School delays in Taiwan could result in pay cut for parents

Spring semester has been postponed by at least two weeks for schools at university level and below.

An adult with children are seen in Taipei in this photo taken on Feb. 5, 2020. (CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — The Ministry of Labor (MOL, 勞動部) on Wednesday maintained its stance on a policy that allows companies to cut pay of employees who decide to stay at home with their children because schools have been postponed in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

A loosely regulated plan that guarantees one parent from families with kids under 12 years old to take days off work between Feb. 11 and 24 remains unchanged amid criticism that people might not dare to use them in fear of pay cut and retribution.

Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) speaks to reporters on Feb. 5, 2020. (CNA)
Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) speaks to reporters on Feb. 5, 2020. (CNA)

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education (MOE, 教育部) delayed spring semester for all schools at university level and below by at least two weeks. Universities are allowed to postpone even later.

This has sent working families scrambling to find daycare for their children. Some have decided to go with childcare centers, others have taken days off from work.

Questions arose as to whether employers should pay parents full salary for the off-days which are now coined “epidemic response leaves.”

At a joint press conference organized by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) on Wednesday, the labor ministry’s representative Huang Wei-chen (黃維琛) reiterated previous statements that employers are not to deny requests for such leaves but have final say on whether to pay for them.

Those who fail to comply can be punished by up to NT$1 million fine, according to a press release issued by the labor ministry on Monday (Feb. 3).

Parents whose children attend private kindergartens might be able to take “epidemic response leaves” as well, Hsu Li-chuan (許麗娟), the education ministry’s representative from the K-12 Administration said.
The administration has submitted to the CECC a contingency plan pending approval, Hsu added.
Private kindergartens have not been affected by the series of epidemic response measures introduced in the education sector so far.
Wang Yu-min (王育敏) speaks at a press conference on Feb. 5, 2020. (CNA)
Wang Yu-min (王育敏) speaks at a press conference on Feb. 5, 2020. (CNA)

Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) called on the government to reimburse 60 percent of parents’ daily wages should they decide to stay at home.

Funding should come from the cabinet’s secondary reserve fund, KMT’s Culture and Communication Committee Interim Chairperson Wang Yu-min (王育敏) said on Tuesday.

Per Wang, there are currently 1.7 million children under 12-years-old nationwide. Assuming each household has two children, that means the delay of spring semester will affect an estimated 850,000 families.