Hire in Colombia: The Employer's Handbook

Table Of Content

As businesses continue to break down geographical barriers, the hunt for top talent is truly a global affair. One destination that's making waves in this global talent pool is Colombia, with a rich reservoir of skilled professionals and a positive environment fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. Ready to dive in? In this guide, we'll navigate the Colombian employment landscape together, covering everything from minimum wage and salary structures to payroll contributions and employee benefits. Our mission? To equip you with the insights you need to hire in Colombia with confidence and ease. Let's embark on this journey, backed by reliable sources and up-to-the-minute information, to ensure your talent acquisition strategy is on point.

The Colombian Talent Pool

Colombia is gaining traction as a hub for tech talent. Industries such as technology, customer service, and digital marketing are leading areas where Colombians secure employment opportunities abroad. The trend is validated by data from Deel, an international hiring and payment services company. Their report highlights the increasing significance of Colombian professionals in the global market. Further, the fluidity of the Colombian labor market is notable. The CEPAL Review provides insights into the dynamics of the Colombian workforce, characterized by resilience and adaptability, leading to positive employment outcomes. Consequently, hiring Colombian employees by foreign companies is becoming increasingly common.

Top Universities in Colombia

We have compiled a list of the top universities in Colombia. These institutions are recognized for their impressive research outputs, non-academic prominence, and influential alumni.

  1. National University of Colombia (Bogota): This prestigious institution is ranked #14 in Latin America and #508 globally. Established in 1867, it has an acceptance rate of 10% and an enrollment of 54,284 students.
  2. University of Antioquia (Medellin): Ranked #28 in Latin America and #789 globally, the University of Antioquia, founded in 1803, maintains an acceptance rate of 10%. It caters to a student population of approximately 39,900.
  3. University of the Andes, Colombia (Bogota): This university, founded in 1949, is ranked #30 in Latin America and #815 globally. It has an acceptance rate of 48%, indicating its approachable nature. The University of Andes has a student population of about 22,000.
  4. Pontifical Javeriana University (Bogota): Established in 1623, this university is ranked #38 in Latin America and #929 globally. It maintains an acceptance rate of 40%, reinforcing its friendly and approachable brand voice. The student population stands at approximately 21,000.
  5. University of the Valley (Cali): This institution, founded in 1945, is ranked #55 in Latin America and #1269 globally. The University of the Valley caters to about 30,000 students.

These institutions, known for their academic rigor and emphasis on innovation, produce a steady stream of highly qualified graduates, making Colombia an attractive destination for foreign companies seeking a skilled and educated workforce.

Understanding Employee vs Contractor Distinctions in Colombia for Optimized Benefits

When hiring in Colombia, distinguishing between an employee and a contractor is critical due to the unique sets of benefits, social security contributions, and tax implications each entails. Misclassification of workers can lead to severe penalties, including substantial fines and potential legal action. Thus, having expert guidance or deep knowledge is critical when managing this task.

Legal Specifications

An employee in Colombia is an individual bound by an employment contract, performing services under an employer's direction. They are entitled to various statutory benefits and protections, including minimum wage, paid time off, and severance pay.

Contrarily, a contractor, or an independent contractor, executes services under a civil contract instead of an employment contract. They possess more freedom concerning their work schedule and methods. However, they do not enjoy the same protections and benefits as employees.

Key Differentiators

  1. Benefits and Protections: Employees enjoy numerous statutory benefits under Colombian labor laws, including paid vacations, sick leave, maternity and paternity leave, and workplace safety provisions. However, contractors, often seen as remote workers, are not entitled to these benefits as they are not classified as employees under Colombian law.
  2. Taxation: For employees, employers are responsible for withholding income tax and making social security contributions. In contrast, contractors handle their taxes and social security contributions independently.
  3. Job Security: Employees are protected from unfair dismissals under Colombian labor laws. If an employer terminates an employment contract without fair cause, they must pay legal severance to the employee. Contractors do not enjoy such job security.
  4. Work Arrangements: Employees typically work fixed hours, adhering to the employer's work schedule. They also use the employer's resources to carry out their tasks. Contractors, especially remote workers, enjoy more flexibility in their work arrangements and usually provide their own tools and resources.
  5. Scope of Work: An employee's tasks and responsibilities are usually outlined in their employment contract or job description. A contractor's scope of work, on the other hand, is defined by the terms of their service agreement.

These differences highlight the importance of correctly classifying employees and contractors. Misclassification can lead to legal issues and penalties. Therefore, it's advisable to seek legal advice or consult with experts for compliance. Learn more about how to choose between contractors and employees by reading this blog post.

Employee Benefits in the Colombian Labor Market

Firstly, we have Social Security Contributions. These contributions apply to both employers and employees and cater to health expenses, pension benefits, and coverage for work-related diseases and accidents. Here's a breakdown:

  • General Health Social Security System: 8.5% (for salaries over $2,900)
  • General Labor Risk System: Rate varies from 0.348% to 8.7%
  • Pension Fund Administrator (AFP): 12%

For employees, these contributions are:

  • General Pension System: 4%
  • General Health Social Security System: 4%
  • General Labor Risks System: ranging from 0.348% to 8.7%

Next on the list are Parafiscal Contributions, paid as a percentage of the salary:

  • Family Compensation Fund (Caja de Compensación Familiar): 4%
  • National Learning Service (SENA): 2% (for salaries over USD 2,900)
  • Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF): 3% (for salaries over USD 2,900)

Lastly, we have the Mandatory Benefits Contribution. Employers must contribute monthly to accrue benefits like yearly extra salary (Prima), PTO, Severance, and Interest to Severance. Here's the breakdown:

The 'Prima' or extra salary accruals are equivalent to 8.33% of the salary. This means that, annually, an employee receives an extra month's salary, divided into two payments, one in June and the other in December. This requirement is not just customary, but is mandated by law.

Similarly, the severance pay monthly contribution is 8.33% of the salary. Severance pay is equivalent to one month's salary for each year of service or a proportional amount for lesser periods.

The severance pay accrual earns an interest of 1% annually. This interest is calculated based on the accumulated severance pay and is paid annually or when the contract ends.

Paid Time Off (PTO) accruals are calculated at 4.17% of the employee's salary. Colombian law mandates a minimum of 15 days of paid vacation annually.

These calculations and contributions are essential to ensure full compliance with local labor laws and to create a supportive and beneficial working environment for employees.

Severance Pay in Colombia

The concept of severance pay plays a crucial role in Colombian labor law. It is determined by the length of an employee's service and their rate of earnings.

Fair and unfair dismissals are two distinct scenarios with different implications for severance pay. In cases of fair dismissal, where the employee has broken established rules or standards, no compensation is due. However, if an employer dismisses an employee without fair cause—known as unfair dismissal—then the employee is entitled to legal severance as per Article 64 of the Colombian Labour Code.

For employees earning less than 10 times the minimum monthly wage, the severance entitlement is 30 days' pay for the first year of employment, and 20 days for each additional year of service. In addition, there's an interest on severance equivalent to 12% of the severance payment per year.

Expanding on key aspects of employment in Colombia

In Colombia, understanding the essentials of hiring employees, including working hours, paid leave, and social security contribution, is vital. Let's delve deeper into these areas:

  • Overtime Work: Working beyond the standard 48-hour work week in Colombia can qualify as overtime, which is subject to specific regulations. It's essential to note that these additional hours require compensation at a higher rate, as specified by Colombian labor laws.
  • Sick Leave and Remote Work: Employees who are temporarily unable to work due to illness are typically entitled to sick leave. The specifics of sick leave, including remote work considerations and the process for reporting sickness, should align with local labor laws and company policies.
  • Vacations or PTO: Full-time employees in Colombia are entitled to benefits, including paid vacation days. The exact number of vacation days may vary, but it's typically around 15 days per year.
  • Maternity Leave: In Colombia, expectant mothers are entitled to a fully paid maternity leave of 18 weeks. This leave can commence two weeks before the expected birth date and continues for the remaining weeks post-birth, ensuring mothers ample time to care for their newborns.
  • Paternity Leave: Fathers are entitled to eight days of fully paid paternity leave, taken immediately after the birth of the child. This provision encourages active participation of fathers in their child's early life.
  • Compassionate Leave: Colombian employment laws grant employees five days of paid compassionate or bereavement leave in the event of the death of a close relative.
  • Unpaid Leave: Unpaid leave may be granted under certain circumstances such as personal emergencies or extended illness, subject to the employer's discretion and company policies.

These regulations are mandated by Colombian labor laws and apply to all full-time employees. However, specifics may vary based on individual contracts and company policies, making it advisable to consult legal experts for precise details.

Termination Policies in Colombia

In Colombia, employment termination must follow certain regulations. A written statement detailing the termination cause is required, except in special cases. Valid reasons, such as employee misconduct, avoid penalties and don't require a notice period. For fixed-term contracts, a 30-day prior written notice is needed, while non-fixed term contracts require a 15-day notice for performance-related termination. Employees can contest the decision within 24 hours of notification. Compliance with these rules is essential for a legal and fair termination process.

Minimum Wage and Cost of Living in Colombia

In Colombia, the monthly minimum wage is COP 1,300,000, equivalent to approximately USD $342. The government annually reviews this figure, taking into account factors such as inflation and GDP growth.

However, the cost of living in Colombia also plays a significant role in understanding the economic situation. According to user-contributed data on Numbeo, a single person's monthly costs without rent average around COP 1,200,000, whereas a four-person family's monthly costs without rent average around COP 4,200,000.

Please note, these costs may differ substantially based on the city of residence. Larger cities like Bogota or Medellin typically have higher living costs compared to smaller cities or rural areas. Despite the minimum wage appearing sufficient, actual affordability can depend on individual lifestyle, spending habits, and location.

Lastly, while the minimum wage is a base figure, many skilled positions, particularly in thriving sectors like technology and digital marketing, offer salaries significantly above the minimum wage. This is especially true for bilingual professionals or those proficient in English.

Public Holidays in Colombia for the Year 2024

Date Holiday Name
Monday, January 1st, 2024 New Year's Day (Año Nuevo)
Monday, January 8th, 2024 Epiphany (Día de los Reyes Magos)
Monday, March 25th, 2024 Saint Joseph's Day (Día de San José)
Thursday, March 28th, 2024 Maundy Thursday (Jueves Santo)
Friday, March 29th, 2024 Good Friday (Viernes Santo)
Wednesday, May 1st, 2024 Labor Day (Día del Trabajador)
Monday, May 13th, 2024 Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christv
Monday, June 3rd, 2024 Feast of Corpus Christi 
Monday, June 10th, 2024 Sacred Heart (Sagrado Corazón) 
Monday, July 1st, 2024 Saint Peter and Saint Paul (San Pedro y san Pablo) 
Saturday, July 20th, 2024 Declaration of Independence 
Wednesday, August 7th, 2024 Battle of Boyacá Day
Monday, August 19th, 2024 Assumption of Mary (Asunción)
Monday, October 14th, 2024 Columbus Day (Día de la Raza)
Monday, November 4th, 2024 All Saints' Day (Fiesta de Todos los Santos)
Monday, November 11th, 2024 Independence of Cartagena (Independencia de Cartagena)
Sunday, December 8th, 2024 Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Inmaculada Concepción)
Wednesday, December 25th, 2024 Christmas Day (Navidad)

In conclusion, hiring employees in Colombia involves understanding a multifaceted landscape of labor laws, payroll contributions, and employee benefits.

While the labor laws might seem complex, they provide a robust framework ensuring the rights of both employers and employees. As a foreign company, understanding these nuances is key to successful operations in Colombia.

At BetterWay Devs, we have a deep understanding of these nuances. We specialize in connecting you with the most talented software developers in Colombia, ensuring a smooth hiring process while ensuring compliance with local labor regulations.

If you're looking to expand your team with skilled Colombian professionals, don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Paula Tellez

BetterWay Devs Inbound Marketing Manager


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