Amendment would bar employers from keeping foreign workers' passports

New labor amendment would prevent employers from confiscating foreign workers' ID cards and passports

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- On Sept. 1, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) said that it will make amendments to the Employment Services Act to further strengthen the protection of foreign workers, including a provision to dissuade employers from confiscating the identification cards and passports of foreign workers.

Hsueh Chien-chung (薛鑑忠 ), an official from MOL's Cross-Border Workforce Management, said that without presenting a proper reason for confiscating foreign workers' identification cards and passports, employers will be fined NT$60,000-NT$300,000 (US$1,993 - US$9,969) and forbidden from employing foreign laborers.

It has become common practice for Taiwanese employers to require their foreign workers to sign a consent form that allows them to hold onto their passports and other identification documents throughout their contract to prevent them from absconding. Many foreign laborers reluctantly sign this form out of fear of being rejected for the job. 

However, because the MOL believes this infringes on the rights of the foreign laborers, the new amendment will include a provision to discourage this practice, with a few exceptions.

In a phone interview with UDN, Workforce Development Agency section chief Hsueh Chien-chung (薛鑑忠) said that the new provision will read as follows: "Employers are not to hold the proof of identity, work permit, other supporting documents, or private information of job applicants or employees. However, under certain circumstances, the documents may be held temporarily." 

Hseuh, said that unless there is a legitimate reason given to justify temporarily holding on to their ID or passport, and even if the worker had signed a consent form, the employer or intermediary is not permitted to maintain possession of their identification documents. As for what those legitimate reasons may be, it has not yet been made clear.

In addition, Hseuh said, if a labor agent is found guilty of sexually abusing, sexually harassing or engaging in the trafficking of foreign workers, a fine of NT$300,000-NT$1.5 million will be handed down and the individual banned from working as a labor agent.

If employers or care recipients are found guilty of sexually abusing or engaging in the trafficking of foreign workers, they will be ineligible to employ such workers for 2-5 years, and repeat offenders will be ineligible for life.

In the event that labor agents are found to have prior knowledge of an act of abuse by an employer but fail to disclose it to the authorities within 24 hours, they will be fined NT$60,000-NT$300,000.