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Last updated on: May 30th, 2024

Labor Requirements

The Labour Law in Costa Rica is regulated mainly by the Labor Code of 1943. The Labor Code governs the terms and conditions of employment such as working hours, holidays and rest periods, wages, overtime, and employment relationships. The Constitution of Costa Rica also governs the Labor relationship. 

Hours & Pay Regulations

Normal Working Hours

Normal working hours shall not exceed 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week (exclusive overtime). Employees are not entitled to work more than 12 hours in a day including overtime hours (inclusive Overtime). 


Daytime work is work done between 5:00 am and 7:00 pm. A normal work week generally consists of 6 days. Daily working hours shall in no case exceed 12 hours including overtime unless an emergency exists, or when there is a danger or imminent risk to people, machinery, etc.


A standard workday may be as long as 10 hours, but the workweek still may not exceed 48 hours for jobs in the daytime which are not dangerous.


The Law explicitly states that the following employees are exempt from the standard working time regulations:

      • Managers, administrators, and representatives
      • Employees who work independently, without direct supervision
      • Employees in positions of trust
      • Commission-based salespeople and similar employees who don’t work at the company’s physical location.
      • Employees with tasks that are discontinuous (meaning they happen intermittently) or require them to be the only ones present.
      • Employees whose tasks, by their nature, cannot be confined to a typical workday schedule.

Limitations: Although these employees are exempt from the usual workday rules, there are still some limitations:

        • They cannot be required to work more than 12 hours a day.
        • They must be given a minimum rest period of 1.5 hours within their workday.

Mixed Shift– In a mixed shift, the daily limit is 7 hours with a weekly limit of 42 hours, expandable to a daily limit of 8 hours if the work is not unhealthy or dangerous, with a weekly limit of 48 hours. If the mixed shift comprises 3.5 hours or more within a night shift (7 pm to 5 am), it is considered a night shift. Art. 135 – 138 and 143 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016). 


Recording Requirement – Employers shall maintain a record of the employee’s extraordinary work in salary books or payroll separately from the books which consist of information on the ordinary work of the employees. Art. 144 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016).


Any work performed beyond 8 hours in a day or 48 hours in a week is considered overtime work. An employee can work for 12 hours in a day, that is an employee shall not work more than 4 hours of overtime work in a day. 


Pay– An employee is entitled to receive premium pay of 50% more than the minimum wage or the salary of an employee.


Note: The employer cannot modify the employment contract data to modify the payment conditions for overtime against the interests of the employees. Employers face strict punitive action for taking actions that restrict employees’ rights. Art. 139 – 141 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016).

Night Work

Night work is defined as work between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. It may not exceed 36 hours per week or 6 hours per day. 


The mixed shift in no case will exceed 7 hours, but it will be considered as a night shift when 3.5 hours or more are worked between 7 pm and 5 am. Art. 135 of the Labour Code (amended as of 2016).


An employee is entitled to break for a minimum duration of 30 minutes, provided that it shall be continuous in which case, the duration of break shall be considered as working time. Employees occupying managerial posts are entitled to a minimum rest of 1.5 hours in a day. Art. 137 and 143 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016). 


Weekly Rest

An employee is entitled to 24 consecutive hours of rest after 6 days of work. Generally, work is not allowed on the weekly rest day, except where the nature of the work does not involve heavy, unhealthy, or dangerous tasks, or an agreement exists between the employee and the employer for work to be performed on the rest days.


Exceptions to Weekly Offs

Employers cannot make employees work on weekly holidays except for the instances within the framework of the legal stipulations such as restaurants, establishments selling items of general utility like vegetables, milk, work necessary or urgent for the establishment to function, etc. Art. 152 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016). 

Work On Rest Days

An employee who works on a rest day is entitled to double the regular rate of pay.


In cases where the requirement justifies the need to work on a weekly rest day and the employee does not agree to work on his rest day, the employer may request the government authority permission to provide such employees with accumulated compensatory rest as a form of remuneration. Such an accumulated compensatory rest day shall not be less than 3 days for each case of work on a rest day. It is up to the discretion of the ministry to grant or deny such authorization. Art. 152 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016). 

Sunday Work

An employee may not be required to work on Sundays. But employees may be allowed to work until midnight on Sundays and holidays, except on Holy Thursday and Friday, during which the closure will be total via an agreement entered between the employer and employee. 


Pay for Work on Sunday – In case an employee works on a Sunday, he/she shall be entitled to double the rate of ordinary wages. Art. 150 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016).

Public Holidays

Employees are generally entitled to 9 paid public holidays:

  • Jan. 1: New Year’s Day
  • April 11: Juan Santamaria Day
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • May 1: Labor Day
  • July 25: Anexion del Partido de Nicoya
  • Aug. 15: Mother’s Day and Assumption
  • Sept. 15: Independence Day
  • Dec. 25: Christmas Day

In addition, August 2 (Day of Our Lady of the Angels) and October 12 (Cultural Day) are holidays for which pay is not mandatory.


Employees who practice non-catholic religions may request their employer to grant holidays for religious celebrations important to their belief as days off and the employer will be obliged to grant it. When this occurs, the employer and the employee shall agree to a replacement day of work, which may be deducted from annual leave.


When Juan Santamaria Day, Anexion del Partido de Nicoya, or Mother’s Day and Assumption falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, the holiday is observed the following Monday. If the employer cannot afford a work stoppage on those Mondays, it may require employees to work but must give them another day off within 15 days of the holiday.


In light of Executive Decree No. 25570 passed in July 2020, given below is a one-time amendment for the 2024 holiday  – 

      • The enjoyment of the holiday corresponding to the dates April 11, July 25, and August 15, 2024, will carry over to the Monday immediately following.

Pay for Work on Public Holiday – An employee who works on a public holiday is entitled to double the normal salary.


Overtime Work on Public Holiday- As per government official notificationIf overtime is worked during these holidays, they must be paid at double time and a half, that is, triple payment for all overtime hours [OT on a PH= RT (2x) + OT (0.5x) = technically 2.5x which is taken as 3x]. Art. 148 – 152 of the Labour Code (amended as of 2016) and Law No. 9875 of July 13, 2020.

Annual Leave

Duration of Annual Leave – Employees are entitled to at least 2 weeks of paid annual leave for every 50 continuous weeks of work for the same employer. If an employee has been continuously employed for less than 50 weeks, they are entitled to one day of paid vacation every month.


(The law does not specifically define whether the annual leave is calculated in calendar days or working days. Hence as a best practice annual leave is considered in working days for the benefit of the employees)


Timing of Annual Leave – The employer shall inform the time in which the employee can take his annual vacation, and shall do so within 15 weeks after the day on which 50 days of continuous employment with the same employer is completed.


Annual Leave in Parts – Generally, the employee must be permitted to take the entire vacation at one time. If the employee performs work of a special nature that does not permit a long absence, however, and the employee and the employer agree, annual leave may be split into no more than two segments.


Annual Leave Pay – Annual vacations are paid, and the employee receives vacation pay as an amount equivalent to the average salary earned by the employee in the last 50 weeks. To calculate the salary that the employee must receive during his vacations, the employer will take the average of the ordinary and extraordinary remunerations accrued by him during the previous 50 consecutive weeks of employment.


Termination of Employment – If the employment is terminated before the 50-week period is completed, the employee is entitled to at least one day of vacation for each month and such accrued vacation will be compensated at the time of termination.


Accrual of Annual Leave – Holiday accrual is generally not allowed unless the employee is engaged in technical, managerial or similar work, in which the employee cannot be replaced by another employee or when the residence of the employee’s family is in another province.


Regular public holidays, weekly off, and other types of leave cannot be counted as part of the earned vacation time of an employee. Art. 153 – 161 of the Labour Code (amended as of 2016).

Special Leave

Sick Leave

Eligibility of Sick Leave: Employees who have made a contribution to social security in the month before becoming ill are entitled to paid sick leave.


Sick Leave Pay: Employers must pay at least 50 % of the employee’s salary for the first 3 days of sick leave. The other half is paid by the Social Security Fund. From the fourth day of sick leave onward, the employee receives 60% of their average earnings from Social Security and no pay from the employer.

Medical Certificate: Employees are generally required to notify their employer of their illness or incapacity within the first three days of their absence. After 3 days of absence due to illness or incapacity, employees must provide their employer with a medical certificate issued by a CCSS-affiliated doctor or healthcare professional. The medical certificate must state the estimated duration of the incapacity. Art.79 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016).

Maternity Leave

Duration of Maternity Leave – A pregnant woman is entitled to a mandatory period of paid leave of 4 months including one month before birth and three months after birth.If a pregnant employee experiences complications, they can take paid disability leave based on medical guidelines.


In case of multiple births, the mother will have the right to one more month postpartum For each extra child. The prepartum period will always be one month.


Pay Benefits – The employer has to pay 50 % of the salary for all the 4-months of leave. Social Security provides the other 50 %of the salary for all 4 months of leave.


The employer and the employee must contribute to the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, the respective social contributions on the entire salary earned during the leave, so as not to interrupt the contribution during that period.


Notification Requirement– The employee must provide the employer with a doctor’s certificate 5 weeks prior to the due date.


Abortion: If abortion occurs before 20 weeks of gestation, it is considered a pregnancy risk and the employee will not have the right to maternity leave, but will be entitled to disability. If the abortion occurs between weeks 20 and 37 of gestation, the worker may take a 45-day maternity leave.


Premature births: If the birth occurs between weeks 20 and 36 , the mother will have the right to the full four months of maternity leave. Also, if the baby unfortunately dies when the mother is in the postpartum period of leave, she will not lose her right to this rest.


Breastfeeding Break – Women who are breast-feeding are entitled to a 15-minute paid break every 3 hours. An employer can also provide a 30-minute break twice a day except in the case that a medical certificate proves that an employee only need a shorter interval. Art. 94 – 97 of Labour Code (amended as of 2016).


Voting Leave

An employee is entitled to leave for voting purposes with pay, in cases where the voting hours are within the working hours of the employee. Art. 381(2) of Labour Code (amended as of 2016).


Adoption Leave

An employee who adopts a child is entitled to 3 months paid leave beginning on the date the child arrives. Both adoptive parents, regardless of gender, or both parents in a joint adoption, are entitled to the leave. An employee can decide how to split the leave between themselves:

      • One parent takes the entire three months.
      • Both parents share it equally (1.5 months each).
      • employees can divide the leave however it works best for their family.

Pay: An employee is entitled to receive full pay as per the maternity leave.


Notification – An employee must  submit a certificate to the employer from the National Foundation for Children or a family court confirming the adoption. Art 95 of Labour Code. 


Paternity Leave

The working father of a child whose mother dies during childbirth or during maternity leave is entitled to paternity Leave. A male employee is entitled to three months starting from the birth of the child.

In the absence of the father or if he is unable to take care of the child, leave may be granted to another working individual who demonstrates a commitment to care for the child. For this, the National Childhood Welfare Agency (PANI) must expedite the process and issue a certified resolution to the designated person.


A special Paternity Leave license is granted to the father of the child or to the person who will take care of the child, provided they are employees, regardless of the employment status of the deceased mother.


Pay– An employee is entitled to receive a full salary from their employer.

Disclaimer: The material provided above is for informational purposes only and is subject to change. We endeavor to keep all material up-to-date and correct but make no representations about the information's completeness, accuracy, or reliability. Laws vary by jurisdiction and are subject to change and interpretation based on individual factors that may differ between organizations. The material is not meant to constitute legal advice and we suggest you seek the advice of legal counsel in connection with any of the information presented.