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June 06, 2023

El Salvador: El Salvador Adopts Technical Norms Governing Workplace Childcare Centers

Tequila Brooks

On February 16, 2023, El Salvador’s National Council for Early Childhood, Childhood and Adolescence (CONAPINA – Consejo Nacional de la Primera Infancia, Niñez y Adolescencia) adopted Agreement No. 4 on Technical Norms for the installation and operation of early childhood care centers. Agreement No. 4 details the technical standards for the establishment, operation, and supervision of Early Childhood Care Centers (CAPI), including for those established by employers for the children of their workers.


Adoption of technical requirements for early childhood care centers comes after a six-year odyssey beginning with a 2017 Supreme Court decision.

Article 42(2) of the Constitution of El Salvador requires employers to establish and maintain childcare centers for the children of their workers. In November 2017, the Supreme Court of El Salvador issued a legal decision requiring the Legislative Assembly to adopt legislation implementing Article 42(2) of the Constitution. In June 2018, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador adopted legislation requiring employers to make childcare centers available to their workers. Legislative Decree No. 20 of 19 June 2018, the Law on Workplace Childcare Centers outlined employers’ obligations making childcare accessible to workers.

On May 23, 2018, the Salvadoran Coalition on Decent Work for Women (CEDM), Canada-based Maquila Solidarity Network, and the Americas Group co-sponsored a bi-national forum on childcare needs and solutions for maquila workers in El Salvador and Honduras. The forum brought together El Salvadoran and Honduran trade unions and NGOs, supplier factory representatives, employer groups and international brands to exchange views and consider options.

The law was to enter into force 24 months after it was adopted, on June 17, 2020. Implementation of the law was delayed at the request of the El Salvadoran Supreme Labor Council in 2020 and 2022. In May 2022, La Prensa Gráfica reported that the law was still in a state of limbo after multiple delays.

Employer options for providing childcare to workers

Legislative Decree No. 20 was to apply to both public and private sector employers with at least 100 employees. Under Article 6 of the Decree, employers would have three options for complying with their obligation to provide childcare access to their workers’ children. These included establishing and maintaining an independent childcare center at or near the workplace, establishing a workplace center jointly, and paying an independent service childcare service provider.

After many delays, a new law

On June 22, 2022, the Legislative Assembly adopted a new law, Legislative Decree No. 431, the Law on Growing Together for the integral protection of infants, children and adolescents, which supersedes the 2018 law. Unlike the 2018 law, which frames childcare centers as a work benefit, the new law creates a comprehensive normative framework that encompasses childcare centers for workers and in general. The law also incorporates general child protection services, superseding the Law on the Integral Protection of Children and Adolescents.

Title III on Programs and Early Childhood Care Centers (CAPI – Centros de Atención a Primera Infancia) contains the key operational provisions governing employer-provided childcare centers for workers’ children. Chapters 1 and 2 on Programs detail accreditation and other technical requirements for CAPI, including services to be provided (personal care, education and mental stimulation, and monitoring of growth and development).

Title III (2)(2) of the new law sets forth requirements on CAPI for public and private sector employers. Employer obligations are similar to those in the 2018 law with some key exceptions. For example, employers are not required to provide working parents payment in lieu of childcare if parents decide to choose their own childcare provider.

Coverage by employer-provided CAPI begins when a worker returns to work after maternity leave and includes lactating babies and children up to the age of 4. CAPI shall operate between working hours on weekdays only, which leaves workers without childcare options for the swing shift, nights and weekends. Services no longer covered under the law include food, prescription medication, personal articles, personal hygiene and educational materials. As in the 2018 law, employers are entitled to a tax incentive to offset the costs of providing child care centers. Article 149 of the new law specifies that non-compliant employers will be subject to fines.

Finally, workplace childcare centers – but with a twist

After a long and winding path from the 2017 Supreme Court decision ordering the El Salvadoran Legislative Assembly to adopt a law requiring employers to provide childcare centers for the children of their workers, the administration has finally created the regulatory framework implementing that requirement. Along the way, the focus of the law transformed from a workplace benefit to a comprehensive national early childhood education program combined with childhood protective services. Unfortunately, the new law does not address employers’ concerns about how to pay for childcare options for their workers. Not does it address working parents’ concerns like transporting children from home to work or providing childcare outside regular week day work hours. Finally, combining child protective services in the same legal regime as early childhood education may prove to be confusing and potentially perilous for working moms.

New childcare laws and regulations are set to into force for employers in August 2024.

Tequila Brooks

Attorney and Comparative Labor Law Scholar

Washington, D.C.

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