The government has issued a series of 'unified decrees' to streamline Colombia's regulatory regime – one of which concerns the labour sector. The decree collates many of the applicable rules governing employer-employee relations into a single statute. It represents a major step forward in the codification of Colombian labour law, which should hopefully make the overall business climate more conducive to investment.
A recent Supreme Court of Justice decision reiterated the labour law extraterritoriality rule. Accordingly, if a worker who was hired in Colombia is requested to work abroad temporarily or permanently and receives orders and instructions from his or her boss located in Colombia, this contract will be governed by national law and avail of the rights and benefits contained therein.
In a recent decision the Constitutional Court set down new rules and procedures for the dismissal of employees who have been involved in wrongdoing. The decision resulted from the court's examination of Article 115 of the Labour Code – which sets out the process for employers to follow in case of worker misconduct – after it was challenged as unconstitutional.
'Independent workers' perform a specific activity or carry out a particular service regularly, and derive their main source of income therefrom. They carry out such activity on their own in return for fees or commission. This definition leads to a number of obligations for an employer in relation to social security for independent workers.
The government has recently enacted a new law which obliges companies to hire workers living in municipalities where hydrocarbon production and exploration takes place. Although these changes might resolve some unemployment issues, the regulation could act as a deterrent to investment in the hydrocarbon industry.
The Constitution sets out fundamental rights such as the principle of equality and the right to free expression of personality. In the labour context, these rights serve to regulate employers' relationships with employees. However, the issue arises as to how to determine the point up to which fundamental rights can interfere with an employer's internal working rules.
The Constitutional Court has finally standardised the criteria regarding labour protection rights for pregnant employees by establishing the different ways in which this protection applies, which vary depending on the type of employment contract involved and whether the employer knew of the pregnancy. Its guidance will strengthen the protection of the fundamental rights of workers.
A new decree-law on collective bargaining where a company has multiple unions aims to restore the structure of collective labour law in Colombia. The decree-law should improve union-employer relationships, strengthen unions and facilitate peaceful and democratic collective bargaining processes that result in better collective labour agreements, to the benefit of both unions and companies.
In the labour law field, the first months of 2014 will be synonymous with modifications and structural changes, which must be understood and applied by companies in order to ensure optimum employer-employee relationships. Due to recent legislative amendments, it is important to review certain payments and contributions that affect the operation and management of payrolls and employees.
Colombia's most important free trade agreement is that signed with its main trading partner, the United States. Before ratification, the United States insisted that the agreement favoured the protection of labour rights. The purpose of including labour matters in a free trade agreement is to prevent social dumping. Thus, in pursuing economic interests, Colombia strengthened its labour laws.
The Habeas Data Law, which was passed almost one year ago, develops and guarantees a person's right to know, update and correct the information held about him or her in a database. The new law has an impact on employer-employee relationships, so all companies must start implementing it correctly in order to avoid significant penalties and guarantee their employees' fundamental constitutional rights.
Employers and employees can conduct agreements, known as salary exclusion agreements, through which they classify certain payments as non-salary payments. Law 15/1990 establishes what types of payments can be included in these agreements, as well as their effects on social security and other employment-based welfare contributions.