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Article | Global News Briefs

Colombia: Workweek, family leave and remote working changes

Health and Benefits|Total Rewards|Future of Work
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By Gonzalo Vértiz Díaz and German Andres Ayala Riano | August 18, 2021

Employers in Colombia should review their working time policies to ensure compliance with a series of Labor Code amendments already in effect.

Employer Action Code: Act

A series of amendments to the Labor Code have come into force. The first amendment (effective July 15, 2021) will gradually reduce the duration of a “normal workweek” (excluding overtime) from 48 to 42 hours beginning two years after the effective date without any reduction in compensation or benefits for employees. The second amendment extends the existing family leave provisions (effective July 29, 2021), and the third introduces a new “remote working” contract of employment (effective August 3, 2021).

Key details

Working hours

  • The normal workweek of 48 hours will be reduced to 42 hours over a four-year period from 2023 to 2026, taking effect every July 15 during that period as follows: 47 hours in 2023, 46 hours in 2024, 44 hours in 2025 and 42 hours in 2026. Alternatively, employers can decide to reduce the normal workweek in one go. In either case, the length of the normal workday and distribution of working time over a five- or six-day workweek should be determined by an agreement between the employer and employees.
  • The maximum duration of shift work or work organized under flexible scheduling will be reduced from 10 to nine hours (as of July 15, 2026).
  • There will be no reduction in employee remuneration or accrued rights; however, once the normal workweek has been reduced to 42 hours, employers will no longer be responsible for certain labor obligations, including the two hours per week that must be dedicated to recreational, cultural or training activities during work time or the provision of a semiannual employer-sponsored family day.

Family leave

  • Paternity leave has been increased from eight workdays to two calendar weeks. Pay replacement benefits continue to be provided by the employee’s chosen health care insurer (Entidades Promotoras de Salud – EPS). A further one calendar week will be added for each 1% decline in the rate of structural unemployment, subject to a maximum of five weeks. The methodology for measuring reductions, if any, in structural unemployment will be defined by the central bank, Ministry of Finance and the National Planning commission and determined annually every December.
  • Mothers will be able to transfer the final six weeks of the 18-week maternity leave entitlement to the father. Pay replacement benefits will be provided by the EPS for the parent on leave. Both the employer and EPS must be notified of the intention to take shared leave within 30 days of the birth.
  • Mothers and/or fathers may extend the length of their leave entitlements by requesting a mix of part-time work and part-time leave in lieu of the leave periods concerned for maternity, paternity and shared leave — subject to a minimum of the first 12 weeks of maternity leave being taken in full.

Remote working

  • A new form of labor contract for remote work has been introduced, differentiated from existing provisions covering teleworking, home office and temporary working at home in exceptional and/or occasional circumstances.
  • Employees will be able to work remotely from anywhere in Colombia subject to an agreement with the employer and a health and safety assessment. 
  • The employer must supply, maintain and/or cover the cost of all work equipment, internet and telephony required, as well as ensure remote working employees enjoy all the same labor rights, compensation and benefits as other employees with a few exceptions (e.g., employees earning up to two times the minimum wage are entitled to a transportation allowance, which would not apply to remote working).

Employer implications

The majority of offices in Colombia (51% of surveyed firms) already observe a 40-hour workweek, but a substantial minority observe longer workweeks. Among companies with factories, a 48-hour workweek is the most common. Employers should review their working time policies and the operational and financial implications of the reduced normal workweek. In the same vein, only 12% of employers surveyed offer paternity leave in excess of statutory requirements, and even fewer (3%) offer parental leave. There is no statutory entitlement to parental leave in Colombia, but the introduction of shared maternity leave may encourage employers to provide it. The linkage of future potential increases in the duration of paternity leave to improvements in structural unemployment is somewhat unusual from a public policy perspective. Almost half of the workforce is currently engaged in informal employment (National Administrative Department of Statistics data), so there is clearly ample opportunity for bringing more workers into formal employment.

Contacts

Gonzalo Vértiz Díaz
Consultor Actuarial en Willis Towers Watson Colombia

German Andres Ayala Riano

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