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Employment law overview Colombia
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Employment law overview Colombia

Introduction

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.

Labour law normativity is provided by the Constitution (Fundamental employees’ rights) and the law. Bills can only be issued by the Congress and/or the President in exercise of exceptional powers, but does not allow for the municipalities and/or departments to issue normativity regarding labour matters. The Ministries as part of the executive power are allowed to issue Decrees to develop the content of a law, but not to modify it or derogate it. In particular, the Ministry of Labour is the highest executive authority regarding labour matters.

The Pensions and Contributions Control Unit (UGPP by its initials in Spanish) plays also an important role as an audit governmental body, which exercises control regarding contributions to the social security system.

The main framework for labour law in Colombia is provided by the Colombian Labour Code (CST by its initials in Spanish) issued by the Legislative Decree 3743 of 1950. Despite its longevity, the Labour Code has been the subject of modifications mainly to add flexibility to the labour market to adjust Colombia´s rules with regards to a more globalised world.

In 2015, the government issued the 1072 Decree (Regulatory Decree of the Labour Sector) to condense all existing normativity regarding labour matters in a unique document to ease their access.

The Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, besides the fact that Colombia has a continental legal system, play a key role in Colombian legal framework as the Constitution and the law establishes precedent as mandatory for inferior hierarchical judges to comply with.

New Developments

  • The widespread use of outsourcing has prompted the discussion over potential limitations on the possibility to outsource activities directly related to the company’s core business. In 2018, the Ministry of Labour decided to derogate a Decree issued by the same Agency, which established stricter rules on outsourcing and the responsibilities from the contractor.
  • Due to the recent presidential elections (President Ivan Duque has been in Office since August 2018), there are expectations for three main reforms in labour law matters: (i) Pension reform. (ii) Formalisation reform (self-employed persons who are not covered by any social security scheme). (iii) Reform on the collective bargaining procedure rules.
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