If you’re considering hiring workers in Costa Rica or already have a workforce there, it’s crucial to understand the proper procedures and legalities. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the essential steps to ensure a fair employment process that protects both you as the employer and your workers. Following these guidelines establishes a solid foundation for a successful working relationship in compliance with Costa Rican labor laws.

The Importance of Written Contracts when Hiring Workers in Costa Rica:

  1. The Significance of Written Labor Contracts
  2. Applicability of Labor Contracts

Written labor contracts are the foundation of a secure employer-employee relationship in Costa Rica. Whether it’s a full-time, part-time, or contract-based position, a written agreement is essential to establish the rights and obligations of both parties. The Costa Rican Labor Law strongly emphasizes safeguarding workers’ rights, making it crucial for employers also to ensure legal protection for themselves.

The Components of a Labor Contract

  1. Essential Elements of a Labor Contract
  2. Contracts Exemptions and Oral Agreements

A labor contract in Costa Rica must contain specific details and meet certain requirements. Let’s explore the key components that should be included:

  • Names, nationality, age, gender, civil status, ID number, and exact legal domicile of both parties.
  • Term of the contract.
  • Working hours and overtime agreements.
  • Clear job description, duties, responsibilities, and tasks.
  • Compensation and conditions of employment.
  • Precise legal address of the workplace.
  • Cantón, Distrito, and date of signature.
  • Signatures of both parties.

It’s important to note that oral contracts are only permitted in two instances: agricultural or livestock work and temporary work that does not exceed 90 days. However, a written labor contract is mandatory if the intended employment falls outside these exemptions.

Role of the Ministry of Labor

  1. Ministry of Labor’s Oversight
  2. Minimum Wage Requirements

The Ministry of Labor (MTSS) regulates the employee-employer relationship and sets minimum wages nationwide. To stay updated on the current minimum wage requirements, please refer to the official link: [insert link].

Ensuring Mandatory Obligations

  1. Employer’s Mandatory Obligations
  2. Non-Negotiable Points

As an employer in Costa Rica, you have certain mandatory obligations towards your employees. These obligations must be fulfilled, regardless of whether the employment agreement is verbal or written. Let’s explore the non-negotiable points you must adhere to:

  • Wages: Ensuring fair and timely payment.
  • Social Security: Complying with CCSS “CAJA” requirements for payroll.
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance: Providing insurance coverage through the National Insurance Institute “INS.”
  • Working Hours: Adhering to legal limits and regulations.
  • Vacation and Holidays: Granting appropriate time off.
  • Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, and Breastfeeding Accommodation: Respecting Employees’ rights about family-related matters.
  • Right of Notice of Termination: Informing employees in advance about the termination of their employment.
  • Severance Payment: Fulfilling the obligation of “Cesantía.”
  • Christmas Bonus: Providing the legally required “Aguinaldo.”
  • Overtime: Managing and compensating overtime work as per the law.

It’s crucial to understand that the absence of an employment contract does not exempt you from fulfilling these obligations. Whether the agreement is oral or written, compliance is mandatory.

Termination of Contracts

  1. Termination Procedures and Case-specific Rules

The process of terminating employment contracts in Costa Rica depends on various factors, including the type of contract, the nature of the relationship, and the specific circumstances of each case. Understanding the rules and procedures is essential to ensure a fair and legal termination process.

Benefits of a Labor Contract

  1. Establishing a Strong Working Relationship
  2. Protection and Security for Both Parties

A labor contract is fundamental for establishing a strong and mutually beneficial working relationship. It provides numerous benefits, such as:

  • Clear guidelines: A contract outlines the rights, responsibilities, and expectations of the employer and the employee, ensuring clarity and minimizing misunderstandings.
  • Protection: A written agreement protects both parties from potential legal disputes and can refer to the contract in case of conflicts.
  • Stability: A contract provides peace and security to employees, as they have a document that guarantees their rights and obligations.
  • Confidentiality: Confidentiality clauses in contracts help protect sensitive company information and trade secrets.
  • Credibility: A formal contract enhances the employer’s credibility and demonstrates professionalism.

Additional Resources

  1. Sample Contract from the Ministry of Labor
  2. Seeking Professional Assistance

The Ministry of Labor offers a sample “boilerplate” contract that can serve as a starting point for drafting your employment agreements. You can request this sample in person. Additionally, seeking professional guidance from legal experts or HR consultants is advisable to ensure compliance with all labor laws and regulations.


Hiring workers in Costa Rica involves understanding and complying with the country’s labor laws. Establishing written labor contracts is paramount to protect employers and employees. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can ensure a legitimate hiring process and build a solid foundation for a successful working relationship in Costa Rica. Remember to stay updated on the latest labor regulations and seek professional assistance.

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]

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Frequently Asked Questions


How much does an employer cost in Costa Rica?

The cost of employing workers in Costa Rica includes various factors such as wages, social security contributions, worker’s compensation insurance, and other mandatory benefits. The exact cost may vary depending on the work’s nature and the labor contract’s requirements.

What are the employment laws in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has comprehensive labor laws governing various employer-employee relationship aspects. These laws cover employment contracts, working hours, minimum wage, overtime, vacation and holidays, termination of employment, and employee benefits. Employers need to familiarize themselves with these laws to ensure compliance.

What is the average salary in Costa Rica?

The average salary in Costa Rica can vary depending on the industry, job position, qualifications, and experience. It is advisable to research salary ranges specific to your field to understand the average compensation better.

What is the minimum wage in Costa Rica?

The minimum wage in Costa Rica is determined annually by the Ministry of Labor. It varies based on different sectors and regions within the country. Employers must stay updated on the current minimum wage rates to ensure compliance with the law.

Can you live in Costa Rica for $5000 a month?

The cost of living in Costa Rica can vary depending on personal preferences and lifestyle choices. While $5000 a month can provide a comfortable living for many individuals, it is advisable to consider factors such as housing, transportation, healthcare, and other expenses to determine the feasibility of this budget.

Can I live on $1,500 a month in Costa Rica?

Living on $1,500 a month in Costa Rica is possible, but it may require careful budgeting and prioritizing expenses. Considering factors such as accommodation, utilities, transportation, food, healthcare, and other personal needs is essential when determining if this budget is sufficient for your lifestyle.

What are the employee benefits in Costa Rica?

Employee benefits in Costa Rica typically include social security contributions, worker’s compensation insurance, paid vacation and holidays, maternity and paternity leave, and severance payments. These benefits are mandated by law and vary based on the length of employment and other factors.

Does Costa Rica pay overtime?

Yes, Costa Rican labor laws mandate that employees are entitled to overtime pay for working beyond regular hours. The specific overtime pay rate is generally higher than the standard hourly wage and varies based on the number of extra hours worked.

How long is a workday in Costa Rica?

The standard workday in Costa Rica is typically eight hours, totaling 48 hours per week. However, variations may vary depending on the industry, job position, and specific labor agreements.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Costa Rica?

The amount of money required to live comfortably in Costa Rica varies depending on individual preferences and lifestyle choices. Housing, transportation, healthcare, and leisure activities should be considered when determining the budget for a comfortable living.

What is the payroll tax in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has a social security contribution system known as “CAJA.” Both employers and employees must contribute a percentage of the employee’s salary to the social security fund. The specific rate varies based on income brackets and other factors.

How much do you tip in Costa Rica?

Tipping practices in Costa Rica are less common than in other countries. However, it is customary to leave a 10% tip at restaurants if a service charge is not included in the bill. Tipping for additional services, such as taxi rides or hotel staff, is discretionary and usually not expected but appreciated if the service is exceptional.

What is Article 81 of the Labor Code Costa Rica?

Article 81 of the Labor Code in Costa Rica pertains to the regulation of night work. It establishes the conditions and rights of employees who work during nighttime hours, including provisions for additional compensation, minimum rest periods, and health and safety considerations.

What is the night shift in Costa Rica?

The night shift in Costa Rica typically refers to work between specific hours, usually from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Employees working during this period are entitled to certain benefits and considerations outlined in Article 81 of the Labor Code.

How much do resort workers make in Costa Rica?

The wages for resort workers in Costa Rica can vary depending on factors such as the specific job position, level of experience, and location of the resort. It is advisable to research industry-specific salary ranges to understand the compensation for resort workers better.


Please note that the information provided is a general guideline, and it is recommended to consult with relevant authorities, labor experts, or legal professionals for specific and up-to-date information regarding employment and labor laws in Costa Rica.


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