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Domestic help horror story, Do read and watch out! (Bogotá)


Hi there,
I arrived to Bogota 4.5 years ago and for the first four years we had a lady cleaner that would come to the apartment once a week. We had a very trusting relationship with Mary, we considered her more than just an employee, extra money (25%) was generally added to her daily fee as a tip, I would personally lend her money if she ever asked for it (she did twice) at no interest to her, she was welcome at our Xmas get together and many other family occasions. So far so good.

Last may Mary announced she was ill (cancer, apparently) and that she would not be coming back to work with us. Concerned for her welfare and upset we were losing her we told her to not hesitate to let us know if she ever needed any help or if she ever decided to come back. I even called her a couple of times to offer to continue paying her while she was under treatment but I never found her.

A month later we get a letter from the Ministerio de Trabajo letting us know we have been dennounced by her for not having her registered as our employee and not paying into all these different categories (from transport to uniform to "cesantias" blah blah blah)
The fine: NINE million pesos.

The whole process happened swiftly and at great speed, a month later we were asked to go to a "conciliacion" with a lawyer and luckily we managed to barter it down to five million pesos. Still very unwelcomed news. And all wonderfully (for Mary) legal!
Nowhere in the world I have heard (and I have been around) that someone who cleans your house once a week is your employee, but it turns out in Colombia even if someone works for you one day a MONTH you are legally their employer!!
As far as I remember in other places these people are independent workers responsible for filing their taxes and incomes and arrangeing their social security and all other things with our collaboration. If you don`t help, they may sue you. In Colombia it is YOUR responsability as an employer to deal with all this.
And if she works in six different houses a week each one of them will have to do the same? Yes.
And if apart from you she has sued the other five apartments where she worked, is she screwing and getting a payment from each and every one of them? That is none of your business but most likely yes.

I find it simply REVOLTING the Colombian law and the Ministerio de Trabajo are accomplices in these swindle to honest, hard working people. In a country where horrendous crimes go unpunnished every day, to have to endure this harassment and legal theft with the full help and efficiency (in this case) of government employees is extremely upsetting. I very much doubt this Mary person would have known all this on her own, there is obviously someone at the ministry who makes sure this cases happen and happen fast. I wonder how much their cut is.

And let's not get started with concepts such as decency, loyalty, honor, respect, being thankful, betrayal, etc.

I hope you find this useful and watch out, dont let them screw you.

One more reason to love Colombia? I dont think so.