The Fourteenth Month

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Tegucigalpa is a big post for families with young children and for good reason. (Hint: it’s not the city itself.) The availability and affordability of household help is a major perk of serving in Honduras, and likely many of the “hardship” posts of the world.

It’s a perk in which we have no interest, but nearly everyone in our group of friends has a housekeeper and/or nanny and it’s not uncommon to hire a driver and a gardener too. Why not employ an entire football team of domestic help when a full-time housekeeper only costs you $300/month? It’s not for us, but I can’t say we don’t reap some ancillary benefits, since nannies and drivers free up our friends from parental duties from time to time.

Since we agreed from the beginning we were not eager to hire help, it’s not something I’ve given much attention until a recent email came my way. With a subject line reading something like “don’t forget to give your staff fourteenth salary this month” it detailed the Honduran labor law by which household help is paid fourteen months of salary each year. Known as “El Catorceavo” (The Fourteenth), it is one of the social benefits approved by the Congress in the early 90s. The decree reads (in my dire Spanish translation):

“By Decree No. 135-94 of October 12, 1994, establishes as a right of all employees and workers, payment of the fourteenth month of salary, which will be paid in the month of June each year.”

The thirteenth month, if you’re wondering, comes from another double-salary payment in December. Convenient timing for a holiday bonus! Most intriguing to me is not the concept of a twice-annual bonus, but that once you give this benefit, it is a right and you must always give it until you no longer employ that person. Many domestic workers depend on this money, so that social contract is a nice built-in protection on their behalf. In a country that seemingly does so little to protect its citizens and their rights, it’s fascinating to see labor laws specifically addressing domestic workers’ needs.

To the other MSG and FS folks out there, do you have household help? Does your country have something like El Catorceavo?

 

 

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