Gender News in Taiwan
COVID-19: Virus-related childcare leave must be approved
By Lai Hsiao-tung / Staff reporter

Government agencies and companies must approve “disease prevention childcare leave” requests by employees who need to take care of a child under the age of 12 or with a disability, although employers would not be required to pay them while they are on leave, labor authorities said yesterday.

The New Taipei City and Taipei City Governments announced earlier in the day that public and private schools from high-school level and below are to be closed from today until Friday next week due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the two municipalities.

Government agencies and firms must approve the leave application and cannot deduct points from the employee’s performance evaluation score or impose other punishments for the request, Taipei Department of Labor Commissioner Chen Hsin-yu (陳信瑜) said, adding that employers face a fine of NT$20,000 to NT$300,000 (US$713 to US$10,698) if they contravene the rule.

The New Taipei City Labor Affairs Department added that the definition of a guardian includes adoptive parents, grandparents and other people who take care of children on a daily basis, and is not restricted to parents.

If an employee’s family member cannot take care of themselves and is under home isolation or quarantine, or centralized isolation or quarantine, and needs to be taken care of, the employee may also take “epidemic prevention isolation leave,” it said.

Employers would not be required to pay employees’ salaries while they are on leave, it said, adding that employers and employees may negotiate the terms.

The New Power Party’s (NPP) caucus said last year it had asked that employees taking “disease prevention childcare leave” be paid.

The NPP caucus believes that the government, firms and employees should work together to fight the spread of COVID-19, but workers should not bear the entire burden of the “unprofitability” of being unable to go to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it said in a statement.

Instead, the government, companies and workers should share the cost in a reasonable fashion, it said.

Salary subsidies for “disease prevention childcare leave” should be included in discussions of the Executive Yuan’s proposals to amend the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Recovery (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例), and the COVID-19 relief budget should be increased to NT$630 billion, the NPP caucus said, urging other causes and lawmakers to support it.

Separately, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said in a statement that many parents were caught off guard by the sudden announcement of school closures and faced a dilemma of whether to request “disease prevention childcare leave.”

The KMT said it recommends that the central government consider offering subsidies to workers who apply for “disease prevention childcare leave,” as is done for people who take “epidemic prevention isolation leave,” to prevent employees from being unwilling or afraid to take time off.

Additional reporting by Lee I-chia, Hsieh Chun-lin and Sherry Hsiao

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