Cooking without having to do the dishes or even not cooking at all! A beautiful garden without the weeding! The availability of reasonable domestic help makes all this possible for most North Americans living in Vallarta, but be aware that the casual arrangement you make with Maria to straighten up your condo three days a week is a binding legal contract. Thus, after a 3 month probationary period, your gardener and maid, even though they may work for other people as well, become your responsibility.
Despite the fact that most domestic workers are a part of the "underground economy", a good labor lawyer working on behalf of a disgruntled employee can still cost the employer money, so it is best to take some simple precautions. First, write a contact between you and the employee. List the days and hours to be worked and include what you will be paying per day and on which day you will pay. List their duties and make the contract for one year with a 3-month probationary period, renewing it yearly. Always have the employee sign a receipt for his or her pay or bonus.
Secondly, after three months, discuss whether the employee wants you to pay social security taxes for health and retirement benefits and if he declines, have him sign to that effect. It may be that another employer is paying this or that he simply doesn't wish to pay his share of the cost. In the absence of social security health protection, an employer will still be responsible for a chronic disease acquired on the job or any injuries sustained while working.
Mexican law specifies that an employee can work only 40 hours a week and no more than 8 hours per day. Furthermore, full-time employees are entitled to have statutory holidays off with pay, or be paid double time while part-time employees are entitled to have a paid day off as well, as long as the holiday falls on a day that the employee would normally work. Double time is paid if the employee works the holiday.
Employees are also entitled by law to a Christmas bonus and vacation. Full-time employment has set rules and Christmas bonus, payable by December 20, is equivalent to 15 days pay. For part-time help these times and amounts are "voluntary", but a good guideline for a Christmas bonus is the equivalent of 2 weeks pay. In addition, an employee is entitled to six paid vacation days for the first year, and two more days more per year for every extra year worked.
If, after a while you decide to sell your home, or you're just dissatisfied, be aware that any employee who has been fired or laid off is due severance. There are a number of reasons employees can be dismissed for cause (including three unauthorized absences in a 28-day period), but the laws generally do a good job of protecting the worker. The severance owed would be the equivalent of 3 months salary plus 20 days for every year worked, proportional vacation pay, and proportional Christmas bonus. Once this payment is made, make sure to have the employee sign off in agreement. If the employee quits or retires, no severance is due, but you should obtain a signed letter.
By now you're probably ready to hire yourself, but don't! Most Mexican gardeners are artists and know which plants will thrive in this special climate by the sea and house just looks and feels extraordinary after the maid leaves –just be a wise employer.