Hiring a Maid (Domestic Employee) in Costa Rica
A Summary of Chapter VIII of the Costa Rican Labor Code
The Costa Rican Labor Code has a specific provision that covers “Domestic Employees”. This is found in Chapter VIII Articles 101- 108 of the Labor Code.
Article 101 of the Labor Code defines a Domestic Employee as “Those persons that in a habitual and continuous manner engage in the labor of cleaning, cooking, assistance of all tasks related to the personal upkeep of a home, residence or private domicile which do not represent a business for their employers”
Article 102 deals with the probationary employment period for a Domestic Employee. The law states that : “ … the first 30 [Thirty days] are considered as a probationary period and either party may terminate the employment relationship without prior notice and without severance responsibility “ during this period.
After 30 days of employment either party must provide 2 weeks termination notice of their intent to terminate the employment relationship; this term is referred locally as “preaviso”. In lieu of the required notice the employer may terminate and compensate the Domestic Employee with those 2 weeks of pay. The notice requirement increase the longer the employee works for you. After one year of employment the employer must give one month  notice prior to termination.
During this termination notice period (Preaviso) the employee is only obligated to work half a day so that they can use the balance of the day to seek alternative employment.
Article 103. Stipulates that prior to formalizing the employment relationship the employer has the right to request that the Domestic Employee provide the employer with a certificate of “good health” issued by the Ministry of Health. The law provides that these certificates shall be issued to the Domestic Employee free of charge.
Article 104. Domestic Employees and their Employers must abide by the following dispositions:
“They are required to carry out their job to the best of their abilities and effort following the guidelines established by the employer. They are further obliged to be discreet about the family life of the employer. “
The Employer must pay the Domestic Employee in cash and the salary may never be the minimum established by law.
In addition to their salary the Domestic Employment is entitled to Room and Board (unless agreed otherwise). The Room and Board will be considered as a payment in kind (pago en especies) of an additional 50% of the salary paid for all legal effects under the labor code.
Note: The Minimum Wage in Costa Rica is established every six months by the Ministry of Labor and published in the National newspaper, La Gaceta. Nevertheless the actual market wage for Domestic Employees among the expat community in the capital city of San Jose ranges from $225 to $400 per month depending on the experience.
Working Hours. The Domestic Employee is obligated to work no more than twelve hours  per day which must include a one hour break.
Days Off. The employee is entitled to half a day off during any day of the week that the employer deems convenient. At least twice a month those days off must be on a Sunday.
Holidays. On legal holidays Domestic Employees are entitled to half a day off. If they work the holiday the Employer must compensate them by paying them time and half.
Vacations. The Domestic Employee has the right to 2 weeks of vacation per year. If the Domestic Employee is terminated before their first year of employment the vacation must be compensated proportionally to the time worked.
Employees under the age of fifteen years of age must be allowed to attend school.
Incapacity of Illness. In the event the Domestic Employee becomes ill or incapacitated they have the right to their salary according to the following guidelines which are established in Article 79 of the Labor Code:
-If the Employee has worked at least 3 months but less than 6 months they are entitled to a half month (1/2) salary for a period of one month.
-If they have worked for more than 6 months but less than nine months they are entitled to a half month (1/2) salary for a period of two months.
If they have worked for more than nine months (9) they are entitled to half a month (1/2) salary for a period of three months.
Once the employee has recovered from the illness or incapacity they are entitled to have their full time employment re-instated by the Employer.
Article 105. Contagious Diseases. In the event of a contagious disease as specified by the Health Code if either the Domestic employee of their employer are at risk of contamination they may suspend the employment contract during the time that the disease is present.
Article 106. The Domestic employee has the obligation of acting respectfully and cordially to those persons they come in contact with due to the nature of their employment. A gross violation of these duties entitles the Employer to terminate the Domestic employee without severance obligations.
Article 107. Termination of Employment. If the Employee is terminated without cause or resigns due to violations attributable to the Employer or due to the death of the Employee they or their heir in the case of death are entitled to severance payments as established in Article 29 of the Labor Code.
Article 29 of the Labor Code establishes the severance for employees as follows:
If the employee has worked with the employer for more than three (3) months but less than six (6) months then they are entitled to the equivalent of seven (7) days wages.
If the employee has worked from six (6) months to one (1) year they are entitled to fourteen (14) days of wages
If the employee has worked for more than one year then the following schedule applies for each year worked up to a maximum of eight years
No. of Years Worked Days of Severance
13 or more 20
In addition to the provisions of the Labor Code regarding Domestic employees it is also the obligation of the Employer to register the Domestic employee with the Social Security Administration (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social) and have a valid Workers Compensation Policy with the National Insurance Institute (I.N.S.)
This is an article published by Roger A. Petersen and its content is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without the express and written consent of the author