In Costa Rica hiring the services of a housekeeper or maid known locally as “servicios domesticos” hence the term domestic worker, requires an understanding of the labor laws which protect the rights of domestic worker’s. In this article I recap all the provisions provided by the Ministry of Labor that needs to be considered when engaging the services of a housekeeper.
WHAT IS A DOMESTIC WORKER?
The Costa Rican Ministry of Labor has defined a domestic worker as an employee provides assistance and well-being to a family or person, in a remunerated form; their duties generally include cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing and other tasks typical of home maintenance in a residence or private room and which do not generate a profit for the employer. The domestic worker can also take on tasks related to the care of people in the home when this is agreed upon between the parties and these tasks take place in the home of the employer.
HOW SHOULD DOMESTIC WORKERS BE PAID?
A domestic worker cannot be paid less than the minimum salary established by law. In addition, they will receive accommodation and adequate food where appropriate. The accommodation and food provided are legally considered payments in kind. That amount of percentage of the salary in kind can be agreed between the parties, but when it has not been agreed from the beginning of the contract the law will impute a sum equivalent to 50% of the salary paid. Both regular wages and wages in kind must be taken into account for the calculation of other labor rights, such as: Christmas bonus, vacations, holidays and legal benefits (advance notice and assistance of unemployment).
In the case of domestic employees that are paid by the hour of work, since this is not clearly established in the Minimum Wage Law when working for hours or per day the salary is contractual, that is to be agreed between both parties (employer-worker person). To calculate the minimum wage as a reference you would take the established monthly salary and divide it by 30 days to get the daily wage rate, and then divide that by eight hours to get the hourly wage.
WHAT DEDUCTIONS SHOULD BE MADE FROM THE SALARY OF A DOMESTIC WORKER?
From the salary they receive monthly, they must have their quotas deducted as indicated by law, as follows: 8.17% for Costa Rican Social Security Funds (Health and Disability Insurance, Old Age and Death) and 1% for the Popular and Development Bank.
Even if the employer is hiring the domestic worker by the hour, they have the obligation to register themselves with the CCSS and then report their domestic employer and pay into the social security system. Now domestic workers that work by the hour may have several employers. According to the Caja they have a system of “Multiple Employers” which identifies the employee and adds up the multiple contributions from different sources. For more information about insuring a domestic worker that works by hours the CCSS (Caja) has set up this portal with a video tutorial and documental information in Spanish. Trabajadora Domestica – YoEstoySeguro
WHAT LABOR RIGHTS DO DOMESTIC WORKERS?
All domestic workers, even if they work by the hour or by the day, have the right to vacation pay, Christmas bonus, vacations, weekly breaks, overtime, social security and worker’s compensation insurance as well as advance notice in the event of dismissal and severance when appropriate. In the case of those who work for day or hour, these rights will be calculated proportionally to the amount of time they work.
WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM WORK SHIFT THAT A DOMESTIC WORKER CAN DO ?
By law the ordinary work day is 8 hours (48 hours per week). However, the law allows them to work up to ten hours a day or up to eight hours on a mixed shift provided that they do not pass 48 hours per week
They are also allowed to work overtime but a maximum four hours per day. These overtime hours cannot be permanent. In any case, overtime must be paid time and a half.
HOW MANY VACATION DAYS ARE DOMESTIC WORKERS ENTITLED?
The domestic worker has the right to fifteen days of paid annual leave.
HOW IS VACATION PAYMENT CALCULATED?
Holiday pay for domestic workers is calculated based on ordinary and extraordinary wages earned
during the fifty weeks prior to the right of enjoyment. The average monthly salary divided by 30 and multiplied by result by 15. If the salary is paid weekly, the salary weekly average is divided by 7 and the result is multiplied by fifteen.
If the employment contract of the domestic worker ends before completing fifty weeks of continuous work, they have the right to be included in the payment of legal benefits, the value equivalent to 1.25 days for each month worked (15 days ÷ 12 months = 1.25).
Example: If it was worked for five months, 6.50 days of proportional vacation (5 months x 1.25 days = 6.25 days), in this case you must pay the value of 6.25 days.
WHEN YOU WORK FOR HOURS DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO VACATIONS?
Yes, Domestic workers who work for days or hours have the same right as if they worked every day, only that the salary they will receive during vacation is different than the one received by people who work full time because their shift is different. For example, if the domestic worker works 2 days during a 15 day period then their vacation will be 15 days however they will be paid during the vacation with the wages equivalent to the 2 days they worked. The average weekly wage is divided by 7 and then the result is multiplied by 15.
HOW IS THE PAYMENT OF OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS CALCULATED?
All domestic workers have the right to enjoy all legal holidays, according to the law. In accordance with the Decree on Minimum Wages, the wages of working people domestic is established per month, even if paid by tracts such as biweekly or weekly. As such they are entitled to receive pay on the official holiday. If they decide to work on the official holiday then they must be paid an extra day for working on that day off. That additional payment is calculated by dividing the monthly salary by 30 days.
DO DOMESTIC WORKERS HAVE AN EMPLOYMENT TRIAL PERIOD?
Yes, the trial period will be three months, this means that during that time the parties (worker or employer) can end the contract without incurring any responsibility.
WHEN ARE DOMESTIC WORKERS ENTITLED TO SEVERANCE PAY?
If at the end of three-month trial period, one of the parties wants to terminate the employment contract, they will have the duty to notify the other with fifteen-day prior notice. After one year of employment they must provide one-month notice. If the Employer does not provide the notice then they will have to pay the employee the amount of notice required.