The disjointed nature of the Colombian regulatory system has led to a significant loss of business opportunities and made some investors reluctant to invest in the country. Thus far, there has been little certainty, effectiveness, transparency or quality in the way that regulations have been introduced.

A key aim of the government is to become a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). To this end, the president has promoted awareness of several of the OECD's recommendations, including one called "Regulatory Policy in Colombia: Going Beyond Administrative Simplification". This recommends that the Colombian legal system be streamlined to make it simpler and easier to understand.

On this basis, the Colombian government issued Conpes 3816 with the aim of improving and rationalising existing standards. The guidelines set out therein aim to establish a consistent policy that reflects the requirements of citizens, investors, companies and the public sector. At the same time, it aims to streamline the existing regulatory regime. This has been no easy task, involving the participation of the entire executive branch. The results have become known as the 'unified decrees', which aim to simplify the activity of the state.

One of these unified decrees concerns the labour sector. The decree collates many of the applicable rules governing employer-employee relations into a single statute. It is divided into three main sections, governing:

  • collective labour law;
  • individual labour law; and
  • social security law.

The first section deals with issues such as working hours, special contracts (eg, for remote working, seafarers employed on board Colombian ships and local workers on hydrocarbon exploration and production development projects), and communitarian labour migration. The second part relates to collective bargaining and trade unions. The third part includes provisions on issues such as professional risks, unemployment protection mechanisms and tax benefits.

Many important standards were nonetheless omitted - for example, pension bonds are still governed by a patchwork of regulations. This notwithstanding, the decree represents a major step forward in the codification of Colombian labour law. Hopefully, this will should make the overall business climate more conducive to investment.

For further information on this topic please contact Diego Felipe Valdivieso Rueda at VS+M Abogados by telephone (+57 1 610 6180) or email ( The VS+M Abogados website can be accessed at

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