Beginning New Year’s Day, January 1, more than a hundred thousand health care workers (excluding physicians) in Taiwan will begin adhering to the Labor Standards Law regarding working conditions. The Council on Labor Affairs, (CLA) notes that after more than 15 years of following the "accountability" rule in taking care of the sick and elderly, health care workers across the island will soon begin cutting back their working hours to statutory limits. At the same time they will also be expecting overtime pay when they are asked to put in more time than specified in their contract, and any employer who violates these laws will be liable to a maximum penalty of NT$300,000.
Last March technicians and staffers in areas like hemodialysis, radiation treatment rooms, blood banks and medical respiratory therapy rooms, technical staff took the lead in abandoning the accountability system. Those assigned to areas known for the worst working conditions, however, such as emergency rooms and operating rooms, intensive care units and maternity wards, have had to put up with long hours and no overtime pay until the end of this year.
A spokesperson for the CLA noted that it has long been aware of the restriction imposed by the accountability rule on health workers. The policy has been a 'straitjacket' for medical staff, leading to poor working conditions for many years. This has caused many potential health workers to take up jobs in other professions as well as a high turnover rate among those who are already working with patients. The CLA instituted a review of working conditions in the market more than two years ago and concluded that the accountability system should be phased out in a two-step process in order to minimize the effect on hospitals, clinics and other public institutions where health care workers are employed.
The CLA explained that the statutory working hours call for normal working hours of up to eight hours a day and stipulate that staffers may not be asked to work more than twelve hours at a time including the normal work day plus overtime. The total amount of working hours is not to exceed 84 hours in a two week period, and overtime is not to exceed 46 hours in a given month.
In addition, medical staff will no longer be required to work around the clock as part of the "responsibility" system. The work day is set at eight hours a day, and employers must pay overtime pay for anything in excess of eight hours. During the first two hours of overtime the rate will be the basic wage plus one-third, and after two hours it is hiked to basic wages plus two-thirds. Any employer who is found skimping on overtime pay may be subject to a fine of NT$200,000 to 300,000, says the CLA.