A Guide to 13th Month Pay
If you’re based in a country like Australia, the United States, or the United Kingdom, the chances are that you’ve never heard of 13th or 14th-month pay. And if one of your employees tried telling you about it, you’d probably think they were pulling your leg!
13th and 14th-month pay is a real thing in some countries, though. It is also known by other terms such as “13th-month salary”, “13th salary”, or even “holiday” or “Christmas” pay.
While it may not be a common practice where you are, it’s crucial to have knowledge of 13th and 14th-month pay regulations if you hire foreign employees. If you fail to compensate workers with 13th or 14th-month pay where it’s required by law, your company could fall out of compliance with local laws and be liable for some hefty legal penalties.
In this short guide, we’re going to cover everything that you need to know about 13th and 14th-month pay and provide some practical guidance on how your company can ensure compliance.
What is 13th Month Pay?
In short, 13th month pay is the payment of an additional month’s salary during the financial year. It’s a common practice around the world, but there are some variations that rest on the specific employment laws of a particular country or legal jurisdiction.
In the Philippines, for example, 13th-month pay is a form of compensation in addition to an employee’s annual (12-month) salary prescribed by law. In fact, it was in the Philippines where 13th-month pay (or “thirteenth salary” as it’s known there) originated. It was introduced to bridge the gap between minimum wage—which hadn’t been increased for several years—and the higher cost of living.
In contrast, some countries don’t require 13th or 14th-month pay by law. Instead, they leave it to the discretion of employers whether or not it is paid.
Which Countries Have Thirteenth Month Pay?
Quite a lot of countries have thirteenth month pay. There are so many countries that offer it with their own rules and customs, however, that it would be too much information to list here.
Thirteenth Month Pay in Europe
In Europe, thirteenth-month pay is mandatory in Armenia, Portugal, Greece, and Spain. In other countries such as Belgium and Croatia, it’s customary (but not a legal requirement.) Some countries, such as Greece, Spain, and Austria, offer fourteenth-month pay (or bonus), too.
In Switzerland, employees are paid their annual salary in 13 installments rather than 12. This means that employees usually receive two months’ worth of wages in December, which helps pay for Christmas bills.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a legal distinction is made between a thirteenth-month payment and a Christmas bonus, whereas in most other countries, the terms are used interchangeably: The thirteenth-month pay is salary, whereas the Christmas bonus (fourteenth month) is a special Christmas bonus intended to pay additional holiday expenses.
Thirteenth Month Pay in Latin America
Across most of Latin America, thirteenth-month pay—which is known as Aguinaldo or prima (bonus) in Spanish—is required by law. However, how and when this is paid depends on the country.
In Brazil, for example, thirteenth-month pay is paid in two equal parts, by November 30 and by December 20. A mandatory 14th-month bonus is a holiday bonus. In contrast, Peru requires thirteenth-month pay to be paid in July and a fourteenth-month bonus to be paid in December.
The only country in Latin America with customary thirteenth month pay not required by law is Chile, where it’s paid in December as a lump sum or in two halves, in September and December.
Thirteenth Month Pay in Asia
Just like in Latin America, much of Asia has thirteenth-month pay. The only countries in Asia that legally mandate thirteenth-month pay are India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia, where payments are made on Eid al-Fitr.
In China and Hong Kong, customary thirteenth-month pay is made during the month of the Lunar New Year. In Japan, bonuses are paid in both June (summer) and December (winter).
Thirteenth Month Pay in Africa
In Africa, the following countries have thirteenth-month pay:
Is 13th Month Pay Mandatory?
As you’ve probably worked out by now, it depends on each country’s laws and customs.
Returning to the example of the Philippines, 13th-month pay is required by law here. But in many other places, it’s customary (i.e., businesses don’t have to pay it by law, but they do anyway.)
In places where 13th-month pay is customary, the terms of it are typically set out in employment contracts or through collective industry or trade union agreements. Businesses in these countries are also well within their legal rights to not pay it. In a country where 13th-month pay is required by law, however, serious penalties can be dished out for companies that refuse or otherwise fail to pay it.
Here are the countries where 13th-month pay is required by law, correct at the time of writing in February 2021:
Who Gets It?
In places where 13th-month pay is mandatory (required by law), it’s typically the case that all employees are entitled to it, so long as they have worked for at least one month within each calendar year.
This isn’t always the case, however. Exceptions to the 13th-month pay rules can be made for certain job roles such as management, or industries such as the public sector. Zero-hours employees (i.e., those without full employment contracts), contractors, and freelancers are also typically excluded from 13th-month pay entitlements.
Again, the rules and customs depend entirely on each specific situation; far more than location alone needs to be accounted for in most cases.
How Do You Calculate 13th Month Pay?
In some countries, like in the Philippines, 13th-month pay is calculated as an additional month’s salary. So, an employee paid $24,000 per year will receive an extra $2,000 for their 13th-month pay, because $24,000 divided by 12 is $2,000.
In other countries, such as Brazil and Italy, 13th-month pay is calculated as part of the annual salary. This means that the annual salary will be divided by 13 and paid out in 13 equal installments. So, $24,000 would become $1,846 per month.
There are exceptions to these two formulas for calculating 13th-month salary, such as in India where it’s calculated as a bonus percentage relative to a worker’s annual salary.
How 13th-month pay is calculated depends on each jurisdiction, their laws, and customs.
Is 13th Month Pay Taxable?
More often than not, 13th-month pay is subject to normal income taxes. How this is done, however, varies between countries. Some countries will apply full tax while others will only apply tax once a certain threshold has been met or will lower the tax rate applied.
When paying remote employees, you’ll need to be aware of the tax situation in each country, including what rate needs to be withheld for 13th-month pay.
When Does it Need to Be Paid?
As you’ve probably guessed from the information above, when 13th (and in some cases 14th) month pay is paid out depends on the country in question and what its regulations are. Exact timings, if not defined in law as they are in the Philippines, are often laid out in employment contracts or other agreements.
More often than not, the date when 13th-month pay needs to be paid is tied to a country’s cultural norms, religious holidays, or other significant dates. Many have Christian roots, and thus this “extra” pay is paid out in December, just in time for Christmas. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, it’s paid out in time for Eid, while in China and Singapore, it’s paid out in time for Chinese New Year.
What Is 14th Month Pay?
Instead of dividing an annual salary into 13 components (as with 13th month pay), sometimes it is divided into 14. In this case the, the employee receives both 13th month and 14th month pay. Countries with 14th month salary include: Greece, Spain , Austria, Italy, Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Japan, UAE and Angola.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on the country. In the Philippines, for example, only 'rank and file' employees who have worked more than one month in a calendar year, are legally entitled to receive 13th month pay: It is not automatically available for 'managerial employees'.
It is also common for some roles and industries to be exempted such as those paid purely on commission, and those who work for the Government.
Where 13th month pay is mandatory, it depends on the laws of that country. It is common for it to be released in relation to times of celebration in that country such as Christmas, Chinese New Year or Eid.
Where 13th month pay is optional, the employment contract should state when 13th month salary is to be received.
Difficulty in managing local payroll requirements, such as 13th month salary obligations, are one of the reasons many expanding companies decide to outsource their payroll.
In some countries, 13th month salary is calculated as a proportion of the annual salary (i.e. the annual salary, plus one 12). In other countries, the 13th month payment is already factored into the annual salary, so monthly salary payments are reduced accordingly (compared to what they would be if there was no '13th month).
How NH Global Partners Can Help
If your company works globally and relies on a pool of dispersed international talent, you need a reliable partner to back you.
New Horizons Global Partners works with companies like yours to help them achieve compliance with international labor and tax laws.
We primarily do this as a global PEO (“Professional Employer Organization”), meaning that we act as the “employer” of our clients’ international employees and take on responsibility for payroll, taxes, and all employer obligations in the relevant host countries.
We understand that some of our clients would prefer their employers to remain legally employed by themselves, however. That’s why we also offer a “scaled-down” outsourced payroll solution where we handle payroll and taxes, but our clients remain as the sole legal employers of their international employees.
NH Global Partners will work closely with you to work out which solution is best for you to efficiently navigate the ins and outs of employing an international workforce.
Contact us if you would like to find out more.