Legal issues to consider when hiring a maid in Panama

This post is also available in: Spanish

By: Staff at Panama Offshore Legal Services

E-Mail: info@pos-inc.com Phone: (507) 227 – 6645

Many foreigners are glad to relieve their housekeeping burden by hiring maids in Panama where domestic help is cheap. Here are some tips regarding Panama laws involving hired household help.

Use a written contract. Panama law does not require written contracts or filing them with the Ministry of Labor. However, the law favors the employee by assuming the Panama employee is telling the truth when a complaint is filed with the Ministry of Labor or in the courts, with the burden of proof on the employer to refute the allegations. Having a written contract describing the duties and responsibilities of the maid and other household helpers can solve many future problems.

Social Security must be paid. Some foreigners like to pay their help under the table in cash without paying social security. This can be a big problem if the Panamanian maid becomes pregnant, sick, or has an accident because the employer will have to pay for all the medical costs if the social security benefits have not been paid for. A high risk pregnancy can result in a lot of paid sick leave which the employer will have to pay if social security benefits were not paid for.

Education is a right. If the maid informs the employer that she wishes to complete her education, Panama law requires that the employer must give her sufficient time to attend school and to study.

Foreign maids have rights. Some foreigners hire illegal aliens as maids thinking they have no legal rights in Panama. That is wrong. The rights of workers are internationally recognized. Hiring an illegal alien with no work permit can result in fines. In addition, all of Panama’s labor laws must be followed, including minimum wages, the 13th month salary, vacations, national holidays, and working hours.

Funeral costs. Panama’s Labor Code requires the employer to pay for all funeral costs for all employees who live and work in the home. Panama considers live-in help as part of the employer’s family.

There is an immigration visa for household employees. Panama has the Domestic Workers Visa which every employer who hires a foreigner as a domestic worker must apply for. This is a one year visa with four renewals. This visa can be used for cooks, gardeners, maids, chauffeurs, nannies, and butlers.

Prior to hiring a domestic worker consult with a Panama law firm knowledgeable of immigration, labor, and contract laws.

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