Firms must prove unpaid leave needed: vice premier

The China Post news staff

Vice Premier Sean Chen yesterday urged companies not to put their workers on unnecessary furlough, but labor authorities said it will be difficult to lay down a set of concrete numbers to define the threshold for unpaid leave. Chen said so far only six companies have resorted to asking employees to take unpaid leave as a means of weathering the economic downturn. He said the current situation is better than that seen during the financial tsunami in 2008, but the government will watch developments closely. Many Taiwanese companies put their workers on furlough without pay in 2008. The vice premier said management and labor must be in constant discussion to determine whether unpaid leave is necessary. “Don’t misuse unpaid leave,” said the vice premier.

Companies must report to the labor authorities about their decisions to put workers on unpaid furlough. The authorities will examine whether the measures are necessary. Usually companies need to prove that unpaid leave is necessary because of reductions in orders, revenues or profits. But there is no criteria as to how much loss a company must endure before it can resort to unpaid leave measures.

There have been mounting calls from labor groups for such criteria. Jennifer Wang, minister of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), said it will be difficult to work out a set of concrete numbers to define the threshold for unpaid leave. But she maintained that employers must obtain workers’ consent before putting them on furlough, and the CLA will investigate any disputes over unpaid leave. The CLA is expected to refer to the unpaid leave reports filed by companies during the last economic downturn two years ago, as it looks for some kind of criteria for the current situation, the United Evening News said.

The CLA will look at the extent of production suspension and losses, the paper said.

The current economic woes have led to workers worrying about being laid off or being put on unpaid leave.