A Quick Guide to Understanding Mexico’s Labor Laws
November 17, 2016
Content was updated for accuracy and relevancy on January 17, 2020.
Following the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), many industries have relocated their manufacturing operations to Mexico. This exodus has caused a need for a better understanding of labor laws in Mexico and how they differ from those in the United States. Mexico labor laws are designed to improve the quality of employment relationships, protect workers’ rights, establish benefits, payroll services, and social security among other things.
Mexico Labor Law Reform of 2012
Felipe Calderon approved broad changes to the countries labor laws in 2012 and was seen as the first major economic change to Mexico in decades. The pro-business changes were aimed at boosting foreign investment, enhancing transparency for companies doing business in Mexico, help spur economic growth and modernizing some of the dated labor laws.
The following are a few main areas of reform:
- New sanctions against harassment and discrimination
- New forms of individual labor employment contracts
- New outsourcing requirements
- Additional workers’ rights for women
- Improved labor union transparency
- Establishment of training and productivity programs
Origins of Mexico’s Labor Laws
There are four main documents that have had the greatest effect on Mexico’s Labor Laws. These documents are Mexico’s Constitution of 1917, the Federal Labor Law of 1970, The Social Security Law of 1997, and The National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute’s Law of 1972. In order to understand labor laws in Mexico, it is necessary to know the basis of each of these sources of law.
- Mexico’s Constitution of 1917: The Constitution of 1917 protected employees’ rights, including but not limited to: vacation, overtime pay, job stability, maximum work shift, maternity rights, social security rights, salary protection, profit-sharing entitlement, severance payment in case of unfair dismissal or termination, freedom of association (the right to unionize), and collective bargaining rights (the right to strike).
- Federal Labor Law of 1970: Mexico’s Federal Labor Law of 1970, a revision of the 1931 law, was enacted during a period focused on the employee environment and employee rights. The Federal Labor Law of 1970 was reformed in 2012 by Felipe Calderón. This attempt to modernize Mexico’s labor laws updated previous statutes to include new circumstances and terminology.
- Social Security Law of 1997: The Mexican Social Security Law of 1997 establishes and regulates the employees’ and employers’ rights as well as a worker’s rights and obligations regarding social security.
- The National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute’s Law of 1972: This law is sometimes referred to as the “INFONAVIT Law.” This law requires employers to contribute five percent of the employee’s earning wages to the INFONAVIT to finance the construction of low-cost housing units.
The low cost of labor in Mexico is one of primary reasons that many companies relocated their manufacturing after the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement. On January 1, 2016 the National Commission on Minimum Wages, or CONASAMI, approved a general minimum wage increase of 4.2%. Unlike in the United States, Mexico does not have one flat minimum wage. In Mexico, minimum wage depends on the occupation, industry, and geographical location. See a full list of all new minimum wages.
Work Shifts, Rest Breaks and Overtime
In Mexico, there are three potential work shifts an employee can have. They are:
- The Day Shift: eight hours for day work between 6:00am and 8:00pm.
- The Night Shift: seven hours for night work between 8:00pm and 6:00am.
- The Mixed Shift: Seven and a half hours for work that includes both day and night work. For this shift, the night work must comprise less than three and a half hours of the work or it transitions to night work.
In addition, the Mexico Federal Labor Law (FLL) has set a limit on the daily durations of a shift as the following:
- Daytime Shift of eight hours a day — 48 hours a week
- Night Shift of seven hours a shift — 42 hours a week
- Mixed shift of seven and a half hours — 45 hours a week
As stated above, with these three shifts, employees are eligible to work six days per week with a maximum of forty-eight hours. Working overtime is considered any hours above these listed statues. Here is a resource for a more detailed explanation of hours and overtime.
Employees are entitled to a rest break of 30 minutes, which is accounted for in the work shift. Those who take more than 30 minutes are permitted to leave the workplace, however, anything over the allowed 30 minutes is not counted towards the work shift.
Employment Law Agreements
The Federal Labor Law establishes several different types of employment agreements that employees can enter into. They are:
- Probationary and Training Periods: When an employer-employee relationship is going to be for an indefinite term, which is defined as longer than 180 days, employers can establish a probationary period to establish that the employee has the skills and knowledge required to perform the work. This period can be anywhere from 30-180 days and is at the discretion of the employer.
- Initial Training Period: If a position requires initial training, the employment agreement can allot a term of up to three months, or up to 180 days for managerial or technical positions, in which this training will be conducted.
- Indefinite Period: In Mexico, there is a principle of employment stability, which is different from the at-will employment doctrine common in the United States. The Employment Stability principle is designed to protect the employee by assuring the permanence and continuity of their position unless their employer has a legitimate cause to terminate them. Unless specified otherwise, a contract is deemed for an indefinite term.
- Fixed Term: A fixed term contract is only available if it is required by the nature of the work or it is for the replacement of an absent employee.
- Specific-Task: This is a contract that is only available if the nature of the work being performed requires it.
No matter which type of employment law agreements employers choose to use, it’s important to ensure that the proper regulations are being followed to avoid labor disputes.
How NAPS Can Help
North American Production Sharing, Inc. (NAPS) is an industry leader in offshoring and outsourcing and specializes in helping companies successfully expand their manufacturing to Mexico. Under the NAPS Operating Model, NAPS provides support and expertise in the service areas of human resources, from the hiring process to organizing labor contracts, accounting, customs and environmental health & safety to help ensure compliance with Mexican and international business laws. Get in touch to learn more about labor laws in Mexico and how NAPS can help your business.