Labor laws to be eased on female employment

Taipei, Nov. 24 (CNA) Taiwan is moving to lift several restrictions on female employment, through a revision of its labor laws that was approved by the Cabinet last week, the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) said Saturday. The draft bill gets rid of an article in the Labor Safety and Health Act that stipulates females should not be hired for work in potentially dangerous or hazardous areas such as in a tunnel or in an environment contaminated by radiation, lead, mercury, chromium, or other harmful substances, the CLA said. The CLA said the work of modern women has become more diverse and it would be tantamount to "employment discrimination" if the government continued to limit women's work options. Nonetheless, in the first overhaul of the Act in nearly two decades, an article to protect pregnant women and new mothers was introduced, the CLA said. The article "absolutely bans" the employment of such women for work in tunnels, in areas of abnormal air pressure, or in any environment in which they may be exposed to German measles or other conditions that could affect their health or that of the fetus, according to the CLA. Under the draft bill, the council said, employers who violate that rule would be liable to criminal punishment, unless they were not informed that the woman was pregnant or had given birth within the past year. The bill, which renames the law as the Vocational Safety and Health Act, was approved by the Cabinet Nov. 15 but still has to be passed by the Legislature before it can become law. (By Zoe Wei and Lilian Wu)