The outbreak of the Coronavirus is a concerning matter for many regions around the world, especially those close to where the outbreak first began, such as Taiwan. Due to how contagious the Coronavirus is and how easily it can spread, governments have taken extreme measures in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. As can be seen in many parts of Asia, the virus affects all facets of life; work, school and social activities are all hindered by the outbreak of the virus. Businesses have also been greatly impacted by the outbreak, with some unable to continue normal operations. This notice is to inform employers and employees alike, on their respective duties and how to navigate their roles, in light of the Coronavirus epidemic.
Employer’s responsibilities in Taiwan
In Taiwan, as per the Occupational Safety and Health Act, a general duty is placed on employers to provide the requisite health and safety equipment; as well as to take the necessary measures in order to protect the health and safety of employees.
A further duty is placed on employers to report any employees they suspect to have the Coronavirus to a relevant authority within 24 hours. Failure to report a suspected case may result in a fine being imposed on the employer.
Required Quarantine Period
All employees who have recently travelled to mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau are required to remain in quarantine for a mandatory period of 14 days. Employees are required to stay in isolation at home or in a designated quarantine center during this period. Failure to comply with this regulation may result in a fine.
Measures to be implemented
Due to the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak, it is imperative that certain measures be implemented by employers to ensure the safety of employees. Such measures should be implemented in compliance with government regulation.
Requesting an employee to work from home
An employee may be requested to work from home by an employer, if it is practicable. In accordance with regulation, if an employee is to work from home, he/she is entitled to continue to receive his/her full pay and benefits, as per normal. The period an employee works from home should count towards their length of service.
If an employee is requested or directed to stay at home, but it is not possible for the employee to perform, due to the nature of the work, it may benefit an employer to pay the employee his/her normal pay. If an employer pays the employee, as per usual, it may prevent the employee from bringing a claim against the employer e.g. a breach of contract claim.
Requesting an employee to take leave
Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor (MOL) has recently provided guidelines that are to be adhered to in consideration of the Coronavirus outbreak. The MOL released an announcement which stated that if an employee is confirmed to have the Coronavirus and placed under quarantine, due to occupational factors, that employee must be placed on ‘occupational sickness leave’ and is entitled to receive his/her full pay and benefits.
If an employee is confirmed to have the Coronavirus, however it is not due to occupational factors, the employee will be entitled only to ordinary sickness leave, annual leave or personal leave. Consistent with regulation, ordinary sickness leave amounts to half pay for the 30 days of leave, and no pay thereafter. If annual leave is taken, an employee is entitled to full pay. Whereas if personal leave is taken, an employee will receive no pay. If a company’s policy offers a more favorable position to its employees, that policy will prevail.
An employer cannot unilaterally direct an employee to take unpaid leave. An employee’s consent is required in order for an employer to do so.
Travel restrictions implemented
The MOL has issued a general notice which advised its citizens to avoid travelling to certain areas of Mainland China.
Effective from 6 February 2020, all Taiwanese nationals who have travelled to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau (from the previous two weeks) must remain in quarantine at home or in a designated space for a period of 14-days.
The notice further states that Taiwanese nationals who are approved to return from Hong Kong and Macau, should self-quarantine for 14-days in which they must monitor their health.
For citizens from the People’s Republic of China; entry or transit through Taiwan has been suspended until further notice. From 11 February 2020, entry to Taiwan has been suspended for Hong Kong and Macau citizens. However, an exception has been made for those Hong Kong and Macau citizens who need to visit Taiwan for one of the following purposes:
- Due to an internal transfer in a multinational corporation;
- For the performance of contractual duties;
- For spouses with an Alien Resident Certificate; or
- Under-aged children.
For foreign nationals, from 7 February 2020, entry into Taiwan has been suspended for those who have lived or travelled to mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau within the previous 14-days.
Measures taken by employers
Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor has recently issued a notice which serves as a guideline for the current Coronavirus outbreak. This notice provides that employers shall implement the necessary health and safety measures, based on the development of the Coronavirus and the need to ensure employee protection. The safety measures to by implemented include the following; regular temperature checks, providing employees with training on prevention of infection, regular disinfection, maintaining cleanliness and allowing employees to use masks.
Many employers have requested that their employees work from home, if an employee is to work from home, he/she should continue to receive full pay and benefits as per normal. Some employers are making other arrangements with their employees, such as the employee taking unpaid leave for a period of time.