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Reduction of the legal work schedule: legal and operational implications for companies

In the year 2019, Bill S212 of 2019 (which is also identified as Bill C489 of 2020 at the Chamber of Representatives) was submitted, and its main goal is to modify the legal work schedule stated on article 161 of Colombian Labour Statute, in order that the current limit of 48 hours of work per week, is reduced to 45 hours per week.

Hence, and as a result of the legislative stages of the Bill that have been taking place in the Congress, in session of June 2nd, 2021 the Chamber of Representatives approved the Bill, highlight that the initial wording had some changes, regarding the fact that the text that was approved on last debate stablishes that the legal work schedule will be of a maximum amount of 42 hours of work per week, stating that the implementation of this new limit number will be transitional and gradual, according to specific reduction stages.

It is important to take into account that despite the approval of the Bill by both the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives, at this moment it is still pending that the Bill passes the presidential approval and signature stage to become an official Law.

ADJUSTMENTS AND CHANGES OF ARTICLE 161 OF COLOMBIAN LABOUR STATUTE

The wording of the Article 161 of Colombian Labour Statute that is valid at this moment, states that the legal work schedule has a maximum duration of 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week.

Additionally, the aforementioned article regulates other relevant aspects such as the special schedule for underage teenagers who are allowed to work, and the types of alternative schedules and shifts that can be implemented by employers according to their operational needs, such as flexible schedule and 6x36 shifts.

Hence, the changes approved by the Congress, which we reiterate, will be valid once the President approves it and it is published on the Congress Official News Bulletin, have the following implications:

- Reduction of the legal work schedule: The ordinary weekly schedule will stop being limited to a maximum of 48 hours and instead will be limited to 42 hours per week, clarifying that according to the dispositions stablished on article 3 of the approved Bill, it will have a gradual implementation that will be done according to the following stages:

a) One year after the effective date in which the Law was enforceable, the legal work schedule will reduce in one (1) hour, hence the limit will be 47 hours per week.

b) Two years after the effective date in which the Law was enforceable, the legal work Schedule that applies at that moment, will reduce in one (1) hour, which means that from that moment the limit will be 46 hours per week.

c) From the third year of validity of the Law the reduction will be of two (2) hours per each year, until the limit of 42 hours is reached. Hence, at the third year of validity the legal work schedule will be limited to 44 hours per week, and from the fourth year and thereon it will be of 42 hours per week.

It is important to highlight that unlike the wording that is valid at this moment, which stated expressly a limit of daily work hours which is equivalent to 8 hours per day, the new approved wording does not state a daily limit and instead it stablishes that the 42 week hours “can be distributed by mutual agreement by the employer and the employee in 5 or 6 days in a week, always guaranteeing a day of rest”, which generates that there might be confusion in regards to the limit of daily work hours, given the fact that it is not clear if it will still be 8 hours or if it would be adjusted to 7 daily hours. Nevertheless, it is necessary to be attentive to the final and formal drafting of the Law in case the final text complements the dispositions related to the limit of daily work hours.

- Special work Schedule for teenagers: In regards to this subject, the new wording did not bring any changes, hence, the current dispositions will still be applied:

a) Teenagers older than 15 years and younger than 17 years: Can work in a daytime schedule until 6pm with a limit of 6 work hours per day, and 36 hours per week.

b) Teenagers older than 17 years: Can work in a daytime schedule until 8pm with a limit of 8 work hours per day, and 40 hours per week.

- Special alternative work schedules:

a) Regarding the special 6x36 shift there was no modification on the scheme, hence it will still be possible to agree on shifts of 6 daily hours and 36 weekly hours, guaranteeing the minimum wage, in order to not generate payments for nocturnal work charges.

b) In regards to the flexible special schedule, the reduction of the legal work schedule implies a change, considering the fact that at this moment this type of schedule allows the parties to agree the distribution of the 48 hours weekly hours of work, in shifts of four (4) to ten (10) hours without generating additional charges for overtime work, the modification brought by the approved Bill generates that the duration of these special shifts changes and therefore they can be of minimum four (4) hours and maximum nine (9) hours, as long as the legal limit of week hours does not exceed (which will be the limit applicable at the specific time, depending of the gradual implementation of the reduction).

- Respect and guarantee of the acquired work conditions: It is stablished that despite of the reduction of the work schedule, there won´t be a decrease or proportional adjustments of the remuneration received by the employees.

Therefore, these changes will have relevant implication for companies, especially those industries that have a work system of sequential work shifts, which means that there will be challenges in regards to operational and financial subjects, that require that the Companies start to do internal planning, according to their specific operational needs, in order to adapt their procedures and to do financial projections and estimations with due advance and care.

Finally, we inform that once we get to know the final draft of the Law, we will proceed to extend the content of this newsletter with our appreciations.

Authors

Portrait of Adriana Escobar
Adriana Escobar
Partner
Bogotá
Portrait of Sandra Mora
Sandra Mora
Senior Associate
Bogotá