In Taiwan, one of the few places in the world that offers marital leave to couples who go to the altar, a bank clerk married his partner on April 6, 2020.
They were divorced days later on April 16.
Then they married again the next day.
Another divorce and third marriage followed on April 28 and 29.
After a third divorce on May 11th, they were married for the fourth time on May 12th.
It was all a conspiracy to take advantage of the self-governing island’s release policy for couples getting married – eight days vacation – the man’s employer, a Taipei bank, said in public records.
The bank declined to approve the man’s request for paid time off beyond the eight days required for his first marriage. This prompted him to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor for violations of vacation entitlements. The bank was fined $ 700 last October but appealed the fine in February claiming the employee had abused his rights.
After much public debate, Taipei City Labor Department head Chen Hsin-Yu announced last week that the bank’s fine would be lifted. The bank, the man and the woman were not identified (the name of the bank was redacted in public documents). But the couple’s rapid succession of marriages and divorces stunned officials.
“I am stunned,” Taipei Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan wrote on Facebook last week. “The law exists for people and not for exploitation, profit or harm. Of course, enforcing the law is important, but not knowing when to be flexible is the real disaster! “She added.
The case has also messed up labor authorities in Taipei, the capital, and raised questions about how easy it is to take advantage of the marriage leave policy. In a statement, Ms. Chen, the labor officer, urged the officers not to lose sight of common sense.
“Although my colleagues had studied the labor laws seriously, they had not made a breakthrough about whether the bank clerk had abused his rights.” Ms. Chen added, “Instead, they dug into the black hole to see if the marriage was real.”
Marital leave was introduced in Taiwan as part of other employment benefits, such as holidays and paid time off for sickness and grief, when the island’s labor laws were introduced in 1984, said Chiou Jiunn-yann, professor of labor law at Taiwan Chinese University of Culture.
“Traditionally, Asian regions have placed great emphasis on families, and since ancient times in China, getting married has been seen as the first step in starting a family,” he said in a telephone interview. He added that traditional wedding customs could be time consuming. “When the Labor Standards Act was drafted,” he said, “this” marital leave “was included.”
The marriage leave set out in Taiwan’s Labor Code is generous compared to the few other jurisdictions around the world that offer such leave. Malta offers two working days. Vietnam allows three days for one’s own marriage and one day for a child’s wedding. In China, the length of the vacation varies depending on the region: most offer at least three days, but Shanxi Province offers 30 days.
Taiwanese marriage leave does not set quotas for those who take it, nor does it limit the frequency with which workers can take leave. Eligibility is simply renewed for each marriage, including those who marry repeatedly. (Compared to marital leave, employees receive five days of parental leave.)
“The worker has the right to leave if he remarries,” said Chen Kun-Hung, the chief labor standards officer in the Taipei City government.
The sentence imposed on the bank was lifted after the case was brought up by local news outlets, which fueled public debate, he added. “The public believed that there were concerns about the abuse of labor rights and the abuse was not regulated by law or discussed by the central government to clarify the situation,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Professor Chiou added that the government should consider appropriate measures to ensure fairness to both employers and employees.
“If there is no plan to solve this, there is no guarantee that there won’t be someone playing this type of game with you 365 days a year,” he said.