Aguinaldo refers to an annual Christmas bonus that businesses in Mexico are required by law to pay to their employees. The payment, sometimes called the thirteenth salary, must be made by Dec. 20 of each year.

Companies that fail to make an aguinaldo payment may get fined between three and 315 times the legal daily minimum wage. Some other Latin American nations, such as Costa Rica, also require employers to pay an aguinaldo to their employees.

Aguinaldo is a legally-mandated annual Christmas bonus paid by businesses in Mexico to their employees.
The amount of this tax-free payment is based on an employee’s base salary.
The bonus must be paid by December 20th of each year.
Only a small portion of Mexican workers, however, actually receive their aguinaldo since many workers are hired informally and are only loosely attached to their employer.
Most of those who get aguinaldo receive at least half a month’s wages, with larger, more established firms paying larger amounts.

The Spanish word aguinaldo translates to “bonus.” This bonus is normally given to employees in Mexico and other Latin American countries such as Guatemala and Costa Rica for the Christmas season in addition to their regular salaries and other benefits. Employers in Argentina and Uruguay give their employees an aguinaldo in two payments–one in June and the other in December.

Mexican labor law requires employers to pay the bonus to their employees every year, established by legislation passed in 1970. This law mandated that workers be entitled to an annual December bonus equivalent to at least 15 days’ wages and may be prorated if the employee has been with the company for less than a full year. For example, if an employee earns $180,000 per year, they receive an aguinaldo payment of $7,500, or $180,000 / 12 months / 2.

Large companies may pay employees 30 days of wages, which is effectively 13 months of salary per year. This is why the aguinaldo is sometimes referred to as the thirteenth salary.

Employees are not required to pay income tax on their aguinaldo payment of an amount equivalent to 30 days of the legal daily minimum wage. For example, if the minimum daily wage is $60, the tax-exempt amount of the aguinaldo is $1,800, or $60 x 30 days.

Most aguinaldos amount to at least 15 days’ wages, although larger corporations pay employees as much as a full month in order to improve employee retention.

The aguinaldo provides a seasonal boost in demand for retail products such as automobiles, appliances, clothing, and furniture. Roughly 70% of aguinaldo income gets spent in department stores. Some employers increase aguinaldo payments to boost sales during El Buen Fin–Mexico’s equivalent to Black Friday.

Employees who receive an aguinaldo payment are more likely to show loyalty to a company that values them. Loyal employees are typically more productive and less likely to leave, which reduces recruitment and training costs.

Critics of the aguinaldo believe that these mandatory payments may put financial pressure on struggling companies that could result in layoffs and/or closures. To combat this risk, companies are permitted to make aguinaldo payments to their employees via installments, provided that they don’t defer the entire payment.

Pros

Payment may be received tax-free

Resultant spending can stimulate the economy

Increases employee loyalty

Cons

Mandated payments can put financial pressure on some corporations

Many workers remain ineligible due to their employment status

All employers are legally required to pay their employees an aguinaldo. Foreign workers who hold appropriate employment documentation are also entitled to receive a bonus.

However, only a minority of Mexican workers actually receive the payment, due to unfavorable working conditions such as informal contracting and temporary employment. For example, a part-time gardener who has not signed a formal contract with their employer may not receive an aguinaldo payment. Some people may choose to tip their workers–maids, postmen, delivery people–before the holidays even if they aren’t required to do so.

The thirteenth salary is also paid to employees in other parts of the world, including Asia and Europe. Whether or not the payment is voluntary or mandatory, and how much is paid, varies by country.

“Thirteenth salaries” like the aguinaldo are found around the world, but subject to their own variations. In Bolivia, for instance, it is mandatory to pay a second aguinaldo if the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increases by more than 4.5%.

If you work from home but for an employer, you should be eligible for aguinaldo in Mexico. The main exception is for freelancers, who are self-employed and not part of the established payroll of a company. In this case. you would not receive an aguinaldo bonus.

The actual payment is calculated based solely on income, so lower-earning workers will receive a proportionally lower aguinaldo.

If an eligible employee dies during the year, their aguinaldo payment is disbursed among that employee’s named beneficiaries.


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