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Employee Rights and Protections

Explore workers' rights and legal protections in Colombia


In Colombia, labor regulations provide flexibility in terminating an employment relationship.

Types of Termination

There are two main types of termination:

  1. Termination with Just Cause: This occurs when an employer terminates an employment contract due to specific employee actions that violate company policy, the law, or constitute severe misconduct. Examples include serious disciplinary offenses, repeated failures or poor performance, criminal behavior connected to employment, and unapproved absences.

  2. Termination without Just Cause: In this case, the employer may terminate the contract without a specific reason or fault on the part of the worker. This is the most common form of termination in Colombia.

Notice Requirements

The notice requirements vary depending on the type of termination:

  1. Termination with Just Cause: While no formal notice period is usually mandated, some circumstances may require 15 days of notice. These include the existence of a complaint against the employee before relevant authorities or cases involving potential criminal charges related to the employment.

  2. Termination without Just Cause: There's no stipulated notice period in general.

  3. Fixed-Term Contracts: For contracts with a set termination date, employers must provide 30 days' notice if opting not to renew.

Severance Pay

The severance pay also depends on the type of termination:

  1. Termination without Just Cause: Employees are entitled to severance pay calculated based on their length of service and salary.

  2. Termination with Just Cause: Generally, no severance pay is due to the employee.

Additional Considerations

There are also some additional considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Special Protections: Certain worker categories, such as pregnant women and union members, enjoy enhanced job protection and may require additional permissions for termination.

  2. Labor Disputes: Employees can challenge a termination they consider unfair before a labor court.

For more detailed information, refer to the Colombian Labor Code and the Ministry of Labor of Colombia.


Colombia has a comprehensive legal framework that safeguards individuals from discrimination. This framework is based on key principles such as the Colombian Political Constitution, Law 1010 of 2006, and Constitutional Court Decisions. The constitution recognizes the right to equal treatment and explicitly prohibits discrimination based on various protected characteristics. Law 1010 of 2006 addresses workplace harassment, including discrimination. The Constitutional Court has further extended protections through its interpretations of the law, providing special protection to certain groups.

Protected Characteristics

Colombian anti-discrimination laws cover a wide range of protected characteristics. These include race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, political opinions, disability, age, health status (including HIV/AIDS), pregnancy, family or marital status, and union membership status.

Redress Mechanisms

Victims of discrimination in Colombia have several avenues to seek redress. These include internal company procedures, the Ministry of Labor, the Ombudsman's Office (Defensoría del Pueblo), and the courts. Many employers have internal complaint mechanisms for addressing discrimination. Individuals can also file complaints with the Ministry of Labor, which has the authority to investigate and sanction employers for discriminatory practices. The Ombudsman's Office provides legal assistance and mediation services to victims of discrimination. Additionally, individuals can file civil or criminal lawsuits against those responsible for discrimination.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers in Colombia have a legal obligation to prevent and address discrimination in the workplace. This includes creating a discrimination-free workplace, conducting training, investigating complaints, and providing reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities or specific needs based on religion or beliefs.

Specific Provisions

In addition to the general principles, specific laws provide extra protection for certain groups. Law 1482 of 2011 penalizes acts of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, political or ideological orientation, or sexual orientation. Law 1751 of 2015 guarantees the rights of people with disabilities to equality and non-discrimination.

Working conditions

In Colombia, labor laws have been established to ensure fair treatment and well-being for employees. These laws include regulations on work hours, rest periods, and ergonomic requirements in the workplace.

Working Hours and Overtime

The Colombian labor code establishes a maximum workweek of 48 hours, typically divided into eight-hour days over six days. Sundays are mandated as rest days; however, employees can negotiate alternative days off if their work requires a different schedule. Working beyond the standard hours qualifies as overtime and comes with additional compensation. Overtime pay is typically 25% above the regular salary for exceeding 47 hours a week and increases to 75% for working overtime on Sundays, public holidays, or night hours (between 9 pm and 6 am).

Rest Periods

Colombian labor law mandates rest breaks during the workday. The specific duration depends on the total working hours:

  • For a workday exceeding 4 hours but less than 6 hours, a 30-minute break is required.
  • For a workday exceeding 6 hours, a one-hour break is mandated.

Ergonomic Requirements

While Colombia does not have a specific law dedicated solely to ergonomics, general workplace safety regulations encompass ergonomic principles. Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe work environment that minimizes the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. This can involve ensuring proper workstation setup, including chairs and desks that adjust to individual needs, and offering training on proper posture and techniques to reduce physical strain.

Health and safety

Colombia has a comprehensive framework for health and safety in the workplace. This includes employer obligations, employee rights, and the enforcement bodies responsible for upholding these standards.

Employer Obligations

Colombian law mandates employers to prioritize the health and safety of their workforce. This responsibility is enshrined in Law No. 9 of 1979, which establishes the foundation for health and safety measures, further elaborated upon by Decree No. 614 of 1984 on occupational health management. Here's a breakdown of some key employer obligations:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS): Resolution 0312 of 2019 dictates the implementation of an OHSMS. This system outlines procedures for preventing work-related injuries and illnesses, with the specific requirements varying based on company size and risk category.

  • Risk Assessment and Mitigation: Employers must identify and assess potential hazards within the workplace. This assessment should inform the implementation of control measures to minimize risk.

  • Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employers are responsible for supplying adequate PPE to safeguard workers from identified hazards. This could include items like helmets, gloves, respirators, or safety glasses.

  • Safe Work Environment: Employers hold the duty to maintain a safe work environment. This encompasses aspects like proper ventilation, illumination, and ergonomic considerations to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.

  • Training and Awareness Programs: Employees must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to work safely. Employers are obligated to provide training programs on health and safety risks specific to their workplaces.

  • Record Keeping: Colombian regulations mandate the maintenance of records pertaining to occupational accidents, illnesses, and safety performance indicators.

Employee Rights

Employees in Colombia possess well-defined rights regarding health and safety in the workplace. These rights empower them to participate actively in creating a safe work environment. Key employee rights include:

  • Right to a Safe Work Environment: Employees have the fundamental right to work in an environment free from foreseeable risks to their health and safety.

  • Right to Information and Training: Employees are entitled to receive comprehensive information and training on health and safety hazards, control measures, and safe work practices specific to their roles.

  • Right to Refuse Unsafe Work: Employees have the right to refuse work they deem unsafe due to imminent risk. This right is subject to following established procedures for reporting such concerns.

  • Participation in Health and Safety Committees: In workplaces with 10 or more employees, Colombian law mandates the formation of a joint health and safety committee. This committee provides a platform for employee participation in identifying and addressing safety concerns.

Enforcement Agencies

The Colombian government has designated several entities to oversee workplace health and safety regulations. These agencies work collaboratively to ensure compliance and investigate potential violations. The key enforcement body is the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, which is primarily responsible for enforcing occupational health and safety regulations. They conduct inspections, investigate accidents, and impose sanctions for non-compliance.

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