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Taiwan working to expand religious freedoms of foreign workers

2012/08/05 14:51:02

Taipei, Aug. 5 (CNA) Taiwan has drafted a law to give foreign domestic workers at least one day off a week, an official said in response to a recent U.S. report saying these workers are unable to fulfill their religious obligations due to the lack of a guaranteed day off.

"If the Domestic Workers Protection Act passes, there will be more binding forces from the law," Fu Huei-chih, director of the Council of Labor Affair's Foreign Worker Administration, told CNA recently.

The draft version of the Domestic Workers Protection Act stipulates that foreign domestic workers and caregivers should be granted at least one day off per week, except in emergency situations when employers can ask workers to continue to work.

If employees are asked to work on their day off, employers will be required to pay them extra wages or give them additional days off afterward.

The draft law is currently being reviewed by the Cabinet after it was sent there in February this year, said Fu.

The 2011 International Religious Freedom Report, released July 30, pointed out that Taiwan's labor law does not protect the rights of Catholic foreign domestic workers and caregivers to go to church once a week.

"An estimated 80,000 foreign workers in Taiwan are Catholic and, in the absence of a guaranteed day off, were not able to fulfill their religious duties," the report said, adding that Taiwan's Council of Labor Affairs is currently addressing the issue.

The annual report by the U.S. Department of State describes the status of religious freedom in every country and region in the world. It also covers government policies toward religions, practices among groups and religious denominations.

To better respect foreign workers' religious rights, Fu said her council also amended a foreign workers' care service plan last August, stipulating that employers should "respect the wishes and religious taboos" of foreign workers when providing them meals.

The plan, which was legalized in 2008, also stipulates that institutions that hire over 50 foreign workers should provide their workers with a venue to practice their religions or information on where to do so, said Fu.

She noted that employers violating the plan could face a fine of between NT$60,000 (US$2,002) and NT$300,000.

(By Christie Chen)