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Employee Profit Sharing (PTU) in Mexico

Submitted by Firm:
BLP Abogados - Costa Rica
Firm Contacts:
Alexandra Aguilar Garcia, Randall González
Article Type:
Legal Article

In this episode, we discuss a recent resolution by the Second Chamber of the Mexican Supreme Court regarding profit sharing (PTU). A reform was passed during 2021 that prohibited subcontracting in Mexico, and to limit the economic impact, it also introduced a cap to the employers’ obligation to share its profit among the employees. Subscribe to our podcast today to stay up to date on employment issues from law experts worldwide.

Host: Alexandra Aguilar (email) (BLP / Costa Rica)

Guest Speaker: Samuel Flores (email) (Santamarina y Steta, S.C. / Mexico)

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In a recent episode of the Employment Matters podcast, hosted by Alexandra Aguilar of BLP, Costa Rica, we dive into the significant changes surrounding Employee Profit Sharing (PTU) in Mexico. With guest expert Samuel Flores from Santamarina y Steta, S.C., Monterrey, the discussion highlights the recent legal adjustments and their implications for businesses and employees alike.

Profit Sharing as a Key Investment Consideration

Samuel Flores opens the discussion by highlighting the uniqueness of the profit sharing (PTU) system in Mexico, which stands as a significant factor for potential investors. Unique to Mexico, this constitutional right mandates that all employees are entitled to share in the profits generated by their employers. Established in the Mexican Constitution since 1962, this system requires employers to distribute 10% of their pre-tax profits to eligible employees, a practice not commonly found globally.

Historical Context and Recent Changes

The profit sharing percentage has been fixed at 10% since 1985. This established practice recently gained further attention due to significant legal reforms in 2021 aimed at curtailing subcontracting. The reforms were designed to prevent employers from using complex corporate structures to minimize the profits shared with employees. By eliminating such subcontracting practices, the reform intended to ensure a fairer distribution of profits.

Introduction of a Cap on Profit Sharing

In an effort to manage the economic implications of the subcontracting reform, the government, in agreement with employer and employee representatives, introduced a cap on profit sharing. This cap is defined in the Federal Labor Law, where the maximum amount shared among employees is limited to either three months of salary or the average of the profit sharing received over the last three years, whichever is higher. This measure was intended to mitigate sudden increases in profit-sharing obligations that could financially strain businesses.

Controversy and Legal Challenges

The introduction of this cap sparked significant debate and legal challenges, particularly from powerful unions such as those in the mining industry. A district court ruled in 2023 that this cap was unconstitutional, arguing that since the cap was not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, it could not be imposed through secondary legislation. This decision created a considerable stir among employers, as eliminating the cap could potentially lead to substantial economic repercussions.

Contrasting Profit Sharing in Mexico with Equity Incentives Elsewhere

Mandatory Profit Sharing in Mexico

In this portion of the discussion, Samuel Flores elaborates on the mandatory nature of profit sharing in Mexico, a stark contrast to practices in other Latin American countries such as Costa Rica. In Mexico, profit sharing is a constitutional obligation, not merely an incentive. This mandates that all employers distribute a set percentage of their pre-tax profits—currently 10%—to their employees. This system ensures a direct benefit from corporate successes to the workers, reflecting a strong commitment to sharing economic gains.

Supreme Court Rulings and Legal Stability

Recently, the Mexican Supreme Court has played a pivotal role in addressing the complexities introduced by the cap on profit sharing. Two weeks prior to the podcast, the Court resolved a critical case affirming the legislature's right to impose such caps, even if not explicitly detailed in the Constitution, as long as the general constitutional principles are observed. This ruling, stemming from a lawsuit by a miners' union, has significant implications for businesses across Mexico. It provides a degree of certainty and allows companies to have more predictable financial planning concerning profit sharing obligations.

Distinguishing Between Profit Sharing and Equity Incentives

Further discussing the nuances of compensation schemes, Samuel Flores clarifies that profit sharing in Mexico is fundamentally different from equity plans like stock options or other profit-related compensation strategies commonly used elsewhere. In Mexico, while profit sharing is mandated by law, equity incentives are additional benefits companies might offer at their discretion. This distinction is crucial for international companies operating in Mexico, as they must comply with local mandatory regulations while also aligning with their global compensation policies.

Implications for Businesses and Investors

This legal affirmation by the Supreme Court offers relief to employers who were concerned about the financial implications of an uncapped profit-sharing scheme. For industries with high capital investments, this ruling means a more balanced approach to sharing profits without jeopardizing financial stability.

Practical Implications and Future Considerations for Profit Sharing in Mexico

Comprehensive Understanding and Compliance

In wrapping up their informative discussion, Samuel Flores underscores the critical nature of compliance with profit sharing regulations in Mexico. Given the constitutional mandate, employers must meticulously calculate and distribute profit shares. This process is closely regulated and must involve a joint committee consisting of representatives from both the employer and the employees. Such committees are crucial in ensuring transparency and agreement on the profit-sharing calculations, which must be documented and can be audited or challenged by employees within specified time frames.

Deadline for Profit Sharing Payments

Samuel also details the timing for these mandatory payments. Employers are required to distribute profit sharing within 60 days after filing their annual tax returns, typically making the end of May the deadline for these distributions. This schedule underscores the need for companies to prepare early, ensuring all calculations and committee approvals are completed in time to meet legal obligations.

Anticipation of Further Discussions and Educational Sessions

Alexandra concludes the episode by expressing interest in a follow-up session, emphasizing the complexity and importance of profit sharing in Mexico. This points to a broader need for ongoing education and discussion around this topic, particularly for international businesses operating in Mexico or considering entering the Mexican market.

Final Thoughts and Resources

The podcast episode not only serves as an educational tool but also as a bridge connecting listeners with expert legal advice through the Employment Law Alliance network. For employers, legal practitioners, and businesses, understanding the nuances of such legal frameworks is crucial for compliance and strategic planning.