The fat Christmas bonuses are beginning to flow

The economy is about to see a major uptick. The Costa Rican law that provides workers with a fat Christmas bonus also covers pensioners and even those who hold certain governmental positions.

Starting today the central government and the other branches will be making their payments. Most will be electronic into employee bank accounts.

The amount is one-twelfth of what the employee has earned between Dec. 1, 2009, and Tuesday. For most this represents a month’s pay.

Employers who may be uncertain about the amount, a quick and easy solution is to ask the employee to obtain a list of salaries paid from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. After all, all employees should be on the Caja.

Employers have until Dec. 20 to make the payment. Even household helpers are covered, but not contract workers.

There are other payments that are traditional at Christmas. This may be the only time of the year that urban dwellers actually see a garbage man. Municipal trash workers usually visit homes at reasonable hours, but they also poach on territory handled by their coworkers.

The young man who delivers La Nación at 2 a.m. also deserves a little gift.

Frequently employers cheat workers by classifying the job as a contractual agreement.

The same rules apply in Costa Rica as in the United States. If the employer dictates the work hours or provides the tools and space for doing the job, the employee should be on the Caja and receive an aguinaldo. Salespeople frequently are cheated that way. Sometimes the tight-fisted employer does not even pay a salary, although the law requires that they do so if they are not true contract workers.

Employees who feel they have been cheated or shortchanged can report the employer to the Ministerio de Trabajo which takes the complaint seriously.

Meanwhile, shopkeepers are rubbing their hands and awaiting the flow of newly rich shoppers.

The Fuerza Pública also has boosted security on the streets and around banks. Crooks also are out seeking their own aguinaldo, although these days of plastic payments have crimped their style.

And most expats know that there is little chance of getting much government work done until Jan. 3.

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