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Working Hours and Overtime Regulations

Understand the laws governing work hours and overtime in Colombia

Standard working hours

In Colombia, regulations on working hours are enforced to ensure employee well-being and fair work practices. The Colombian Labor Code serves as the primary legal reference for these regulations.

The standard workday in Colombia is no more than eight hours. The maximum legal workweek is 48 hours, excluding overtime. This typically translates to a six-day workweek with one rest day.

Employers and employees can negotiate flexible work schedules. These schedules must ensure the 48-hour weekly limit is not exceeded and individual workdays are at least four hours long, with no additional pay premium for exceeding eight hours within the flexible schedule.

A recent change in the law, Law 2101 of 2021, aims to reduce the standard workweek to 42 hours. While the law is still being phased in, it's crucial to stay updated on any revisions to the Colombian Labor Code.

There are exceptions to these regulations. Individuals in managerial or directorial positions, domestic service workers, and those performing discontinuous or intermittent work may not be bound by the 48-hour maximum workweek.

These are the general regulations, and specific industries or company agreements may have variations. Always consult the latest Colombian Labor Code and relevant industry regulations for the most accurate information.


In Colombia, situations sometimes necessitate overtime work. Here's a breakdown of the regulations and compensation for these extra hours:

Overtime Threshold and Approval

  • Any work exceeding eight hours in a day is considered overtime.
  • The total overtime cannot surpass 12 hours per week.
  • Employers generally require employee consent before assigning overtime work, except in urgent situations.

Overtime Pay Rates

  • Employees are entitled to an overtime premium of at least 25% on top of their regular salary for overtime hours worked during weekdays.
  • Higher overtime rates apply in certain situations:
    • Working on a designated rest day or public holiday incurs a 75% premium on top of the regular salary.

Calculating Overtime Pay

  • The "normal wage" used for overtime calculations is the employee's base salary divided by the number of standard working hours in a month.

Important Considerations

  • Even with overtime pay, total working hours (including overtime) should not exceed the legal limits. The current maximum is 48 hours per week, though this is planned to decrease to 42 hours in the coming years.
  • Employees have the right to refuse unreasonable overtime requests, especially if it negatively impacts their health.

By adhering to these regulations and ensuring fair compensation for overtime work, Colombian employers can maintain a balanced approach, respecting employee well-being while fulfilling operational needs.

Rest periods and breaks

Colombian labor law ensures rest periods and breaks throughout the workday to maintain employee well-being and enhance productivity.

Minimum Rest Periods

For a standard eight-hour workday, the Colombian Labor Code mandates a minimum rest period of one hour. For those working more than four hours but less than eight hours daily, the minimum rest period is 30 minutes. These rest periods are not included in the employee's working hours and should be factored into the workday schedule.

Scheduling of Rest Periods

The specific timing of rest periods is not mandated by law. However, employers must ensure these breaks are scheduled at appropriate intervals throughout the workday to prevent fatigue and promote employee well-being.

Best practices for scheduling rest periods include:

  • Spaced Evenly: Breaks should ideally be distributed throughout the workday to avoid exhaustion towards the end of a shift.
  • Employee Preferences: Consider employee preferences when possible, allowing for short breaks in the morning and afternoon.
  • Access to Rest Areas: Employers should provide designated rest areas that are comfortable and conducive to relaxation during breaks.

Additional Rest Periods for Certain Employees

Companies exceeding 50 employees must provide an additional two-hour rest period during the workday for their employees. This extended break can be used for recreational activities or errands.

Night shift and weekend regulations

In Colombia, certain industries necessitate night shifts or weekend work. Here are the regulations that govern these schedules:

Night Shift Work

  • Definition: Night shift typically refers to working hours between 9 pm and 6 am.

  • Shorter Workday: Night shift workers are legally entitled to a shorter workday compared to the standard eight hours. The specific reduction varies depending on collective bargaining agreements or company policies, but it can be around one hour less.

  • Night Shift Premium: Work performed during night hours qualifies for a night shift allowance, on top of the regular salary. The minimum night shift premium is 35% of the employee's normal wage.

Important Considerations:

  • Employee Consent: Employers generally require employee consent before scheduling them for night shifts, except in urgent situations.

  • Health and Safety: Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe work environment for night shift workers, including proper lighting and ergonomic considerations.

Weekend Work

  • Rest Days: Employees are legally entitled to at least one rest day per week, though companies can offer two. In principle, the rest day should fall on a weekend (Saturday or Sunday).

  • Weekend Overtime: Work performed on an employee's designated rest day qualifies as overtime and must be compensated accordingly. The minimum pay rate for weekend overtime is at least 75% of the employee's regular wage.

Additional Considerations:

  • Continuous Shift Workers: There are exceptions for continuous shift workers in specific industries who may work extended hours across weekdays and weekends. However, their schedules must comply with overall maximum working hour limitations and include rest periods within the shift cycle.

  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Companies can explore flexible work arrangements with employee consent, such as compressed workweeks, to minimize the need for weekend work whenever possible.

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