Life at Home: Maid Service in Costa Rica
For expats coming to Costa Rica, having part-time or full-time help at home is often a pleasant surprise as the cost is significantly less than in their home country. That being said, it is of
For expats coming to Costa Rica, having part-time or full-time help at home is often a pleasant surprise as the cost is significantly less than in their home country. That being said, it is of critical importance that before hiring a domestic worker, you educate yourself on the responsibilities that come with hiring such a role in your home.
Paid domestic work or maid service is the assistance and care provided to a family or person in exchange for a salary. The work mostly consists of cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing, and other tasks of a home, residence or private room, which do not generate profit for the employers. Also they can assume tasks related to the care of people, when this is agreed to between the parties and these are developed in the home of the person served.
In Costa Rica, this type of work has its own chapter within the Labor Code and has certain specificities.
Also, according to the Labor Code, the conditions of this type of work and the agreed upon tasks to be performed, regardless of the working day, must be stipulated in a written contract. Unlike other positions in the Costa Rican Labor Code, a domestic worker one may not have an oral contract.
As with any other job in Costa Rica, domestic workers may have a trial period of three months, during which, without liability, both parties may terminate the employment relationship.
However, within eight working days from the beginning of the work, employers are obliged to guarantee the social security of the worker and must register them in the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social or CAJA).
Some requirements that only apply to this type of work are:
a) They shall receive the salary in cash, which must correspond, at least, to the minimum wage of law corresponding to the category established by the National Wage Council. The minimum wage of law is established every year by the National Wage Council of Costa Rica, and each year they decide on a new minimum salary based on the cost of living in the country.
In addition, a portion of the salary can also be “in kind” if it is agreed to between the parties. The worker would receive adequate room and board, which would be considered a salary “in kind” for legal purposes. This must be expressly stipulated in the employment contract. Under no circumstances shall the salary “in kind”, be part of the minimum wage.
In other words, they may have a salary “in kind” and this is what the worker or their family will receive in food, room, clothing, and other items for their immediate personal consumption but it can’t be equal to 100% of the salary, just a percentage.
b) The domestic worker shall be subject to a working day of a maximum of eight hours during the day and six hours during the night, with a working week of forty-eight hours during the day and thirty-six hours during the night. However, the worker and the employee can agree to ten hours a day for an ordinary daytime and for a mixed workday it can be agreed to eight hours a day but it can’t exceed forty-eight hours a week.
In all cases, they shall be entitled to at least one hour’s rest within the effective working time. In the case of working days of less than eight hours a day, but more than three hours a day, the right to rest shall be proportional to these days. The employee and the domestic worker can agree on overtime up to four hours a day, however if the working hours and the overtime, exceeds twelve hours a day, it can’t be approved. This type of agreement must be remunerated according to the law. The agreed overtime may not be permanent.
c) Without any reduction in salary, domestic workers shall enjoy one day of rest per week, which shall be fixed by mutual agreement between the parties. At least twice a month, this rest shall be on Sunday.
d) They shall be entitled to fifteen days of paid annual leave, or a pro-rated amount of days if the contract terminates before fifty weeks. This would depend on the date of the termination.
The right to paid pay and the enjoyment of holidays and vacations shall be calculated based on what the Labor Code regulates.
e) In case of temporary incapacity due to illness, occupational risk, or other cause, domestic workers shall be entitled to the benefits in the Labor Code, such as getting paid their salary during the incapacity. However, if the illness is due to a contagious disease such as Covid-19 and it was caused by the people living in the house, they shall be entitled to receive a full salary for up to three months in case of incapacity and be covered for reasonable expenses generated by the illness.
Regarding the rights of domestic workers -all of them- even if they work by the hour or by the day, are entitled to:
Bonus pay, also known as Aguinaldo. In Costa Rica, Aguinaldo entails that each employee at the end of the year, during the first twenty days of December, receives an additional salary equal to one month (or pro rated if the worker has been employed for less than 50 weeks) for the work done.
Weekly rest days
Social security (CCSS or CAJA)
Occupational hazard insurance
Payment of notice and severance, if applicable.
As we can see, domestic work is very similar to any other job. However, due to its particularities, the Labor Code gives it its own chapter for regulation. In addition, this a population that suffers many situations in which employers do not comply with their obligations and, in the end, they do not get what is meant to be given to them by law.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure you abide by the Labor Law for this specific kind of work. We know of countless stories with our clients where help was hired, but no contract was signed, no CAJA was applied for, and months or even years after hiring someone, the employer got in trouble with CCSS or with the Ministry of Labor, some resulting in lawsuits from their employees requesting monetary compensation.
We are glad to help you with your labor-related inquiries and provide you with contracts, calculations, and advice on ensuring your interests are taken care of. By taking the time to set it up right the first time, you will have a clear working relationship with your employees with no surprises for you or them. As always, we are here to help.