Aguinaldo or Christmas bonus in Costa Rica is obligatory
In most countries around the world, employees do not receive any Christmas bonus. Christmas bonus – Aguinaldo in Spanish – is obligatory in Costa Rica. `
You might not run a business but if you’re an expat living in Costa Rica, you probably have an employee even though you don’t realize you do. The housekeeper, cleaning lady, the gardener, or the handyman that comes in regularly for any amount of hours is an employee. The caretaker, who lives on your property, is definitely an employee.
Over the years, I have met expats who think they treat their employee real 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 employee aguinaldo.
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 a part-time employee. Her name is Argentina, like the country, but she is originally from Nicaragua. Argentina works in our household only Tuesdays, Wednesday and Fridays, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. And Argentina is a legal resident of Costa Rica.
All employers in Costa Rica are obliged to pay Christmas bonus to their employees. It is really the 13th month and paid as such 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. Do not only calculate how much you should pay but also give your employee a written notice of the calculation. When you pay, have the employee sign off 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 really 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.
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. A short version of the explanation of the Christmas bonus or Aguinaldo can be found at the Labor Ministry.
By law, you are not allowed to hire employees who do not have legal residency. Many of us have Nicaraguan gardeners and housekeepers. This does not mean that if they’re illegal, you should not pay them the Christmas bonus as you would pay a resident or citizen.
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.
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 such. Most household employees take care of you during the year and they might deserve more than the regular Christmas bonus. Officially though, 50% of the value of any other bonus should be paid next year.
Hopefully, you will treat your household employees correctly and as family.
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.
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