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Colombian employment law

Colombian labour law is governed mainly by the Labour Code, which dates from 1950. The applicability of these rules is done (directly) through the law. Though collective labour law rules have not experienced any significant changes since 2008, there currently exists a segment of ´legal unity´ in Colombia, which is an important dynamic in the employment relations regarding trade unions.

Colombian labour rules and principles are not only considered a public policy rule, but most of these principles also have a constitutional hierarchy, together with the International treaties or conventions that recognise human rights ratified by Colombia. The consequence of this situation is that employers cannot (even with the employee’s approval) provide conditions worse than those recognised by the law, the constitution or an international treaty or convention, which recognises human rights ratified by Colombia.

Efforts have been made to add flexibility to the Colombian labour market to match globalised standards. Three main reforms to the labour rules have been made to accomplish this objective: the 50 Act of 1990, the 789 Act of 2002 and the 797 Act of 2003.


Key Points

  • Employee-legislation in Colombia is divided (due to its importance) into a compilation of particular rules for each specialty: labour rules, social security, procedural rules and employment law.
  • Even when employment contracts, as a general rule, are considered an indefinite term, Colombian labour law is flexible in comparison to other countries, as it provides the possibility to use flexible forms of employment without major restrictions.
  • Colombian labour law provides high flexibility regarding dismissal. However, in recent years the case law has developed greater protection to prevent possible discriminatory situations.
  • Foreigners are only allowed to work in Colombia through a work permit or with a residence permit if they are planning (or are currently) to stay permanently in the country.
  • Constitutional actions (“Tutela”) demanding immediate protection of fundamental rights is an important source for labour norms, as a result of the interpretation of the written labour rules.

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