One of the joys of Mexico is being able to hire help for daily chores. House-cleaning. Gardening. Pools. Maintenance and repair. All are available at a fraction of what it would cost up north.
But there are traps for the unwary. Mexican employment law is very pro-worker. And failing to comply can be costly -- in penalties, lawyer fees, and time. Even though I am a lawyer, I am not a labor lawyer, and I know nothing about Mexican law other than what I have researched, heard, and experienced.
So, this is my lay take on the minefield of Aguinaldos -- or Christmas bonuses. Do not rely on it as legal advice. Mexican attorneys exist for that purpose. Consider tis a bit of entertainment from a fellow expatriate.
Mexican law mandates that each employee (for our purposes, that will be your maid, house cleaner, gardener, pool guy, and the like) must receive a Christmas bonus in cash before 20 December. Cash means folding money. Or a check. It does not mean flowers of Christmas baskets. Those are nice gifts, but, as far as the Aguinaldo is concerned, they are nullities. I have heard all sorts of reasoning for the bonus, but the reasoning is irrelevant to the fact that the bonus must be paid.
One area of controversy is the formula used to calculate the bonus. The law states that the bonus is based on 15 days of salary. Some expatriates believe 15 days is just another way of saying two weeks in Mexico, and thus use 14 days as their calculation. In the law business, we call those people defendants.
Most help around the house is part-time. That means we need to figure out what constitutes 15 days of work for the year. I know this is going to sound a bit like third grade arithmetic, but here is the formula to calculate the 15 days.
Mexican law requires each worker to be paid weekly. Divide the number of days actually worked during the past year by 365. Multiply the resulting quotient by 15. Then multiply that product by the worker's daily salary. The formula will look something like this. [days worked] ÷ 365 X 15 X [daily salary].
Voilà. You have the aguinaldo amount that will meet your legal obligation.
Count out your pesos and do something nice. Slip it into an envelope with a card. Something personal. After all, Mexico is about relationships, and the people who help us on our daily journey deserve more than just meeting minimum legal obligations. It is the law that requires one. Our hearts provide the other.
You might be asking yourself how to calculate the number of days worked. If you are, that probably means you are not documenting those days. I hope you are tracking it on a calendar or in some system. If not, you should start right now.
Those dates are incredibly important when disputes arise over termination or the calculation of vacation pay (which may be worth an essay in the next couple of days), IMSS payments, and over-time for work on holidays. Without some form of documentation from the employer, the labor system will defer to the allegations of the worker -- generally.
But there I go putting on my lawyer wig when I should be wearing my Santa hat.
Hiring help has its complications. However, I wouldn't have it any other way.