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Options for employers to add more flexibility to work hours

by Christine Chen and Hsin-Hsin Cheng

The 2018 amendments to the Labor Standards Act (LSA), while intended to provide more flexibility in favor of employers in Taiwan, have nevertheless raised some questions regarding the distribution of work hours for employees. The new amendments contain provisions allowing for the adjustment of mandatory rest days, meaning that, in certain situations, workers may work a maximum of twelve consecutive days. This ideally gives employers more options for covering shifts in case of an emergency or in cases in which time limits for project-based work require employees to work more than the current limit of six consecutive days. However, it’s not immediately clear from the English language information currently available just how such a flexible schedule may be legally implemented. Below, we outline a few ways in which an employee or multiple employees at a company in Taiwan may be permitted to work more than six consecutive days.

1. The Four Week Work Hour Adjustment System

This method of redistributing work hours may be used by companies belonging to one of 42 different industries designated by the Ministry of Labor (MOL). The criteria for determining whether a company belongs to one of these designated industries are its primary economic activities and output value (e.g. the company’s income). The Four Week Work Hour Adjustment System requires that employees be given at least two mandatory rest days every two weeks, and eight rest days in every four week period. In order for a company to use this system to determine work hours for its shift workers, it must first obtain the approval of the relevant labor union, or if there is no labor union, the approval of a labor-management conference.

2. Adjustment of the employee’s mandatory rest day

Whereas the other three options in this list are existing means of adjusting work hours, the following method is a new amendment to the LSA.

According to Article 36 Paragraph 4 of the LSA, an employer may adjust an employee’s mandatory rest day in a seven day period. Such an adjustment may only be carried out by certain businesses/industries designated by the MOL and must also meet the conditions for adjustment of mandatory rest days, based on each designated industry’s needs. These include extenuating circumstances related to time (e.g. seasonal hours, national holiday hours, etc.), location (e. g. work on the ocean or in the mountains), the nature of the work (e.g. work conducted overseas, in response to weather conditions, etc.), and special situations (e.g. holding extraordinary meetings or events). Of course, approval of the labor union or labor-management conference must be obtained before such changes can be made. Companies with more than 30 employees that adjust their employees’ mandatory rest day must report this to the local labor authority.

3. Categories of workers exempt from work hour restrictions

Article 84-1 of the LSA provides that specific types of workers that meet certain criteria may negotiate with their employers to set their own working hours, rest days, national holidays, and (if female) night shift hours. The agreement between such workers and their employers shall be submitted to the local labor authority for its approval.

4. Force Majeure

According to Article 40 of the LSA, “an employer may require workers to suspend all leaves of absence” if “an act of God, an accident, or an unexpected event requires the continuation of work.” The interpretation of the last two factors is quite narrow, with “accident” intended to mean any human-caused incident, such as war or a financial crisis, and “unexpected event” read to be any event that is unpredictable, not routine, and whose degree of seriousness is extremely severe.

If none of the above applies, employers are still able to adjust mandatory rest days to help cover shifts as long as the employee still receives one day off in seven.

As evidenced above, some flexibility in work hour adjustment is possible; however, the government has stressed that the methods we describe above to allow employees to work more than the current limit of six consecutive days are exceptions rather than the rule and are therefore subject to increased scrutiny by the authorities. Any employer wishing to make such changes should consult with their local labor authority before implementing such a plan.

For more information on Taiwan employment matters, please contact Christine Chen at cchen@winklerpartners.com or on +886 (0) 2 2311 8307.

 

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