The constitution and the Labor Code regulate employment in Costa Rica. On January 25, 2016, new amendments overhauling country’s labor and employment statutes were signed into law. The reforms went into effect on July 25, 2017.
Hours & Pay Regulations
The constitution and the Labor Code establish a 48 hour workweek for daytime work, not to exceed eight hours per day, six days per week.
Employees who work on paid holidays or on days of rest are entitled to double pay, and a higher rate applies if any overtime hours are worked.
The Labor Code stipulates that for jobs in which the daytime work is not dangerous, a standard workday may be as long as 10 hours, but the workweek still may not exceed 48 hours. Labor Code, Law No. 2, 1943 (as amended) art. 105.
Overtime is paid at time and one half the regular rate. Generally, an employee may not work more than 12 hours per day, including overtime. Employees engaged in dangerous or unhealthy work may not work overtime. Labor Code, Law No. 2, 1943 (as amended) arts. 139140.
Night work—defined as work between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.—may not exceed 36 hours per week or six hours per day. Mixed shifts that include both daytime and nighttime hours are treated as night work if more than three hours are worked after 7 p.m. Otherwise, mixed shifts are limited to seven hours per day (eight hours per day for work that is not dangerous) and 42 hours per week.
These limitations do not apply to managers, administrators, trustees and other employees in positions of trust, who are limited to working no more than 12 hours per day. Labor Code, Law No. 2, 1943 (as amended) arts. 105.
Rest periods and meal periods are not regulated by statute but are subject to negotiation between the employer and the employee.
A half-hour meal break is considered to be the normal standard. Supervisory and professional employees who are not eligible for overtime pay must be granted a break of at least 90 minutes in a 12hour day.
All employees are entitled to one day of rest after six consecutive days of work. Sunday is the usual rest day. Employees who work on days of rest are entitled to double pay. If overtime hours are worked on a rest day, the employee is entitled to receive triple time and a half.
If employees agree to work a holiday, they are entitled to double their normal salary. If overtime hours are worked on a public holiday, the employee is entitled to receive triple time and a half. Costa Rica observes the following nine 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, Aug. 2 (Day of Our Lady of the Angels) and Oct. 12 (Cultural Day) are holidays for which pay is not mandatory. When April 11, July 25 or Aug. 15 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.
Employees who practice a religion other than Catholicism may request unpaid days off for their religious holidays, and the employer must agree to any such request up to four days a year. When such a holiday is taken, the employer and the employee will agree on a replacement workday or the day can be taken as annual leave. Labor Code, Law No. 2, 1943 (as amended) arts. 148152.
Employees are entitled to at least two weeks of paid annual leave after every 50 weeks of work for the same employer (accrued at the rate of one day per month). The employer can schedule the employee’s vacation at its convenience within 15 weeks of its having been earned. 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.+
Unused vacation cannot generally be carried over to the following year unless the employee’s work responsibilities prevent the taking of vacation in the year earned.
When employment is terminated, an employee is entitled to be paid pro rata for any annual leave earned but not taken. Labor Code, Law No. 2, 1943 (as amended) arts. 153-161.
Employees who have made a contribution to social security in the month before becoming ill are entitled to paid sick leave. After a threeday waiting period, the Social Security Fund pays the worker 60 percent of his or her average earnings during the three months prior to the illness. Labor Code, Law No. 2, 1943 (as amended) art. 236.
Maternity leave covers one month before the expected due date and three months after childbirth. The employee receives full pay, half covered by the employer and half by the Social Security Fund. To obtain paid maternity leave, the employee must provide the employer with a doctor’s certificate five weeks prior to the due date. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may not be terminated except for just cause. Women who are breastfeeding are entitled to a 15minute break every three hours or a 30minute break twice a day. Employers of 30 or more female employees must establish a room where mothers can breastfeed their children during working hours. Labor Code, Law No. 2, 1943 (as amended) arts. 4, 14, 9597.
The Labor Code does not address paternity leave for workers in the private sector. Following a court decision in August 2013, however, public employees are entitled to eight days of paid paternity leave, whether or not the parents are married.
An employee who adopts a child is entitled to three months’ paid leave beginning on the date the child arrives. To obtain adoption leave, the employee must submit a certificate to the employer from the National Foundation for Children or a family court confirming the adoption.
Last updated on: January 10th, 2019