Mexican companies commonly hire students to work in their businesses in order to enable such students to fulfill their community service or professional internship requirements, which can lead to complications given that this type of work is not regulated by Mexico’s Federal Labor Law (Ley Federal del Trabajo). Notwithstanding such gap in the law, the Mexican Federal Department of Labor (Secretaría del Trabajo y Prevision Social or STPS) has issued guidelines regulating how students may provide services to fulfill their community service or professional internship requirements and, at the same time, reduce the employer’s labor liability under Mexican Federal Labor Law. The STPS guidelines regulating students working in a community service or professional internship capacity include the following:
- Educational institutions must maintain a set of Community Service Regulations, approved by the Mexican Federal Department of Education;
- The employer must sign an agreement with participating educational institutions that is consistent with the provisions of the school’s community service regulations, and such agreement must include the requirements necessary to duly accredit the community service or professional internship work to be performed;
- The employer must prepare a detailed description of the needs, objectives and goals of such program, as well as the administrative procedures for selecting and assigning students, payment of any stipends, among others;
- The educational institution must obtain medical insurance covering any accident that students could suffer during their time providing community service or professional internship work;
- Employers may not pay salaries to the students; rather, the only payments permitted are for stipends or assistance with transportation expenses;
- Educational institutions must provide a letter authorizing the student to engage in professional internship or community service activities, recognizing that such activities will not create an employment relationship;
- Employers must enter into a “community service provider” agreement with the student, which may include provisions protecting the company from any labor liability;
- Upon concluding the community service or professional internship activity, the company is required to issue a completion certificate to be delivered to the respective educational institution, and the student must deliver to the company a letter certifying that no employment relationship exists between the employer and student, and a release of the employer from any type of labor law liability.
It is essential to comply with the guidelines set forth above in case a company desires to employ students to provide community service or professional internship assistance. Following such guidelines will enable employers to avoid labor risks that could arise from students’ community service or professional internship work in Mexico.