Since Tuesday, January 13, a reform to the Federal Labor Law that regulates the “home office” came into force in Mexico. This reform grant guarantees to workers who carry out their functions from a distance, but at the same time requires them to fulfill certain responsibilities.
This reform adds to the regional trend that already exists in Latin America to regulate remote work, as well as being a response to the rapid changes in workspaces that have been motivated by the COVID-19 virus.
Read also: Teleworking in the labor laws of LatAm
What rights do home office workers obtain in Mexico?
The new provisions for companies were approved by the Congress of Mexico and published by the President of the Republic through the Official Gazette of the Federation. These require companies to guarantee an adequate environment for workers, as well as cover some costs and respect for working hours.
Companies with remote workers in Mexico must provide, install, and take care of the maintenance of the equipment necessary for teleworking such as computer equipment, ergonomic chairs, printers, among others.
Employers must also assume the costs derived from work through teleworking, including, where appropriate, payment for telecommunication services and the proportional part of electricity.
Companies must register workers in the teleworking modality to the mandatory social security regime.
As we have commented before, teleworking also requires its own processes and this is provided in the new law. Companies must establish the necessary training and advisory mechanisms to guarantee the adaptation, learning, and adequate use of information technologies for workers in the teleworking modality.
In the reform, workers are guaranteed some rights such as the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. A novelty in the reform is the right to disconnect. With this, the pressures of answering emails outside of working hours are over.
Greater rights imply greater responsibilities
The reform of the labor law has been celebrated for the rights it grants to workers, but not all are concessions for them. Remote workers will also need to adopt certain responsibilities when choosing to work remotely.
Among the responsibilities that workers must assume is taking the greatest care in the storage and conservation of the equipment, materials, and supplies they receive,
inform in a timely manner about the agreed costs for the use of telecommunications services and electricity consumption, obey the health and safety provisions established at work, use the mechanisms and operating systems for the supervision of their activities, attend to the data protection policies used in the performance of their activities, as well as restrictions on their use and storage.
Optional change from face-to-face to teleworking
Companies that want to migrate from a face-to-face mode to teleworking will not be able to do so unilaterally. Teleworkers must agree and both parties must establish it in writing, except when a case of force majeure occurs, such as the pandemic.
The reform also indicates that the parties can return to a face-to-face modality if they find it more convenient, for which they must agree on mechanisms, processes, and times to make this change valid.
Since the publication of the reform, the federal government has a period of 18 months to publish an Official Mexican Standard that governs the obligations regarding safety and health in remote work.
What are the pros and cons of the “home office” law?
The reform offers guarantees to workers and protects them from the abuses that have been seen in the pandemic, such as salary reductions or calls after working hours. Adding responsibilities for workers also protects companies and this can motivate them to promote the home office.
However, the costs to be covered by companies such as electricity and the internet make the migration to telework less attractive and this may mean that this modality is not promoted.
In any case, the law encourages the professionalization of the home office in the country and responds to a pressing need during this pandemic.