Legal regulations in the Colombian job market

Schedules, contracts, holidays and pensions

Legal regulations in the Colombian job market

Learn about your rights and obligations in the Colombian job market to avoid problems and protect yourself.

Job contracts in Colombia can be verbal or written, and there is no set way to write them. According to how long they will last, they can be Contrato a término fijo (Fixed term contract), Contrato a término indefinido (contract with an indefinite length); Contrato por la duración de una labor determinada (Contract for a set task)  and Contrato accidental o transitorio (Short term contract).

As a foreigner, you have the same rights as a Colombian worker, except the right to join a Union. Colombian companies with more than 10 employees can hire foreigners up to a limit of a 10% of their general staff or 20% for management, directorial or specialist positions. If the employer wants to hire more people than this, he must apply for authorisation from the Subdirectory of Individual Relationships in the Ministry of Social Protection and Health.

Fixed term contract

A fixed term contract can last up to 3 years and it is extendable for as long as needed. If a contract has been agreed to last less than 1 year, it can be renewed for the same period. After that, the renewal must be for a term of at least 1 year.

If the employer does not want to renew a work contract, he must provide at least a month’s notice, in a written document. If not, it will be automatically renewed.

Indefinite contract

Unless specified, all contracts will be of this kind. The duration of these contracts is not specified, either because of the nature of the job or the agreement amongst the employer and employee.

Contract for a set task

The duration of the contract is agreed according to the length needed in order to complete the defined task. It must be written, and the task shall be clearly detailed. If not, it would be impossible to know when the contract ends and therefore it would be an indefinite contract.

Short term contract

It is used for casual jobs that are different to the normal activities of the employer. They last less than a month. The employees, under this contract, are excluded from the following benefits:

  • Benefits for accident or illness
  • Unemployment benefit
  • Life insurance
  • Bonuses
  • Dismissal pay
  • Burial fees

Trial period

At the beginning of a contract, there is a trial period. It cannot last more than two months, and it must be written and specified in the contract. If a contract is for less than a year, the trial period cannot be more than a fifth of the original duration agreed and never over two months. During this period, both parties can end the contract without giving notice. If it is ended by the employer, he does not have to pay any indemnity to the employee.

After the trial period, if the employee is fired, he shall receive an indemnity, or compensation for the loss of earnings that will be experienced. This depends on the type of contract and how long it lasts.

Minimum wage

There are no official minimum wages in general, except for some particular cases. The minimum for these cases is agreed yearly by the government and trade unions.

Over the minimum, the employee must receive extras in case of night time work, working extra hours, commissions and all the benefits established by the law and the ones agreed with the employer.

Working schedule

By law, the maximum a person can work in Colombia is 48 hours per week, between Monday and Friday or Monday and Saturday. Working hours are varied between 06:00 and 22:00. If the employee has to work between 22:00 and 06:00, the salary must be 35% more than the equivalent day time salary. Any extra hour during working hours will be paid at 25% more than the usual hour. At night, this is 75% more, which also applies for Sunday work and holidays. By law, nobody can work more than 2 extra hours per day or 12 extra hours per week. If it has been agreed that Saturday is a day off, extra hours on a Saturday will have the same rights as a Sunday.

If you are in a position of management, power or trust, your employer does not have to pay the extra hours that you work.

The employer and the employee can agree to have a flexible schedule. 48 hours per week can be worked whilst working no more than 10 hours a day and at least 4 hours during day time.


Every employee has the right to 15 days paid holiday per year. Half of this can be swapped for pay, by asking for permission in the Ministry of Social Protection and Health .

Benefits and pensions

The system covers incapacity, old age and death by a common cause. There are two independent regimes. One is from the Instituto de Seguros Sociales  (ISS, Institute of Social Insurance), which has a common fond. The other has individual capitalization (run by the private pension companies). In either of these regions, the contribution is 15% of the monthly salary. Three quarters of it is to be paid by the employer and one quarter by the employee.


In order to be covered by the healthcare system, the employer needs to pay 12% of the employee’s  monthly salary to the government. 8% will be paid by the employer and 4% by the employee.

Maternity leave

Every woman is entitled to 12 weeks maternity leave, when they are pregnant. It can be started 2 weeks before the birth of the child. It is covered by the Social Security System, and is also valid if adopting a child younger than 7 years old. This maternity leave can be taken from up to two weeks before the day the child is received. It is also valid for a single father who adopts a child.

No woman can be fired due to pregnancy or breast feeding.

Paternity leave

The partner or husband is entitled to 4 days leave if he is paying Social Security contributions. If both parents are contributing to the Social Security, the father has right to 8 paid days. In both cases, the father should have contributed more than 100 weeks to the Social Security System.

Further reading

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