The Council of Labor Affairs yesterday said NT$5.3 billion (US$184.87 million) in parental leave subsidies had been paid out to more than 64,000 parents in the two years the subsidy has been available, and urged more parents to take advantage of the measure.
The council reported that from May 2009, when the subsidy was introduced, to February this year, 64,914 people had received an aggregate of about NT$5.3 billion in parental leave subsidies, allowing them to stay home to care for their newborns full-time.
The subsidy program was designed to encourage working mothers and fathers to share the responsibility of child rearing and to allow both parents to request unpaid parental leave for up to two years until their children reach the age of three.
The provision is found in the Gender Equality in Employment Act (性別工作平等法) of 2002.
Based on the amendment to the Employment Insurance Act (就業保險法) passed by the legislature in March 2009, workers who have paid into Taiwan’s basic labor insurance program for at least a year are eligible for the subsidy for up to six months.
If two working parents rotate their leave to care for the same child, the total subsidy can add up to 12 months, the amendment stipulates.
The council said the number of people receiving the subsidy had steadily increased. Last year, 34,218 people filed for the subsidy, 9.3 times as many as in 2008, and 28.1 times as many as in 2002, when unpaid parental leave was introduced, but before the subsidy was added.
Furthermore, in 2009, 75 percent of private sector employers said they would encourage their employees to take unpaid parental leave, while 90 percent of those who took the unpaid leave reported they were able to return to their original position afterwards.
The council’s report came following media reports that while some new mothers and fathers choose to take several months off work to care for their children full-time, many are afraid of the consequences.
Online job banks have reported that according to their surveys, three in four working mothers are afraid to file for unpaid parental leave because they are afraid that the company would not give them back their jobs when they choose to return.
While current regulations prohibit employers from punishing employees who take unpaid parental leave with demotions, salary cuts or other measures, many parents still remain skeptical that their careers would continue on the same path once they choose to take a long unpaid leave, fearing the company would easily find replacements.