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Having your doubts about what to do when hiring a maid or a caretaker in Costa Rica? Imagine never having to clean your house yourself again! Or doing the laundry and ironing shirts and pants when you have a day off. Stop worrying about cleaning the windows, doing the yard, and cleaning your pool.
Because after moving to your new home, you can probably afford to have a maid, a housekeeper, a gardener, or a caretaker. Hiring a household staff is much cheaper here than in many other countries.
The cost of living in Costa Rica has increased quite a bit lately. But hiring a maid, gardener, or caretaker is still very affordable. Being able to afford a full-time maid or housekeeper to take care of your home is one of the main attractions of living in Costa Rica. While in New York, you will pay $25 an hour for a cleaning lady, in Costa Rica, the cost of hiring a maid is ¢2,700/hour (depending on the exchange rate – ¢2,700 : ¢535 = $5.
Those who hire household employees also have some responsibilities. If you have ever been an employee, I am sure you wanted to be treated right by your employer. Now it is your turn to be an employer and obey the labor laws of Costa Rica. Let me summarize some issues that you will find important when hiring a maid, a gardener, or a caretaker.
The minimum wages (this list is always up to date) are set by the Costa Rican Government twice a year. Note that these are minimum wages, so you can pay more if you want to. Many online articles say you can get a maid in Costa Rica for under $200/month. Yes, you can, but it depends on how many hours she will work. So, be aware of your obligations when paying salaries.
The minimum wage in 2023 for hiring a maid or “empleada domestica” is ¢236.655,44/month. This is more or less $442/month. (at an exchange rate of ¢535).
The daily minimum wage for a gardener or “ peón de jardin” is ¢11.738,83 ($21,94). Gardeners who do your garden once a month, and bring their own tools, charge $60/day. These charges also depend on where you live, urban vs. rural vs. beach.
Every untrained worker, like a caretaker or full-time gardener, is ¢352,164.91/month, more or less $658.25/month.
How to calculate the hourly wages
To calculate the salary per hour, you take the total monthly wages, divide it by 30 days, and then by 8 hours.
Residency and working permit
If your employees are Ticos, you don’t have to worry about hiring illegals. But most domestic workers here are Nicaraguans. Therefore, you need to be sure the worker has legal residency and is allowed to work. If they are illegal, and the government catches you, you get fined for hiring an illegal worker with 2 basic salaries and up to 12 basic salaries.
Social Security and health insurance
No matter if your employee has legal residency or not, by law, you are obliged to have them insured by the C.C.S.S. ( Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social ). The employer has to pay 24.34% on top of the salary to the C.C.S.S. Then the employer should deduct 9.67% from the employee’s salary.
This will supply the domestic worker with full medical insurance and pension.
A new employee is always on probation period for 3 months and during this time the employee, as well as the employer, can terminate the contract at any time.
Domestic Worker’s rights
All Domestic workers have the right to the following:
- Vacation days
- 13th Month (Aguinaldo)
- Workers’ comp (pre-aviso)
- Those who work per day or per hour get everything paid proportionately to their work hours.
The legal working hours are a maximum of eight hours a day, forty-eight per week, or six hours a night, completing thirty-six hours weekly.
However, the law allows for work up to ten hours in the day or up to eight hours on mixed days during the week as long as you do not exceed forty-eight hours.
Overtime should be paid 1.5 times or double, depending on the day.
Live-in maids or caretakers are supplied with food and accommodation. If a live-in worker receives food and accommodation, this has a value of 50% of the salary. In the case of paying the worker’s comp, this should be taken into account.
Hours and Days of Rest
An 8-hour workday gives the domestic worker the right to 1 hour a day (for example, 30 minutes at lunchtime and twice a break of 15 minutes) and 1 day a week rest. At least two rest days a month have to be on a Sunday. If the work days are less than 8 hours but more than 3 hours a day, the rest should be proportional.
Domestic workers should get all obligatory and non-obligatory holidays paid. If they work on any of the official holidays, the pay should be double.
- January 1st – new year;
- April 6th & 7th – Holy Thursday and Good Friday;
- April 11th – Juan Santamaría Day,
- May 1st – Labor Day,
- July 25th – Annexation Of Nicoya to Costa Rica,
- August 5th – Mother’s Day and Day of the Virgin,
- September 15th – Independence Day,
- and December 25th – Christmas Day.
- August 2nd – Virgin Mary,
- August 31st – Día de la Persona Negra y la Cultura Afrocostarricense,
- October 12 – Columbus Day,
Remember that the Costa Rican government often moves a holiday over to a Monday to create a long weekend. No employee is obliged to work on a holiday and can only volunteer.
Domestic workers have 15 paid vacation days per year, more than any other employee in Costa Rica.
Aguinaldo or the 13th month
All domestic workers have the right to Aguinaldo, a 13th-month salary, and must be paid before December 20th each year. This bonus is one-twelfth of all ordinary and extraordinary wages earned by the worker during the twelve months ranging from 1 December of the year before November 30 of the year in question. So it is obtained from the sum of such salaries and divided by twelve (or calculated proportionately to the hours they have worked).
Use this calculator if needed.
Termination of the working relationship
If, after three months, any of the parties wants to terminate the labor relationship, 2 weeks’ notice has to be given. The notice will become one month after one year of work. If this notice is not given, the person breaching this notice has to pay the other party the value of the days that correspond to the notice.
During the time of notice, the domestic worker has 1 paid day to look for a new job, no matter who gave notice. Use this calculator when you need to fire an employee.
For more tips on hiring a maid, a gardener, or a caretaker, ask your real estate agent.