As of July 15, 2023, all workers will go to their workplace one hour less per week. Of the current 48, the working day will have 47 by law. This reduction obeys Law 2101 of 2021, which determines that the Colombian working day will gradually decrease until reaching 42 in 2026. In an interview with EL TIEMPO, Catalina Santos, a partner in the labor team of the firm Brigard Urrutia, answers the questions that both companies and employees have.

(You can also read: Working hours: what is the economic impact of reducing it to 47 hours this year)

When will the reduction in working hours begin and what should that process be like?

In accordance with article 3 of Law 2101 of 2021, it allows the law to be applied gradually, being as follows:

• After 2 years from the entry into force of the law (that is, after as of July 15, 2023), 1 hour of the weekly working day will be reduced, leaving 47 weekly hours.

• After 3 years from the entry into force of the law (that is, as of July 15, 2024), another hour of the weekly working day will be reduced, leaving 46 weekly hours.

• From the fourth year after the entry into force of the law (that is, as of July 15, 2025), will be reduced by 2 hours each year until reaching 42 hours per weekin accordance with the provisions of article 2 of this law.

It must be remembered that this law establishes a maximum number of hours that the employee can work without reducing his salary. Therefore, you can agree on a workday of less than 42 hours, but never more than that amount.

Finally, in accordance with the previous table, only until the year 2026 will the working day be reduced to 42 hours per week. Consequently, until July 14, 2023, the maximum legal working day will remain exactly the same and there will be no changes in this regard.

Catalina Santos, partner in the labor area of ​​Brigard Urrutia.

Does it affect all sectors and companies equally?

The scope of application of this law is for workers whose employment relationship is governed by the Substantive Labor Code.

How should companies prepare to implement these changes?

Bearing in mind that there is still a period of seven months to start implementing the mandatory reduction in working hours, it is recommended that companies carry out an analysis of the working hours that they have agreed with their workers, either in their individual work contracts or in conventions or collective agreements to establish the impact of this measure. This impact could be of an economic nature, since the surcharges for additional work will now have to be paid from the moment the new maximum working day is exceeded, or even if it is necessary to hire more workers to meet the productive needs of the company. .

Will the workers and owners have to reach an agreement on what the reduction will be like in each case? Can the hour be reduced any day of the week?

Agreements can be made with the workers, as long as the terms established in the law are respected for the reduction of the working day to be applied. The space for agreement on how to implement the content of this law is enshrined. In fact, in the paragraph of article 1, it is stated that the national government at the head of the Ministry of Laborshould convene technical roundtables with unions and guilds to strengthen productivity, in order to reduce a possible negative impact that entails a reduction in working hours.

Regarding the second question, article 2 of the law, in its first paragraph, establishes that the parties (employer and worker), by mutual agreement, can distribute the hours between 5 and 6 days a week, always guaranteeing the day of rest .

What would happen if it is not respected and continues to work 48 hours?

Once the terms described in numeral 3 of Law 2101 of 2021 have expired, any company that does not comply with each of them may be subject to sanctions by the Ministry of Labor. The worker can also go to the ordinary labor courts in the event that the worker is not recognizing the additional surcharges according to the new maximum working day. Likewise, in the event of a work accident or occupational disease where the exhaustion of the worker is a determining factor, the employer could be responsible for the damages caused to the worker through actions of employer fault.

The working day will be reduced in Colombia until reaching 42 hours in 2026.


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Should companies commit not to reduce workers’ wages?

It could not be said that companies «should» commit, since this would imply their willingness to do so. The truth is that not reducing wages once the reduction in working hours is made is an obligation. Let’s remember that they must be imposed by law, so companies cannot refrain from not complying with this, under penalty of carrying the appropriate sanctions, as well as being involved in litigation by ordinary means.

What other important changes does the law bring? Would they also start next year?

With the entry into force of this standard, employees are exempted from applying two rules. The first, the paragraph of article 3 of law 1857 of 2017, which deals with family time, and which says:

«PARAGRAPH. Employees must facilitate, promote and manage a semi-annual day in which their employees can share with their family in a space provided by the employer or in one managed by the family compensation fund that the employees have. If the employee is unable to manage this day, he must allow the workers to have this space of time with their families without affecting the rest days, this without prejudice to agreeing on the complementary working hours ».

In addition, from article 21 of Law 50 of 1990, which deals with spaces for recreational, cultural, sports and training activities:

«In companies with more than 50 workers who work 48 hours a week, they will have the right to dedicate 2 hours of that day, at the employer’s expense, exclusively to recreational, cultural, sports or training activities.»

It must be said that this can only be applied by companies when the 42-hour day has already been reached, not before. In addition, these benefits can also be reduced in common agreement with the worker, and proportionally in accordance with the progressive implementation of the reduction in working hours.

Who will monitor compliance with this reduction?

In accordance with number 7 of Law 2101 of 2021, it will be the national government at the head of the competent authority, that is, the Ministry of Laborwho will carry out an evaluation of its compliance within the 5 years following the entry into force of this norm, and in this same period will submit reports to congress on it.