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Aguinaldo or Christmas bonus in Costa Rica is obligatory

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Aguinaldo or Christmas bonus in Costa Rica is obligatoryIn most countries around the world, employees do not receive a Christmas bonus – Aguinaldo in Spanish.

For your information: it is mandatory to pay the Aguinaldo – Christmas bonus to all your employees during the first 20 days of December, even if they work only a few hours a month for you.

Who should receive aguinaldo, how much, and when?

You might not run a business, but you probably have a household employee. Even if you don’t see that person as an employee: the housekeeper, cleaning lady, the gardener, or the handyman that comes in regularly for any amount of hours is an employee. Likewise, the caretaker, who lives on your property, is definitely an employee.

Over the years, I have met expats who think they treat their employees really well. They give them coffee in the morning, lunch, and a coke in the afternoon. AND they pay them well, they say. But they really don’t because they don’t pay their employees aguinaldo, which is their obligation.

Most employees that work for a family like yours and mine, only work for a few hours. Our maid, cleaning lady, or housekeeper, whatever you want to call her, is kind of a part-time employee. Some have a live-in housekeeper, they make like 12-hour days. Our housekeeper’s name is Eneyda. She is originally from Nicaragua. Eneyda works in our household only during weekdays, from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.  And Eneyda is a legal resident of Costa Rica. Some of our neighbors have a cleaning lady who comes in only one day a week. She is still their employee, even if it’s a part-time employee.

Keep Track

You want to keep track of all payments made to employees during the year. Make them sign a receipt when you pay them. You will need the data to be able to calculate the aguinaldo in December or when they stop working for you.

Christmas bonus

All employers in Costa Rica are obliged to pay a Christmas bonus to their employees. This bonus is really the 13th-month’ salary and paid as if your employee is a full-time employee. If your employee is only part-time, you pay them the bonus calculated over the wages earned during the whole year

When to pay

Aguinaldo should be paid to your employees during the first 20 days of December each year. Only calculate how much you should pay and give your employee a written notice of the calculation. When you pay, have the employee sign a receipt as proof of payment.

How to calculate Christmas bonus

The Christmas bonus in Costa Rica is the average wages earned from December 1st last year until November 30th this year, divided by 12. It is easy to calculate the aguinaldo by using this Christmas bonus calculator.

What is included?

You need to include all regular working hours and the extra hours worked as well. Official holidays are paid double, so you should include such wages in the Christmas bonus calculation.

When you don’t pay

If you don’t pay the Christmas bonus, your employee has the right to a claim at the Labor Ministry. The fine for not paying aguinaldo to your employees runs between 7 and 23 basic monthly salaries.

Aguinaldo or Christmas bonus in Costa Rica is obligatory

The law

In case you’d like to look it all up in Spanish, you can find the full information about the law in Ley 2412 and its reforms in Decreto Ejecutivo N° 20236-TSS, Reglamento a la Ley 2412. In addition, you can find a short version of the explanation of the Christmas bonus or aguinaldo at the Labor Ministry.

Illegal employees

By law, you cannot hire employees who are not legal residents. Many of us have Nicaraguan gardeners and housekeepers. However, this does not mean that you should not pay them the Christmas bonus! If they’re illegal, as you would pay a resident or citizen, and not take advantage of them.

Termination before December

It is not necessary for the employee to work until December to receive the Christmas bonus. Firing the employee before December will not make any difference.

When employment is terminated before the month of December, the calculation is still the sum of the earned wages divided by 12.

Other bonus

Just because you have a legal obligation to pay the Christmas bonus does not mean you cannot give them any other bonus.  In many cases, the maid is part of your family, so treat her as Also, most. Most household employees take care of you during the year and they might deserve more than the regular Christmas bonus. Be aware that if you do, you have to pay a Christmas bonus over this extra bonus, too, officially.

Hopefully, you will treat your household employees correctly and as family. Oh, and don’t lend them any money, but that’s a different story.

Labor Code

There is a labor code for domestic employees. I won’t get into that now, so i”m referring you to a labor law lawyer’s website for that.

GoDutch Realty, your preferred real estate company in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, always tries to keep you up to date on important and less important issues. We also appreciate your business. Contact us to purchase property in Costa Rica.

Hand photo created by asier_relampagoestudio –

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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2 thoughts on “Aguinaldo or Christmas bonus in Costa Rica is obligatory”

  • Rudolf Rahe

    12 December, 2021 at 6:46 am

    thanks Ivo,
    that is maybe a reason, why labour is still comparably cheap in CR – on a monthly basis that is…..
    What is more: workers seem to have the legal right not only for a Christmas bonus, but also for a 2 weeks paid vacation which adds another 1o% or more to your monthly bill……

    • Ivo Henfling

      12 December, 2021 at 9:24 am

      Hi Rolf

      You’re right. Didn’t your boss give you a vacation? You were paid during those days, weren’t you? In Europe, workers have twice as much vacation as they have here. Many of those who moved to Costa Rica has been on the receiving end during their whole life and never had employees. Now, if you want the services of a gardener or a housekeeper, it’s important to hold your end of the deal.


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