Comparing Working Hours, Overtime, and Vacation in Core Nearshore Markets 

This summary on working hours and paid vacation in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Chile highlights some interesting differences in the region.

working hours mexico colombia chile costa rica uruguay

How long are your working hours and how many paid vacations do you get? The answers to this definitely vary depending on which country you’re working in, and are often dictated by the labor regulations in those locations.

We’ve done a quick summary on the five leading Latin America outsourcing markets, and discovered some interesting differences among these key hubs.

Mexico

According to Mexican law, employees should work no more than 48 hours per week, 8 hours a day, over 6 days, but this guideline is rarely observed – or even enforced – due to legal loopholes, volatile labor rights, and Mexico’s relative underdevelopment compared to other OECD nations.

The OECD actually found that Mexico is the hardest working country in the world, with the average citizen working 2,255 hours a year. In fact, for many workers, fear of unemployment plays a key role in the disregarded 48-hour work week, and many people will often work overtime without expecting pay, just to impress employers and keep their job.

The legal overtime limit in Mexico is 3 additional working hours a day, 3 times per week – a total of 57 possible hours. However, overtime should be paid double the contracted rate for each hour worked.

While some countries bump up pay for night shifts (22:00 to 06:00 in Mexico), employers here can set the rate themselves, but bear in mind that different areas in the country have different minimum wages for these. Night shift overtime is also paid double.

When it comes to vacations, employees in Mexico get 6 working days off per year, on top of the national public holidays. For the first 4 years, workers are entitled to an additional 2 days per year for a maximum of 12 days. After that, they get 2 more days allotted for every 5 additional years of service.

Chile

Chileans are legally obliged to work for 45 hours over a six-day week, which was only recently moved down from the previous 48-hour week that was pretty standard in Latin America since the Second World War.

As the standard working day is locked at 8 hours, with a maximum of 2 hours overtime, employers that attempt to make employees work for longer than 10 hours a day will risk being fined, something which the government is making steps toward enforcing.

Due to the fairly relaxed work culture in Chile, it’s not uncommon for people to work overtime, which is paid at 150% of the standard rate. This is the same rate for night shifts, which run from 22:00 to 07:00.

After a year of service at the same company, employees can take 15 working days of paid holiday per year, earning the right to do so after the first 12 months. They cannot take any time off before this, except for public national holidays.

Chile appears fifth on the OECD rankings this year, with an average of 1974 hours per worker, per year. While this is high on the world stage, it’s fairly low compared to other Latin American markets.

Interestingly, despite the legal working age being fixed at 18 years, young people between 15 and 18 are able to work full- or part-time if their parents give them permission, under the condition that they continue studying. For Nearshore companies, this could be a good opportunity to start training on the job from an earlier age.

Colombia

Like Mexico, Colombia’s work code outlines a maximum of 48 hours per week, but the overtime allowance is much higher, at an additional 12 hours per week.

Employees can obtain authorization from the Ministry of Labor to conduct this overtime, provided their employers allow them to rest on Saturdays.

Those who perform daytime work and nighttime work are entitled to different salaries and overtime rates in Colombia. Between 22:00 and 06:00 they are entitled to a rate that is 35% than their normal daytime salary, moving up to 75% for overtime. Any overtime done between 06:00 and 22:00 only nets an extra 25%.

The minimum holiday entitlement per year is 15 days, half of which can be swapped for pay by request of the Ministry of Social Protection and Health.

Colombia doesn’t appear on the OECD study for average working hours, but it is likely to be close to Mexico, based on the maximum working hours. Work is considered an integral part of the culture in Colombia, and Colombians by their very nature are hard workers.

Costa Rica

Workers in this Central American nation can work 48 hours a week, 8 hours a day for day shifts, or 36 hours a week, 6 hours a day for night shifts.

Alongside the day shift (05:00 to 19:00) and the night shift (19:00 to 05:00), Costa Rica has a mixed shift, which runs between 12:00 and 10:30, or between 01:30 and 12:00. This is limited to 42 hours per week, 7 hours per day.

Overtime-wise, the Costa Rica Ministry of Labor allows people to work up to 9 hours a day, but this is seen as an exception and is only allowed when absolutely necessary. The pay for standard overtime is a cool 150% of the normal salary per hour and 200% on public holidays.

The annual paid leave for all employees is 2 weeks off for every 50 weeks worked, so, like Chile, people have to complete a year of service before being entitled to time off outside of public holidays.

Everyone is entitled to a one-hour break per eight working hours, which is usually divvied up as a 45-minute break for lunch and 2 additional 15-minute breaks.

Even people aged 15 to 18 can work in Costa Rica, but for no more than 6 hours per day, 36 hours per week.

Despite being known as one of the happiest countries on Earth, Costa Rica takes second place for the global OECD average for hours worked per person, at 2212 hours per year.

Uruguay

Like most other countries in the list, the normal working schedule in Uruguay is fixed at 48 hours per week, 8 hours per day, or 44 hours for retail workers. Employees can agree with their employers to reduce these hours, but not to increase them.

Overtime in the country needs to be paid at 200% of the normal rate on a regular day and 250% on a non-working day, such as a public holiday. This isn’t affected by daytime or nighttime shifts like most other Latin American nations.

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Vacation-wise, employees are very well-off, with an entitlement of 20 days paid vacation each year, which rises by 1 day for every 4 years worked after 5 years with the same company. Again, new employees have to wait a year before this benefit is unlocked.

Even so, one great perk is that employees are entitled to paid holidays in addition to their contracted leave. Employers in Uruguay have to provide workers with the equivalent of 100% of their salary for 20 days, on top of the paid vacation – that’s 40 days of free wages for employees!

This progressive idea is based on the premise that a normal salary only covers basic needs, so people need additional funds to enable them to go on vacation.


What are working hours and vacation like in your home country? How closely does your company align to the guidelines described above? Let us know in the comments. 

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