In Taiwan, one of the few places in the world that offers marriage license to couples heading to the altar, a bank employee married his partner on April 6, 2020.
They divorced days later, on April 16.
So they remarried the next day.
Another divorce and a third marriage followed on 28 and 29 April.
After a third divorce on May 11, they were married for the fourth time on May 12.
It was all a conspiracy to take advantage of the autonomous island’s free time policy for married couples – eight days on leave – the man’s employer, a bank in Taipei, said in public records.
The bank refused to approve the man’s request for paid leave beyond the mandatory eight days for his first marriage. This led him to file a complaint with the Department of Labor for violations of vacation rights. The bank was fined $ 700 last October, but appealed the penalty in February, claiming the employee had abused his rights.
After much public debate, the head of the Taipei city labor department, 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 written in public documents). But the couple’s rapid succession of marriages and divorces left the authorities gaping.
“I am shocked,” wrote Taipei Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan on Facebook last week. “The law exists for the people and not for exploitation, profit or loss. Of course, it is important to enforce the law, but not knowing when to be flexible is the real disaster! ”She added.
The case also puzzled labor officials in Taipei, the capital, and raised questions about how easy it is to exploit the marriage license policy. In a statement, Ms. Chen, the labor official, asked civil servants not to lose sight of common sense.
“Even though my colleagues have seriously studied labor laws, they have not come to a conclusion as to whether the bank employee has abused his rights.” Ms. Chen added: “Instead, they were digging into the black hole to find out ‘if the marriage was real'”.
The marriage license was introduced in Taiwan as part of other labor benefits, such as holidays and paid sick and bereavement leave, when the island’s labor laws were established in 1984, according to Chiou Jiunn-yann, a professor specializing in labor law. at the University of Chinese Culture in Taiwan.
“Traditionally, Asian regions have placed a lot of emphasis on the family and, since ancient times in China, getting married was considered the first step in forming a family,” he said in a telephone interview. He added that traditional wedding customs can be very time consuming. “When the labor standards law was drafted,” he said, “that ‘marriage license’ was included.”
The marriage license encoded in Taiwan’s labor regulations is generous compared to the few other jurisdictions around the world that offer this type of break. Malta offers two working days. Vietnam allows three days for the wedding itself and one day for the wedding of a child. In China, the duration of the license varies by region: most offer at least three days, but Shanxi province allows 30 days.
The Taiwanese marriage license does not impose quotas on those who claim it, nor does it restrict the frequency with which employees can take the license. The entitlement is simply renewed for each marriage, even for those who marry repeatedly. (In comparison to marriage leave, workers have five days of paternity leave.)
“The worker has the right to leave if he remarries,” said Chen Kun-Hung, the head of labor standards for the Taipei city government.
The penalty imposed on the bank was lifted after the case was covered by local media, stimulating public debate, he added. “The public thought there was concern 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 for employers and employees.
“If there is no plan to resolve this, there is no guarantee that there will be no one who plays this type of game with you 365 days a year,” he said.