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September, 29, 2016

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Holiday havoc ahead as lawmakers fail to amend law

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Workers and employers across Taiwan are facing confusion over whether five national holidays that were canceled by the previous government have been reinstated as promised by the new one.

President Ma Ying-jeou's administration had canceled seven national holidays in 2016, in a move they said was necessary to account for the implementation of the 40-hour work week (down from 84 hours per two weeks) for the nation's non-public sector workers. After President Tsai Ing-wen came to office, the Ministry of Labor announced it would reinstate the remaining five holidays — Sept. 28 (Teachers' Day), Oct. 25 (Retrocession Day), Oct. 31 (Chiang Kai-shek's Birthday), Nov. 12 (Sun Yat-sen's Birthday) and Dec. 25 (Constitution Day). Yet since the Legislative Yuan has yet to pass laws reinstating the holidays, confusion has erupted over the status of these holidays.

Because lawmakers are all but sure to miss the deadline to officially reinstate the Sept. 28 holiday, the government has said that all workers whose jobs are governed by the Labor Standards Act will be entitled to the holiday. Ironically, a large number of teachers — due to their status as public servants — will not be able to enjoy a day off on a holiday created in their honor.

Financial sector workers also face a paradoxical situation in which they are given a holiday on a day when the authorities have required the stock market to remain open. By law, banks and securities firms are not allowed to force employees to work on national holidays. The government has suggested that financial firms coordinate the roughly 840,000 employees in the sector to ensure the smooth operation of the market. The same situation will arise on Oct. 25 and Oct. 31, when the stock market is scheduled to remain open.

Similar "coordination" will be even harder for the Oct. 31 holiday, which falls on a Monday, as more employees are expected to take advantage of the three-day weekend. Even the Nov. 12 and Dec. 25 holidays, which fall on weekends, will create headaches for HR offices across Taiwan, as businesses are required to provide workers with two extra paid holidays in order to compensate.

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