Supreme Court Orders Social Security for Domestics

The Mexican Supreme Court has voted to guarantee social security to all domestic employees and make registration of all domestics mandatory for employers. More than 2.4 million domestic workers in Mexico will now receive full social security insurance, public health care, access to retirement, daycare services, and housing plans. Employers will need to abide by fixed hours, bonuses, and vacations. Currently 98% of domestic workers in Mexico work without social protection.

The Supreme Court has approved today a project to guarantee the entry of all domestic workers, such as housekeepers, gardeners, tradespeople, drivers, and cooks, into the social security system. The hiring of domestic workers is typical in Mexico. However, until now most were working without the benefits of employees. The Mexican Social Security System provides benefits for registered workers that are in the system:

  • Medical care
  • A government housing loan system
  • Retirement pension
  • Disability pension and coverage
  • Maternity pay and care
  • Basic dental care
  • Marriage, divorce and death support and funeral costs
  • Plus other benefits

Mexican labor law protects the worker and ensures that the worker’s rights are respected.

If you have someone working for you that is performing odd jobs, working periodically such as one day a week, or perhaps you have someone that has another job as many domestic workers have, you will be affected.  Maybe you have a domestic worker that is currently retired under the social security system or is under the age of majority, and you have not registered them in with IMSS, you may be affected by the inclusion of all domestics into IMSS. The ruling would seemingly void any existing contracts with domestics that state that they are not your employee.

The good news is that you have time to correct any legal problems you may have with current employees. The Supreme Court ruling determined that the IMSS will have to design and implement the program during the first semester of 2019 to bring in the approximately 2.4 million workers. Once the program is in operation, the entity will have up to 18 months to take it to Congress so that it can formalize the new system into law. After that time, there will be a one year term for all employers to register domestic workers.

The ruling by the Supreme Court describes the non-registration of employees in the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) unconstitutional and has determined that it will be mandatory for all employers to affiliate their employees into the system.

Marcelina Bautista, director of the Center for Support and Training of Domestic Workers (CACEH), describes the decision of the Supreme Court as historic. “For us, it is a great advance in this struggle that we started 18 years ago. Until now, domestic workers were only given social security voluntarily.”

While this is a step in the right direction, as all workers should have access to benefits and that their rights are respected, there is more to this than is realized at first reading. To pull 2.4 million workers into the employee system can become quite problematic for IMSS. There will be a cost incurred to bring those 2.4 million workers into a system that is currently not able to handle the workload. A worker can spend an entire day waiting at IMSS to be seen by a doctor. There will be costs for more doctors and staff members. There is no doubt that the social security payments/remittances will increase.

Second of all, the government must be concerned about the workers not losing work and becoming unemployed, making them a burden on the country.

The culture of hiring domestic workers is a long-standing tradition in Mexico. Those that can afford to hire a housekeeper for a few hours per week have provided a much-needed income to those 2.4 million workers so that they might feed themselves and their children. That culture may soon disappear.

Of course, there are those homeowners that create a problem by not respecting the rights of workers. They hire underage girls to live in the house to cook, clean, and watch after the homeowner’s children. These workers often start at 6 a.m. and work until 10 p.m. They are given a small room with nothing more than a bed and sink for living quarters and often work seven days a week. And, by the time the homeowner deducts the cost of food, the housing, and other costs, the young girls are left with very little money for all their work. This type of slavery, of course, cannot be allowed to continue.

On the other hand, there are a number (if not the majority) of women who do not work full time as they need to take care of their children. They only need to supplement their income to cover their needs. Under current employee laws, the employer must provide additional benefits to employees.

For example, a housekeeper who comes in once a week may earn 200 pesos for a few hours work, but she may be working for six different households and earning 1200 pesos a week for perhaps 12 hours of work. If the homeowner is on a fixed income such as a pension, they will not be able to absorb the additional benefits.

It is likely that with new ruling and a possible increase in social security payments, remittances and other benefits that the homeowner will be much more than the 200 pesos. If they are unable to pay the extra amount, they may (and probably will) do the work themselves. The worker loses their work and the revenue. The only alternative is to go to work for one employer for an entire week, but finding that homeowner who needs a full-time employee may be difficult.

In interviewing several homeowners who currently have a housekeeper and gardener who come in for two hours a week, each of them had grave concerns over whether they would continue to employ these individuals. One woman, who is a pensioner, and does all of her housekeeping but does have a gardener come in once a month, stated that she would be unable to cover the additional costs and would have to dismiss her gardener of many years.

It may be that the Residential Services businesses, that provide domestic help by the hours, will grow to absorb the additional housekeepers, maids, and gardeners. Of course, the companies will increase the cost as they will absorb the IMSS payments and benefits, allowing the homeowner access to their services on an as-needed basis. However, the price may well triple to 600 pesos per hour, and there are those who will balk at paying 1,800 pesos for a few hours of housekeeping.

It would seem that to bring these 2.4 million domestic workers into the system and consider them equal to employees; the current Federal Labor Law may have to go through a drastic change. As the ruling works its way through IMSS and Congress, there will much to consider. The good news is that they have given three years to study and initiate the ruling.

About G. William Hood

G. William Hood is a writer, fine arts painter, educator and world traveler. He lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
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