Gender equality act amended

WORKPLACE EQUALITY::The amendments include longer paternity leave, five paid days off for antenatal exams and guaranteed half-pay for menstrual leave

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Nov 22, 2014 - Page 3

The legislature passed an amendment to the Gender Equality in Employment Act (性別工作平等法) yesterday to make paternity leave longer when spouses are in labor, grant five paid days off for pregnant employees to undergo antenatal examinations and clarify that half-pay is guaranteed for menstrual leave.

Revisions have been made to seven articles of the existing act, which stipulates that while employees’ spouses are in labor, their employers must grant them three paid days off as paternity leave, but which has no regulations on working pregnant women’s welfare concerning pre-birth examinations.

The newly passed amendments grant five more birth-related paid days off to pregnant employees for prenatal checkups, an increase from the existing maternity leave granted before and after childbirth for a combined period of eight weeks.

Also granted by the new law is an extension of paternity leave for employees with spouses in labor to five days.

“With paternity leave extended to five days that could be combined with two weekends, [employees with spouses in labor] can now have a total of nine days to stay with their spouses and take care of the baby,” said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏), convener of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee.

The Ministry of Labor has estimated that about 174,000 employees will benefit from the change every year and that employers need to shoulder an extra annual expenditure of NT$470 million (US$15.2 million).

About 140,000 pregnant employees will benefit from the days off for pre-birth examinations annually, costing employers about NT$790 million, the ministry said.

The existing act allowed one day of menstrual leave each month and if the cumulative menstrual leave did not exceed three days in a year they were not to be counted toward days off for sick leave and be entitled to half-pay, while the amendment makes the three-day non-sick-leave menstrual leave half-paid, rather than unpaid.

Employees now may also apply for unpaid parental leave before any of their children reach the age of three years old after being employed for six months, instead of one year under the existing law.

Adoptive parents are now also entitled to non-pay parental leave if the adoptive children are under three years of age, Wang said.

“Other improvements include the requirement for employers [hiring more than 250 employees] to set up not only child-care facilities [pursuant to the current regulations], but also lactation rooms and the strengthening of penalties for gender discrimination,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said.

Penalties related to gender discrimination have also been raised from between NT$100,000 and NT$500,000 (US$3,225 and US$16,126) to between NT$300,000 and NT$1.5 million.

However, Yu later expressed concern about implementing the measures, saying that if employers are not well supervised by the government the measures would be toothless.

“I want to remind President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that the previous amendments passed on May 30 included my proposal to make public the company names and the names of the person in charge of companies that violate the act,” Yu wrote on Facebook.

“The transparency and the subsequently formed social pressure would make employers take their responsibilities for a gender-friendly workplace more seriously,” she wrote.