Mexico: new reform punishes working hours exceeding the legal limit as a labor exploitation offense

Exceeding the legal working hours in Mexico is now a serious offense. Those found guilty could face up to 12 years in prison and fines of up to 70,000 days of their salary. Earlier this month, the General Law to Prevent, Punish, and Eradicate Crimes of Human Trafficking and for the Protection and Assistance to the Victims of these Crimes came into force. This new amendment reclassifies such violations as labor exploitation crimes.

Before this amendment, labor exploitation was already considered a crime of trafficking in persons. Still, it was limited to cases involving dangerous or unhealthy conditions, workloads disproportionate to the remuneration, or wages below the minimum wage. Now, the reform also covers working hours that exceed the limits established in the Federal Labor Law (LFT), specifying that companies that force their employees to work more than 8 hours a day may be sanctioned with prison sentences of between 3 and 10 years and fines of between 5,000 and 15,000 days of salary.

Mario Cesar Nuñez, Englobally Mexico’s partner, indicates that “the recommendations highlighted the importance of strictly complying with the maximum working hours established in the Federal Labor Law (LFT).” In addition, they underscore the need to properly document and pay for any overtime worked. They state that any additional work required must be consented to in writing by the employee and paid at 200% of the corresponding overtime wage. “These recommendations not only help to avoid legal sanctions but also promote fair and transparent labor practices,” he concludes.

For cases in which labor exploitation affects indigenous or Afro-Mexican peoples and communities, the penalties are even more severe, ranging from 4 to 12 years in prison and fines between 7,000 and 70,000 days’ wages. According to the reform approved by the Congress of the Union, a workday that exceeds the legal limit “will be applicable and, therefore, will be updated as a modality of labor exploitation” as long as an act that violates labor provisions is documented.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS) indicates that working hours and lack of overtime payment are the most recurrent noncompliance in inspections of working conditions. The reform, in addition to seeking to prevent, eradicate, and punish labor exploitation, reminds employers to comply with the legal provisions on working time, implying that workers in positions of trust are not exempt from these limits.

While the reform is a significant step in discouraging excessive working hours, specialists stress the importance of its responsible implementation. Implementation is particularly crucial in sectors with unique working hours. Mario Cesar Nuñez, Englobally Mexico’s partner, highlights the need for employers to adapt their policies and practices to comply with the new legal provisions, ensuring fair working conditions for all.

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