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Foreign caregivers deserve statutory paid holiday, too

Publication Date : 23-01-2013


For the uninitiated, Chinese New Year (CNY) is the only time of the year when cities shut down, shops and restaurants close and the usually bustling city streets are like ghost towns. From February 9 to 17, this year's national holiday will be a unique opportunity for most foreign residents who want to experience first-hand the beauty of Taiwan and the kindness of the local people.

For some foreign caregivers working round the clock, however, there is little hope that their employers will give them some time to rest during the popular celebrations. That is unacceptable in contemporary Taiwan.

According to a recent Chinese-language news report, around 100,000 foreign caregivers are believed to have been blocked from taking days off in months and perhaps years. In the wake of the planned implementation of the Council of Labour Affairs's (CLA) new system of home care service for foreign caregivers, we have high hopes that the situation can improve soon.

Under the new system, nonprofit organisations (NGO) specialising in long-term care for the elderly handle the foreign caregivers directly with the help of the CLA. These NGOs are now responsible for taking care of the caregivers, including their insurance and accommodation, as well as reporting to the authorities when they are missing.

If you or your family members are in need of special home care, you will have to pay caregivers by the hour through the NGOs. For 24-hour services, two to three caregivers will have to work in shifts. That is an important achievement for the government in its fight to protect foreign workers' rights, and is a proper response to the Jacqueline Liu scandal.

The former director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City was deported last year from the United States after pleading guilty to charges of overworking, underpaying and mistreating her housekeepers. The diplomat was detained for three months, ordered to pay US$80,044 in restitution to the two Filipino housekeepers she abused and given a deportation order.

We wish we could say this was merely an isolated case, but no. The Labor Affairs Department of New Taipei City reported last year that the number of complaints lodged by foreign workers through its 1955 hotline between January and April 2012 rose by over 80 per cent from the same period a year earlier. The 1,096 complaints represented an increase of 83.6 per cent compared with the first four months of 2011, said the department, which works to solve the disputes.

Contrary to all expectations, some people in Taiwan still believe that they don't need to pay foreign caregivers for overtime work. That is wrong. Here is what we suggest to the CLA: foreign caregivers should be required to “log in” (using the clients phone) and log out when they arrive at and leave work. If they log in more than 10 minutes after the allocated time, their pay should be deducted, unless there is a good excuse, but if they log out more than 10 minutes after the allocated time, their employer should also pay for their overtime.

According to international standards, every worker should also have the right to take a statutory paid holiday from work. This should apply for everybody, including foreign people who work full time and part time, as well as contract and casual workers. These rules should apply regardless of how long you have worked for your employer and regardless of how old you are.

In other words, workers should always be equal in the eyes of the law. That is a basic human right.


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