Asia employment law bulletin 2021
Developments in the light of COVID-19
Employer’s right to extend working hours or suspend leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The Ministry of Labour issued an official interpretation that COVID-19 can qualify as an “unexpected event” under the Labour Standards Act. The latter allows the employer to extend working hours or suspend the leave of employees upon the occurrence of unexpected events. However, employers should bear in mind that if they use this exception, they must offer the employees appropriate time off or grant additional compensatory leave, as well as to make notifications to the appropriate trade union (if any) or the local competent authority.
Employers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may obtain employees’ consent to reduce their working hours
The Ministry of Labour has issued an official interpretation that an employer that is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and suffers business contractions can follow the relevant regulations to negotiate with employees and to obtain their individual consent to reduce their working hours and wages. However, any reduced wages must still comply with the statutory minimum wage. In addition, the employer may adjust the labour insurance contribution for the employee after such reduction, but pension contributions must still be made based on the original monthly wage.
Employees’ right to take “disease prevention isolation leave” and “disease prevention care leave”
“Disease prevention isolation leave” refers to a leave of absence granted to individuals who have been assigned to isolation or quarantine by health officials, or family caregivers of isolated or quarantined individuals who are unable to care for themselves. According to the Ministry of Labour, an employer is not obligated to pay for such leave, unless it was responsible for the employee’s isolation or quarantine.
“Disease prevention care leave” refers to a leave of absence granted to parents of children under 12 years of age that are affected by school closures. According to the Ministry of Labour, this type of leave is intended to supplement and not replace family care leave provided to parents under the Act of Gender Equality in Employment. An employer is not obliged to pay for disease prevention care leave.
If an employee qualifies for either of the above-mentioned types of leave, the employer shall not treat the employee as absent without a reason, force the employee to take personal leave or other leave, deduct attendance bonuses, dismiss the employee or impose other unfavourable penalties.
Kai-Hua Yu, LCS & Partners