Taiwan: Government issues first homework guidelines – What employers need to know
On June 23, 2021, the Taiwanese Ministry of Labor (MOL) released the âWork from Home Occupational Safety and Health Reference Guidelinesâ (âGuidelines“), indicating that working from home (WFH) has become a traditional work model regulated by the labor authority.
For your information, before the COVID-19 pandemic, WFH was not a common practice in Taiwan. Even during the early stages of the pandemic outbreak, few organizations implemented WFH provisions and there were minimum regulations governing this issue since the COVID-19 outbreak was well contained in Taiwan. However, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in May 2021, Taiwan’s COVID-19 alert level was increased to level 3 as of May 15, 2021 (later lowered to level 2 on July 27 2021), and most employees were forced to stay overnight at the WFH. To cope with this important change, the Ministry of Labor published the Guidelines at the end of June 2021.
We predict that even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the WFH or at least a hybrid working model will continue to be the new normal in Taiwan. The switch to remote work raises complex legal issues for employers.
In particular, employers should be aware of the following points relating to the guidelines:
- While the Guidelines do not impose penalties for an employer’s violation of the Guidelines, they underscore the employer’s general obligation to protect its employees as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. (OSHA). Employers must adhere to the requirements of the guidelines to mitigate the risk of OSHA violations.
- Essentially, the Guidelines require the employer to: (a) identify and assess occupational safety and health (OSH) risks for employees who WFH; and (b) take the necessary precautions to a reasonable and practicable extent. The Guidelines also provide a checklist for employers to review if they are performing their duties.
The Guidelines set out six overarching obligations of employers:
- Provide the necessary equipment, measurements and resources.
- Help employees maintain proper and safe workstations at home.
- Ensure the use of ergonomic work equipment and provide adequate support, for example video conferencing equipment on computers and relevant software; ensure the stable operation of communication facilities such as the computer network, the telephone.
- Design mechanisms to manage the mental and physical health of employees.
- Provide education and training to maintain the mental and physical health of employees.
- Ensure smooth communication and management between managers and subordinates, and peer colleagues.
We further highlight below some key issues addressed by the Guidelines:
- Employers are only required to adopt precautionary equipment or measures “to a reasonable and practicable extent”. This means, for example, that employers are not required to inspect every employee’s home workstation or reimburse all of their work-related expenses.
- In light of the potentially long working hours and isolation during WFH, declining employee mental health is a key OSH risk highlighted by the Guidelines. Employers should take concrete steps to protect their employees in this regard.
- In a WFH environment, new challenges for employers and employees will include how:
- implement and maintain fluent formal communication channels and informal social interaction among WFH employees; and
- ensure a viable working environment that allows employees to reconcile professional and private life. Employers should think about how they can design mechanisms to address this problem.
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