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Employee Rights and Protections

Explore workers' rights and legal protections in Guatemala


In Guatemala, the termination of employment contracts is strictly governed by the Labor Code (Código de Trabajo) to protect employee rights.

Lawful Grounds for Dismissal

Employers in Guatemala must have a valid, legally justifiable reason to terminate an employee. These reasons can include serious breaches of discipline such as insubordination, repeated negligence, or intoxication on duty. Economic or organizational reasons such as financial difficulties, restructuring, or the elimination of the employee's position, if demonstrably necessary, are also valid. If the employee consistently fails to meet performance standards or lacks the necessary skills after a reasonable period of training or adaptation, this can also be grounds for dismissal. It's important to note that employers often need to seek judicial authorization for certain dismissals, particularly those related to pregnant or nursing employees or workers involved in union formation activities.

Notice Requirements

The required notice period for termination in Guatemala depends on the employee's length of service. For less than six weeks of service, one week of notice is required. For six weeks to 12 months of service, 10 days of notice is required. For one to five years of service, two weeks of notice is required. For more than five years of service, one month of notice is required. These are minimum notice periods and may be extended by the employment contract.

Severance Pay

Upon termination (except for dismissal with cause), Guatemalan employees are entitled to severance pay. This is calculated as one month's salary for each year of continuous service, based on the average of the employee's last six months of pay. An additional 30% of the calculated severance amount is due as a supplement, referred to as economic benefits (ventajas económicas).

Key Points to Remember

Individual employment contracts may contain provisions affecting termination, provided they don't violate the minimum guarantees set in the Labor Code. Employers must follow specific procedures when dismissing employees with justifications like economic reasons, requiring careful documentation.


Guatemala's legal framework is designed to combat discrimination based on various protected characteristics. These include race and ethnicity, sex and gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, and other characteristics such as marital status, pregnancy, health status, political opinion, and socioeconomic status.

Protected Characteristics

Guatemala's Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national or ethnic origin. Discrimination based on sex and gender identity is also prohibited, as is discrimination against persons with disabilities. Age-based discrimination is addressed in labor laws and the Law for the Protection of Older Persons. While no specific law directly addresses sexual orientation discrimination, constitutional principles of equality and dignity offer some protection. Additional protections exist regarding discrimination based on marital status, pregnancy, health status, political opinion, and socioeconomic status.

Redress Mechanisms

Victims of discrimination in Guatemala have several avenues to seek justice. They can lodge complaints to the Human Rights Ombudsman, who investigates discrimination complaints and offers conciliation services. Employees can also file discrimination complaints with the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. Furthermore, individuals may file civil or criminal lawsuits based on Guatemala's anti-discrimination laws.

Employer Responsibilities

Guatemalan employers hold significant responsibilities in preventing and addressing workplace discrimination. Companies should establish clear policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment, outlining complaint procedures. Employers must educate employees about anti-discrimination laws, recognizing discrimination, and fostering an inclusive workplace. They must also take all discrimination complaints seriously, conducting prompt and impartial investigations. Where discrimination is found, employers must take appropriate disciplinary actions and measures to prevent recurrence.

Working conditions

In Guatemala, labor laws have been established to outline the rights of workers and the obligations of employers in relation to working conditions. These laws cover aspects such as work hours, rest periods, and to a certain extent, ergonomic considerations.

Work Hours

Guatemalan law stipulates a standard workweek of 44 hours, with a maximum of 8 hours per day. This applies to both daytime and mixed-time schedules. Night work, which is defined as work between 6 pm and 6 am, has slightly different regulations. The maximum allowable workweek for night shifts is 36 hours, with a maximum of 6 hours per day. Overtime work is permitted up to a maximum of 10 hours per week. Employees must be compensated for overtime work at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly wage.

Rest Periods

Guatemalan labor law mandates a minimum rest period of 12 hours between workdays. Workers are entitled to one paid day of rest after each workweek. Employees also accrue paid vacation leave, typically amounting to 15 working days per year.

Ergonomic Requirements

Although Guatemala's labor code does not explicitly mention ergonomic requirements, it does address workplace safety and health in a general sense. This implies that employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment, which could be interpreted as including ergonomic considerations to some degree.

Health and safety

Guatemala prioritizes worker well-being through a framework of health and safety regulations. These regulations outline employer obligations, employee rights, and the role of enforcement agencies in safeguarding a safe work environment.

Employer Obligations

Guatemalan law places significant responsibility on employers to ensure workplace health and safety. Key obligations include:

  • Risk Prevention: Employers must proactively identify and mitigate potential hazards in the workplace. This includes conducting risk assessments and implementing control measures to minimize the likelihood of accidents and occupational illnesses.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Plans: Every employer is required to develop and maintain a comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Plan (OHSP). This plan should detail risk assessments, prevention strategies, emergency protocols, and worker training programs.
  • Provision of Safe Work Equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employers are obligated to furnish workers with the necessary tools and equipment to perform their jobs safely. This includes providing appropriate PPE, such as respirators, gloves, or safety glasses, depending on the specific work environment.
  • Worker Training: Employers must provide workers with adequate training on health and safety procedures relevant to their specific roles. This training should equip workers with the knowledge and skills to identify hazards, use PPE effectively, and follow safe work practices.

Employee Rights

Guatemalan workers enjoy a range of rights concerning workplace health and safety:

  • Right to a Safe Workplace: Employees have the fundamental right to work in an environment free from foreseeable risks to their health and safety.
  • Right to Information and Training: Workers have the right to be informed of potential hazards in their workplace and to receive proper training on health and safety protocols.
  • Right to Refuse Unsafe Work: Employees have the right to refuse work they believe to be unsafe or unhealthy, without fear of retribution.

Enforcement Agencies

The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, through its Department of Social Welfare, Health, and Occupational Safety, is the primary agency responsible for enforcing health and safety regulations in Guatemala. This department conducts workplace inspections, investigates complaints, and imposes sanctions on employers found to be non-compliant.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (CONASSO) is another key player. CONASSO works collaboratively with the Ministry of Labor to develop technical standards and provide guidance on best practices for workplace health and safety.

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