Labor Law Revisions
Our Goal: A Five-Day Workweek for Everyone
Faced with criticism over the introduction of a new workweek system under the revised Labor Standards Act, Hsieh Chien-chien, Director of Department of Labor Standards and Equal Employment in the Ministry of Labor, says the aim of the amendment was to create a legal basis for a five-day workweek for all. Following are the excerpts from our interview:
Our Goal: A Five-Day Workweek for EveryoneBy Rebecca Lin, Pei-hua Yu
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 616 )
The government’s new five-day workweek rules and decision to set the number of days off per year for national holidays at 12 for all employees sparked extensive protests and resistance from both labor and business groups. In this interview with Commonwealth Magazine, Hsieh Chien-chien, the director of the Ministry of Labor’s Department of Labor Standards and Equal Employment, gives the government’s side of the story. The following are excerpts from our interview, in Hsieh’s own words.
Since the implementation of the 1984 Labor Standards Act, workers had one “mandatory” day off every seven days. Employers are only able to demand that workers work on a mandatory day off in the event of a natural disaster or an accident. This regulation has always existed.
The recent amendment to the Labor Standards Act came about mainly because of a 2015 amendment that shortened statutory weekly working hours from the original 84 hours per two weeks to 40 hours per week. Since only Article 30 of the Labor Standards Act, which regulates working hours, was amended at the time, some companies still kept spreading these working hours over six days, which meant that workers were still not able to enjoy a five-day workweek.
We only came up with the "flexible rest day” concept because of feedback from labor organizations and the political platform of President Tsai Ing-wen, which called for a clear legal basis for the five-day workweek. In principle, a flexible rest day serves the purpose of resting, while work is the exception. Overtime pay [including base bay] for voluntary work on a flexible rest day has been adjusted upward from 1.3 times the hourly wage to 2.3 times or more. Limiting the quantity [of working hours] through price will make employers more cautious when it comes to requesting workers to work overtime on rest days.
Since the Labor Standards Act is rooted in the Factory Act, it applied only to the industrial sector in the beginning. But as other professions were gradually included over the past two decades, the government also made relevant amendments based on the specific nature of different trades and professions. Additional articles were established and applied to accommodate flexible working hours in particular industries such as the food and beverage, department store, information services and accounting sectors. This latest amendment does not restrict or limit the existing flexible working hours system.
For workers, their attendance record is quite important, not just as a basis for calculating overtime wages but also for identifying instances of occupational injury. Because working patterns are becoming increasingly diverse, the Ministry of Labor has drawn up Guidelines for Off-Site Working Hours for mass media workers, remote workers (telecommuters) and traveling sales personnel. Workers can build attendance records by reporting back to the company via an app such as Line, and they can clock in and out using a mobile phone. Labor and management can also agree on regular working hours, while overtime is recorded and reported to the company based on the actual situation.
Taiwan’s workers are in a very weak position because they are not able to fight for their own labor rights through collective bargaining in the same way as in other countries.
The situation in countries around the world differs because the ability [to exert influence] in collective bargaining differs. Taiwan boasts more than a million enterprises, but we have only 919 company unions and a total of 5,466 unions of all kinds. Neither their number nor their ability is sufficient.
Taiwan’s workers are in a very weak position because they are not able to fight for their own labor rights through collective bargaining in the same way as in other countries. The Ministry of Labor will continue to hold training sessions for labor union leaders to cultivate collective bargaining talent. We will start out by strengthening labor unions’ negotiating skills.
Management believes that Taiwan’s labor laws are not very flexible. But Japan does not have personal leave and sick leave, and some countries do not even have a cap on the number of overtime hours a person can work. Is this what everyone wants?
From the government’s point of view, we still need to help workers by keeping a close check on worker health and welfare.
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz