Hire employees in Costa Rica: The Employer´s Handbook

Table Of Content

Explore Costa Rica's labor market, an interesting overview for those aiming to hire employees in Costa Rica. Known for its political stability, robust economic policies, and talented workforce, Costa Rica emerges as a great place for business growth and foreign investment. This country guide offers comprehensive information on Costa Rica's labor laws, labor code, and hiring practices. This will provide you with a solid understanding of the global payroll requirements in Costa Rica, enabling you to make informed decisions in this vibrant market.

figures about costa rica

Understanding Costa Rica's Legal and Regulatory Framework

Employment Contracts

In Costa Rica, abiding by the Costa Rican Labor Code, it is obligatory to have a written employment contract that outlines the terms of employment. These contracts can be extended for an indefinite period or a fixed term. It is crucial that these contracts clearly define the job roles, salary, payroll cycle, working hours, and other essential details to ensure full compliance with local labor laws.

Work Hours and Overtime

Standard work hours for Costa Rican employees are capped at 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week, aligning with the labor day regulations. Any overtime work beyond these hours is paid at 150% of the regular pay rate. To ensure compliance with work permit regulations, overtime must be clearly documented and justified.

Minimum Wage

Costa Rica, demonstrating its commitment to fair labor law practices, has recently adjusted its minimum wage standards. The country now leads in worker compensation within Central America, with private sector employees receiving a minimum wage of US$687 per month - the highest in the region. Entry-level workers are entitled to US$23 per day for an eight-hour shift, which equates to US$2.86 per hour. This significant increase highlights Costa Rica's dedication to ensuring its skilled workers are adequately compensated, making the country an attractive prospect in the global hiring landscape.

Social Security and Benefits

In Costa Rica, employers are obligated to contribute to the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), a system akin to the Social Security Administration. This fund covers essential social benefits such as health insurance and pensions. The employer's contribution is approximately 26.33% of the employee's salary, factored into the payroll cycle.

Employees, on the other hand, contribute around 10.34%. Part of these contributions also go towards the National Insurance Institute and the Banco Popular employer fee. Paying attention to these details helps maintain a smooth payroll cycle and ensure timely social security contributions.

Termination and Severance

Executing a contract termination of an employee in Costa Rica necessitates strict adherence to the Costa Rica Labor Code's specified procedures. This includes observing required notice periods and calculating severance pay based on the duration of the contractor's employment. For instance, under the Costa Rica Labor Code, the severance pay includes compensation equivalent to 20 days’ salary for each year of service rendered after the initial three-year period..

employer payroll contributions costa rica

Hiring Contractors vs Employees in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the hiring dynamics can differ notably between employees and independent contractors. This variation is particularly significant for businesses operating from the United States and looking to expand globally.

When hiring employees in Costa Rica, it's crucial for employers, including global corporations, to comply with the country's stringent labor laws. These laws necessitate written employment contracts, enforce specific work hours and overtime pay rates, and set standards for minimum wage.

On the contrary, engaging independent contractors provides more flexibility, making them the preferred choice for short-term projects or roles that require specialized skills. For global employment, hiring contractors can also minimize some legal and financial responsibilities tied to employees, such as social security contributions and adherence to certain labor regulations.

However, it's vital to ensure that the use of contractors is justifiable and aligns with local regulations to avoid the risks of misclassification.

Regardless of whether you choose to hire employees or independent contractors, achieving compliance with Costa Rican labor laws and understanding the associated costs and benefits can significantly enhance your hiring strategy and global employment success.

Additional Considerations When Hiring in Costa Rica

13th Month Salary (Aguinaldo)

In accordance with the Costa Rican Labor Code, employees are entitled to receive an extra month's salary as a bonus in December. This bonus, often referred to as the 'Aguinaldo', acts as a token of appreciation for employees' dedication and hard work throughout the year. Not only does this benefit boost employee morale, but it also reflects the commitment of employers to adhere to the comprehensive and fair labor laws of Costa Rica.

Probationary Period

While the probationary period is a common practice in the employment process worldwide, its duration and specific rules can vary significantly across different countries, especially in the Latin American region. In Costa Rica, for instance, the typical probationary period for new hires is three months. However, this period may see potential variations, especially for senior roles.

This probationary period is an integral part of the hiring process, allowing both the employer and the new hire to assess each other. For employers, it is a chance to evaluate the performance, skills, and overall fit of the new hire within the organization. For the new hires, it provides an opportunity to understand the organizational culture, job expectations, and to determine whether the role aligns with their career aspirations.

Paid Employee Vacation

In Costa Rica, the Labor Code mandates that employees are entitled to a two-week paid vacation once they have completed 50 weeks of employment. The vacation pay is calculated based on the average wage, which includes regular and overtime pay, earned during the previous 50 weeks. Although it is at the employer's discretion to decide the appropriate period for employees to take their vacation, they are required to inform their employees of the planned vacation period. In any labor dispute, the employer bears the burden of proof and must demonstrate that the employee has taken the mandatory vacation.

Public Holidays

Costa Rica recognizes 11 public holidays which can vary by region. Employers should consider these when planning work schedules and payroll, ensuring compliance with local labor laws and providing employees with their entitled rest periods.

Parental Leave

Costa Rica offers four months of paid maternity leave, divided equally between employer and the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS). It's important to note that currently, there is no provision for paternity leave. Employers should be prepared to accommodate these leave periods and plan accordingly for the temporary absence of employees.

Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements in Costa Rica require compensation for the employee throughout the duration of the non-compete period. These agreements must be handled fairly and in compliance with local regulations. Employers should ensure they fully understand the legal implications of these agreements before implementing them.

Tax Obligations

Employers have a responsibility to contribute to social security and other mandatory funds. Similarly, employees are subject to income tax rates that vary from 0% to 25%, and they are also required to contribute 10.5% towards social security. Understanding these tax obligations is essential for complying with local tax laws and for effective payroll management.

overview of employee benefits costa rica

Costa Rica's Economic and Market Context

Economic Stability

Costa Rica is recognized for its political stability and strong economic policies, making it an attractive destination for foreign investments. The country's focus on education and healthcare contributes to a stable and productive workforce, fostering a favorable environment for business operations.

Sector-Specific Insights

Information technology and business process outsourcing are significant sectors in Costa Rica, offering a well-educated, English-speaking labor force. The tourism sector also plays a vital role, with many opportunities in hospitality and related services. Understanding these sector-specific insights is crucial when considering business expansion or setting up operations in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica's Attractiveness for Global Companies

Costa Rica's robust economic stability, skilled workforce, and favorable business environment have attracted global companies, such as Amazon, which has grown its Costa Rican workforce to tens of thousands in less than two decades. This demonstrates Costa Rica's capacity to offer great value even to top companies worldwide and suggests other global companies may also benefit from establishing operations in the country.

In less than two decades, Amazon has grown its Costa Rican workforce from less than 100 to tens of thousands. This dominance has transformed Costa Rica's labor market, especially in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. While Amazon's presence brings tremendous business opportunities, it also complicates the labor landscape, which some characterize as "saturated". Despite the challenges, Costa Rica's success in accommodating a global giant like Amazon signals the country's potential for offering great value to other multinational corporations.

Public Holidays in Costa Rica in 2024

Date Holiday Name
Monday, January 1st, 2024 New Year's Day (Año Nuevo)
Thursday, March 28th, 2024 Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo)
Friday, March 29th, 2024 Good Friday (Viernes Santo)
Thursday,April 11th, 2024 Juan Santamaria Day
Wednesday, May 1st, 2024 Labour Day
Thursday, July 25th, 2024 Guanacaste Day
Friday, August 2nd, 2024 **Virgin of los Angeles day
Thursday August 15th, 2024 Mothers day
Sunday, September 15th, 2024 Independence day
Sunday, December 1st, 2024 **Military abolition day
Wednesday, December 25th, 2024 Christmas Day (Navidad)

**These two holidays are non-paid legal holidays, and the rest are mandatory paid holidays

In conclusion, hiring in Costa Rica offers numerous benefits for businesses looking to expand their operations or tap into a highly educated, skilled, and English-speaking labor force. Costa Rica's stability, both political and economic, coupled with its strong focus on education and healthcare, creates a favorable environment for foreign investments.

The country's legal and regulatory framework, while comprehensive, is designed to protect both employers and employees, ensuring a fair and balanced workplace. From clear guidelines on employment contracts and work hours to stipulated minimum wages and social security contributions, these rules help create a transparent and compliant business environment.

BetterWay Devs specializes in connecting North American companies with the exceptional IT talent in Latin America, including Costa Rica. Our comprehensive services simplify the recruitment process and ensure a smooth hiring experience.

Furthermore, we offer a legal framework for companies to hire software developers in Costa Rica, empowering businesses to leverage the dynamic IT labor market in Latin America seamlessly and confidently.  Contact us for more details.

Paula Tellez

BetterWay Devs Inbound Marketing Manager


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