Thu, Jul 07, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Malicious meddling over days off

By Lu Chyi-horng 盧其宏

Controversy surrounding employees’ work hours and days off has been complicated by the government. Some clarification is warranted.

Both the Ministry of Labor and the Executive Yuan want to remove seven national holidays, but their plan has been obscured by new labor policies. The government says that it wants remove the holidays to ensure consistency across the board and coordinate with the five-day workweek.

First, it is deceptive to claim that there could be consistency across the board. A little research reveals that although an employee — who has worked at the same company for 10 years and is given 15 days of annual leave — still enjoys 19 national holidays, they only get 34 holidays in a year, which is less than the 39 holidays that public servants enjoy, as they have 11 national holidays and 28 days of annual leave.

Moreover, which private-sector employees dare to use all their annual leave? When employers owe employees annual leave, the ministry says it happens because the employees choose not to use it and so the employers do not have to compensate them.

Once the seven national holidays are scrapped, an employee, who has worked at the same company for 10 years, will only have 27 holidays per year: far less than the 39 days that public servants enjoy. Is this the sort of consistency across the board that the ministry is talking about?

Second, coordinating with the five-day workweek is just an excuse for the government to acquiesce to employers’ demands. Even if the two weekly holidays are counted as two fixed days off, it does not mean that the seven national holidays should be removed.

People should look at what other countries have done when work hours have been reduced.

Which country has scrapped national holidays in order to implement a five-day workweek? The ministry is still campaigning for this policy, but there is no reason to do so apart from catering to employers’ needs.

By the same token, a little bit of research shows that although Japan and South Korea have 40-hour workweeks with two days off, their national holidays were not sacrificed to make that happen.

Employees with 10 years of service at a company in Japan and South Korea get two days off per week, and they also get 36 and 35 additional days off per year respectively, combining national holidays and annual leave.

With 19 national holidays and the five-day workweek, Taiwanese get 34 days off, slightly less than in Japan and South Korea. If the number of national holidays is cut by seven days, Taiwanese workers would be far worse off than those in Japan and South Korea.

What has been discussed so far is based on the premise of thorough implementation of the five-day workweek. However the “one fixed day off and one flexible day off” policy that the government plans to introduce does not really give employees two days off per week.

Even if the ministry increases the overtime rate on flexible days off to 1.33 and 1.66, it is still operating with the mindset of paying by the hour, instead of resting by the day.

In addition, the much touted overtime rates of 1.33 and 1.66 to be paid on flexible days off suggested by the ministry are the same overtime rates as on regular working days.

As employers can ask workers to work on their flexible days off, they have a massive incentive to demand workers get work done on regular working days without working overtime, and then ask them to work overtime on Saturdays, as the same overtime rates apply to both regular working days and flexible days off.

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