Minimum Working Conditions
Employees in Colombia enjoy the rights established by the Political Constitution, the ILO conventions ratified by Colombia, the Labour Code and any other regulation that develops labour rules.
Owing to the public policy nature of labour standards and social norms, the parties cannot agree to terms that would circumvent, contradict or otherwise be in opposition to the rights guaranteed by such policies. Nor may an employee renounce a labour right granted by law, but the employer is allowed to provide the employee with benefits and rights that are more favourable than those established by law.
The statutory minimum wage for employees who work the maximum working time for 2018 is $781.242 COP with a mandatory transport allowance of $88.211 COP (mandatory for employees who earns up to 2 times the minimum wage). This does not prevent the possibility for the employer to provide a superior minimum wage within its organisation whether by its unilateral decision or by collective agreement.
Compensation regarded as salary comprises not only the employee’s agreed fixed and/or variable salary, but any payment which is recognised as a retribution for the services the employee provides to the employer, regardless of its designation, in the case of commissions, habitual bonuses and overtime work payments. The salary can be either in kind or cash, but the salary in kind cannot exceed 30% of the total salary agreed.
The salary can also be agreed on any legal currency. The employee is entitled to ask the payment in Colombian Peso (COP), in which case it must be done at the official exchange rate on the day the payment must be issued by the employer. For employees who are paid ‘per day’ the salary in cash wage payment cannot exceed one week. For employees whose salary is based on a monthly fee, their payment has to be done at least once every month.
The Labour Code also provides the possibility for the employer to recognise non-salary payments as part of the compensation of the employee (cannot exceed 40% of the total compensation for social security purposes). The importance to delimitate these two concepts is so that only the payments regarded as salary serve as a base for the calculation of legal benefits and social security contributions/benefits.
Integrated salary: for employees who earn a salary equivalent to at least ten (10) times the minimum wage or more, an “integrated” salary can be agreed; the agreement must be in writing. The employee will receive a monthly payment which includes two factors: i) the personal service economic retribution, and ii) a fixed amount of at least the 30% of the salary, which compensates in advance statutory benefits, overtime work, work on Sundays and any other payment expressly included in the “integrated” salary agreement, except vacations. Therefore, the total monthly minimum integrated salary amount is 13 times the minimum wage.
Maximum Working Week
The ordinary working time cannot exceed 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week, with the employee being entitled to a mandatory rest day, normally on Sunday. However, the law allows for the parties to agree that the daily working time can be distributed between 4 and 10 hours per day ensuring the maximum working week (48 hours). The daily working time must be distributed in at least two parts, with a rest period between both of them. This rest period between both sections is not considered part of the daily working time. Colombian labour law also provides different forms to distribute the maximum working time in accordance with the ILO conventions ratified by the country and the different industries’ needs.
Overtime hourly work compensation rate is 25% over regular hour payment. The following employees are not entitled to overtime work compensation: (i) employees who earn an “integrated” salary (only possible for employees who earn more than ten times the minimum wage) and; (ii) employees that occupy trust positions (However, they are entitled to receive Night hours and Sundays overtime payments). Employees who work night hours (from 09:00 PM to 06:00 AM) are entitled to a special overcharge of 35% over their regular hourly compensation, disregarding other special compensations like overtime compensation. Work on Sundays and/or public holidays must be paid with an overcharge of 75% over the regular compensation.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
The employer is expressly obliged to provide his employees with a safe workplace and the necessary and adequate elements and tools to prevent work accidents and professional diseases. Since 2014, every employer or contracting party must implement the “Safety and Health at Work Management System” to ensure the enforcement of all health and safety at work legislation, the improvement of the work environment and conditions, and the control of any hazard or danger in the workplace. This system includes not only the employees of a company, but also its contractors and subcontractors.
The Ministry of Labour through the labour inspectorate (administrative authority) is in charge of the Health and Safety complaints. The formal procedure may come from a direct complaint by an employee (or anonymously) regarding an alleged breach of a Health and Safety procedure by the employer. The Labour Inspectorate is also entitled to, unilaterally, make a visit to an employer or request information of his “Safety and Health at Work Management System” and initiate a complaint procedure if he finds an anomaly in the information provided.
Protection from Retaliation
Colombian labour law does not provide any special protection specifically for employees who present a formal complaint against their employer for failing to comply with the Health and Safety legislation.