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Explanation of the new Labour Standards Act

The ECCT's Human Resources committee hosted a lunch on the topic "Interpretation and implementation of the new Labour Standards Act on 1 March 2018 - What you need to know and do to ensure compliance". The event, which featured guest speaker Chiang Ming-chih, Director of the Taipei City Government's Labour Inspection Office, was held to brief members as to how Taipei City Government officials will interpret and implement the most recent amendment to the Labour Standards Act that is set to take effect on 1 March 2018. At the event the speaker gave a presentation, which included an explanation of inspections, the labour law amendments and labourer's health protection-related regulations. Afterwards he gave answers to the many questions raised by the audience of some 90 ECCT members and guests.

Rules on labour inspections were announced in June 2017 and will be implemented in the coming months. The intention of the Labour Inspection Office is to find and prosecute those whose working conditions do not conform to the labour law and regulations. In the event of complaints of labour law violations being reported by the public or by journalists in the mass media, inspections will be conducted immediately.

Inspections will be done according to established priorities. Grievances reported by the public will be dealt with first. The labour inspection law stipulates that these cases should be dealt with within 14 days. Chiang noted that more than 50% of cases dealt with so far have been in response to grievances reported by the public.

Once all complaints from the public have been dealt with, the authorities' focus will switch to conducting routine inspections on various industry sectors, starting with companies such as tour bus operators, hospitals and kindergartens followed by shopping malls and other sectors. Chiang gave a list of industries authorities are planning to check during the year (seven in the first half and another seven in the second half of the year).

Chiang assured the audience that labour inspectors were eminently qualified to conduct inspections. To quality as a labour inspector, candidates need to pass the civil service exam and undergo extensive training (classes of 150 hours and on-the-job training).

Before conducting inspections, inspectors do preliminary research on the targeted companies, hold internal meetings and discussions, among other preparations.

Chiang cited an example of an infamous case, much reported in the news, involving a fatal crash of a tour bus by a driver who, it was later discovered, had been exhausted due to overwork. He noted that it had been difficult to investigate the case given a lack of evidence, which is why keeping accurate records is good advice for any company to follow.

Under the provisions of the new amendment it has already been made clear that: 1) overtime pay for work on rest days will be based on actual hours worked (compared to blocks of 4 hours previously); 2) the maximum number of overtime hours has been increased to 54 hours per month or 138 hours over 3 months; 3) the so-called "one fixed day and one flexible day off policy" has been relaxed to allow up to 12 consecutive days of work; 4) the minimum number of hours between two shifts may be reduced to 8 hours (from 11 previously); 5) unused leave days may be carried over to the following year (previously all leave had to be used or compensated for in the same year). Unused leave that remains unused in the following year should be compensated for.

Chiang stressed that while flexibility is now possible under the new amendment, deviations from standard working conditions require agreement between employers and employees. For example, when working overtime, employees must be given the choice of either taking time off in lieu of overtime or receiving monetary compensation. Moreover, the time between shifts can only be reduced from the standard minimum of 11 hours to a minimum of eight hours if it is agreed by both employers and employees. Moreover, if companies have more than 30 employees, they are required to report irregular arrangements to the labour office.

Chiang concluded his presentation with labourers' health protection-related regulations. Specific rules are now in place to protect the health of employees. The strictness of the rules depends on the potential risks to health of the specific industry sector and the size of the company.

Article 22 of the Occupational Safety and Health Law stipulates that employers with more than 50 staff should hire or appoint a doctor or nurse to handle labour health protection matters such as health management, occupational disease prevention and health promotion. The implementation of this article will be done first for larger companies while smaller companies will be given a longer transition period.

In addition, companies are required to make special provisions to safeguard the health of workers in "abnormal conditions" such as shift workers, night workers, those doing irregular jobs, taking frequent trips, working in harsh conditions (such in abnormal temperatures), those subject to noise or jet lag or any other form of work that causes stress or tension.