Executive Yuan approves draft revisions to Labor Standards Act

  • Date: 2017-11-09
  • Source: Department of Information Services, Executive Yuan

Premier Lai Ching-te today called a press conference to discuss the Executive Yuan’s passage of draft revisions to the Labor Standards Act. The premier said that ever since assuming office, his efforts to revise the act have been guided by President Tsai Ing-wen’s promise to protect workers’ rights while at the same time providing operational flexibility to employers. Two major points characterized this round of revisions to the law: the first being four unchanging principles to preserve the rights and interests of workers, and the second being four points of flexibility to allow enterprises leeway in conducting operations and work schedules.

Last year’s multipartisan revisions to the labor law shortened working hours and improved conditions for workers. But since those changes went into practice, both employers and employees have expressed hopes for greater flexibility when it comes to work. As a former head of local government, Premier Lai said that he clearly understands that the more than 1.4 million small and medium-sized businesses in Taiwan have been able to provide 8 million-plus jobs and form the bedrock of Taiwan’s economic development—even becoming hidden champions of the world—only because they used their own innovative ideas and relied on a flexible labor system.

Since the implementation of the last year’s revisions, the premier indicated that both employers and employees have sought greater flexibility. On the one hand, employers have expressed frustration at operational restrictions, while on the other, many workers on the shop floor have complained of lost opportunities to earn overtime pay as a consequence of mandatory days off and the requirement that overtime work be paid in four-hour blocks. To make up for lost income, some workers have even been forced to take odd jobs to maintain family finances, leaving them even more tired and busy.

The premier reiterated that this round of revisions boiled down to two major points. The first point centers on four unchanging principles to safeguard the rights and interests of workers: The first is that the standard workweek will not change from the current 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. The second is that the principle of two days off per week will not change; 12 consecutive days of work would be the exception. The third is that the overall amount of permitted overtime will not change, but that the 46 hours of overtime allowed per month can be apportioned flexibly such that total overtime over a three-month period not exceed 138. Finally, the fourth is that the pay rate for overtime work will not change.

The second major point relates to flexibility, allowing employers and employees more leeway to arrange work and run business operations: The first is flexibility on overtime. The second is flexibility on workday scheduling. The rule that workers should have one day off in every seven days may be relaxed, but only with the consent of management and labor, and the approval of the governing authority. The third is flexibility for minimum time off between shifts. The current requirement is 11 hours, but the revisions will allow for adjustment with the consent of management and labor to facilitate scheduling of three worker shifts per day. The fourth is flexibility on the use of annual leave. Unused annual leave may, with the consent of management and labor, be carried over to the next year, and any annual leave still unused by the end of the second year may be converted into pay.

In addition to meeting President Tsai Ing-wen’s demands for stronger rights protection for employees and greater flexibility for employers, these amendments will create a safe and flexible labor system like those found in countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The premier hopes that all political parties whether ruling or opposition will work together to strengthen the economy, and that employers and employees can address issues from an objective and rational perspective rather than extreme standpoints. Finally, calling on everyone to set aside differences and join hands for economic growth, the premier appealed to the public to support the Executive Yuan in its efforts to amend the law and promote Taiwan’s economic development.