Skip to main content
main content, press tab to continue
Article | Global News Briefs

Costa Rica: A novel approach to paid paternity leave

By Shirley Calderon and Raul Villalta | May 24, 2022

New rules grant fathers paid paternity leave for the first time in Costa Rica and enhance protections for mothers against discrimination.
Health and Benefits|Benessere integrato|Ukupne nagrade

Employer Action Code: Act

As a result of recent amendments to the Labor Code, biological fathers will be entitled to paid paternity leave for the first time, and the existing paid adoption leave will be shareable by fathers (currently only for mothers). The amendments also provide more flexibility for new mothers to take breastfeeding breaks and will require breastfeeding rooms in all companies with at least one new mother. The amendments have been approved by parliament and are awaiting the president’s final approval and publication.

Key details

New entitlements under the amendments to the Labor Code include the following:

  • Employees will be entitled to a total of eight days of paid paternity leave, distributed in increments of two working days per week during the first four weeks after birth. Pay replacement benefits will be payable by the employer and social security at 100% of pay (50% each), the same rate that applies to maternity leave. Fathers, like mothers and adoptive parents, on leave will have special protection against termination.
  • In the event of the mother’s death at the time of birth or during maternity leave, the father or the person taking responsibility for the newborn will be entitled to the three months of postnatal maternity leave.
  • All adoptive parents (currently, only mothers) will be entitled to three months of paid adoption leave starting on the day after placement of the child, payable on the same basis as maternity leave. The benefit is a joint entitlement, meaning working couples will have the option to take their portion of leave simultaneously or consecutively.    
  • New mothers will have the option to take one hour of paid time off, at the start or end of the workday, inside or outside the workplace, to breastfeed. Current options are a 15-minute break every three hours of work or two 30-minute breaks.
  • Designation of a breastfeeding room will be required in all companies with one or more mothers who are breastfeeding. Currently, the requirement applies only to companies with 30 or more female employees.
  • Employers will be prohibited from requiring pregnancy tests as a condition for accessing or keeping employment.  

Employer implications

Employer-paid paternity leave is common practice among companies surveyed (56%), but the median benefit is three days at 100% of pay, less than half of the new entitlement. The requirement that the leave be used in two-day increments over the first four weeks of life is a novel approach to family leave and may require some adaption of workplace policies and practices. (It remains to be seen if alternative usage patterns, such as a single period of paternity leave, will be permitted.) The changes to breastfeeding breaks and rooms are expected to have less of an impact on large companies given that the new mandates seem to be largely incorporating common local practice. Employers may want to start reviewing their leave policies and practices in Costa Rica in order to ensure compliance.


Shirley Calderon

Raul Villalta

Contact us