cost of living is far lower. The minimum wages stated below are estimates based the exchange rate of the Colon to US$ at January 18th 2013: 

  • Non-Qualified Worker: 8.416,72¢/hour = 16$
  • Semi-Qualified Worker: 9.164,03¢/hour = 17,2$
  • Qualified Worker: 9.340,79¢/hour = 18,6$
  • High School level technicians: 303.137,69¢/month = 608.12$
  • Specialised Worker: 324.850,54¢/month = 651.68$
  • College technicians: 373.583,85¢/month = 749.41$
  • Bachelor Degree: 403.484,51¢/month = 809,39$
  • Licenciatura” Degree: 549.195,15¢/month = 1101,69$

The above wages cover the following sectors: Agriculture, Mining, Manufacturing, Industry, Construction, Electricity, Commerce, Tourism, Services, Transportation and Storage. These minimum hourly wages include Benefits, Christmas bonus (aguinaldo), severance, vacations and holidays. Overtime in Costa Rica is paid as the hourly wage plus 50%. Every employee in Costa Rica is entitled on a Christmas bonus or aguinaldo of one month’s salary. This bonus is paid during the first 20 days of December. The Christmas bonus is calculated as an average of last year’s salary.

Labour regulations

A labour (UK: employment) contract in Costa Rica can be a written or verbal agreement. Verbal agreement is only valid for jobs in agriculture or cattle, domestic service and temporary jobs that last less than 90 days. 

Labour contracts can be for a limited time or unlimited time. Limited time contracts have a determined time span or indicate that the contract ends once the work has been performed. In case of termination of a contract for unlimited time, the employee has rights layoff compensation. This compensation includes previous notification. Both employer and employee are entitled to a one-month notice before termination of the contract. If an employer terminates a contract without a cause, the employee is entitled to one month of salary for each year he/ she worked for the employer. This compensation can be of maximum 8 years of employment. The one month salary is calculated as an average of the salary received during the last 6 months of employment.

In Costa Rica, employees are entitled to two weeks of vacations for every 50 weeks of continuous employment. If an employee’s contract is terminated and he/she has not yet used the earned vacation time they are entitled to a payment of one day’s salary for each month worked during the year.

As an employee in Costa Rica you are entitled to a Christmas bonus or aguinaldo and vacation. On the other hand you also need to pay taxes. In Costa Rica income taxes are calculated as follows (income updated for the tax period of 2012):

  • Up to ¢3,042,000 (US$ 6,035), you do not have to pay income tax.
  • From ¢3,042,000 (US$ 6,035) to ¢4,543,000 (US$ 9,013) income tax is 10%
  • From ¢4,543,000 (US$ 9,013) to ¢7,577,000 (US$ 15,033) income tax is 15%
  • From ¢7.577.000 (US$ 15,033) to ¢15.185.000 (US$ 30,128) income tax is 20%
  • Above ¢15.185.000 (US$ 30,128) income tax is 25%

You can find more information (in Spanish) in http://dgt.hacienda.go.cr. In order to know all the tax periods and which documents you may need, you can look in the section "Folletos o brochures informativos". 

Maternity leave is granted for one month before birth and 3 months after birth with 100% of salary. 

In case of illness it is possible to get treatment paid for by the Social security System in Costa Rica. However, this is only possible after medical evaluation.

Employers in Costa Rica face high taxes for each employee. Employers have to pay 46% tax over the yearly salary paid to their employees as well as Social Security payments of 22%.

Holidays

In Costa Rica there are paid and unpaid holidays. At the dates of paid holidays employers are obliged to pay their employees. Employees have the right to enjoy their holidays and cannot be forced by their employers to work on those days. If an employer forces employees to work, the employer can be fined. If employees agree to work on holidays, they are entitled on double their normal salary.

Paid holidays are:

  • 1st of January (New Year)
  • 11th of April (Juan Santamaría Day)
  • Jueves y Viernes Santos
  • 1st of May (Labour Day)
  • 25th of July (Anexión del partido de Nicoya a Costa Rica)
  • 15th of August (Motherday and Asuncion de la Vírgen)
  • 15th of September (Independence Day)
  • 25th of December (Christmas)

Non-paid holidays are:

  • 2nd of August (Virgen of Los Angeles Day)
  • 12th of October (Culture Day)

Disputes

When injustice is done to you, it is possible to sue your employer. This can be when your labour rights are violated, but you can also sue in case of Child labour and in case of non-payment of salary. If you want to sue, contact the National Work Inspection or Inspección Nacional de Trabajo.

Further reading

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