*Disclaimer: Given the speed at which new laws, regulations and policies have been implemented to control the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible that the responses below will be impacted.*
1. Has vaccination been made mandatory in your jurisdiction?
Yes, but only for specific categories of people. The government implemented a tightened vaccination policy on April 22, 2022, which requested the following groups of people be given a third dose of a COVID vaccination:
- Medical or health personnel, central or local government epidemic prevention affiliated personnel, high-risk front line personnel, and security and social function affiliated personnel (collectively, people in the first, second, third, and seventh vaccination priority groups under the government-funded COVID-19 vaccination program)
- Individuals working in correctional institutions, funeral homes, and in 24 types of venues/workplaces under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Labor, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare;
- People who frequently come into contact with nonspecific persons or cannot maintain social distancing, including those participating in religious events (processions and pilgrimages) and group tours as well as individuals going to the gym or adult entertainment venues, and are old enough/eligible for COVID-19 vaccination (both staff and visitors).
Said groups of people are required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot (third dose) in principle unless being evaluated by a doctor and determined to be unsuitable for the vaccination. Individuals who cannot receive a vaccination for a legitimate reason shall take a rapid or PCR test once a week (with a negative result) before providing service or entering said venues.
2. Can an employer require employees to get the COVID vaccination? If yes, are there any exceptions or special circumstances that an employer must consider?
An employer cannot require employees to be vaccinated unless the employees are qualified for the mandatory vaccination stipulated by the government. An employee not eligible for mandatory vaccination should be thoroughly evaluated by a doctor. The employee is entitled, at their sole discretion and of their own volition, to decide whether or not to receive a vaccine. Under such circumstances, the employer cannot force the employees to get the vaccination.
3. Can employers require the wearing of masks in the workplace?
Yes. According to the policies published by the Taiwan Center for Disease Control, as of June 2022, masks must be worn at all times outside the home unless one of the following exemptions applies:
- exercising outdoors;
- taking individual/group photos indoors and outdoors;
- driving alone or with live-in family members;
- live streaming, filming, moderating an event, reporting, delivering remarks, giving a speech, lecturing, or during activities/events involving conversations with others;
- people in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and animal husbandry sectors working in open spaces (such as farm fields, fish ponds, forests, and mountains);
- people in forests or on mountains (including forest recreation areas) and at the beach;
- people in hot/cold springs, dry sauna rooms, spas, steam rooms, during water activities, or in venues where masks can easily get wet;
- consuming food/beverages outside
Under the situations listed above, people are not required to wear a mask. However, masks are still necessary if COVID symptoms occur and proper social distancing cannot be maintained. As a result, employers may still require employees to wear masks if social distancing cannot be maintained.
4. Can employees refuse to be vaccinated? How does an employer need to balance its obligation to provide a safe work environment with an employee's rights?
Employees can refuse to be vaccinated if they do not apply to the current mandatory vaccination policy.
So far, Taiwan's Ministry of Labor, the competent authority for labor affairs, has issued an advisory directive that imposes upon employers no mandatory obligations. According to the directive, employers and employees can negotiate on maintaining a safe workplace.
In 2022, the Ministry of Labor further announced that if an employer obtains the consent of the employees to take rapid tests based on their own operational needs, the cost should be borne by the employer, and the employer is encouraged to conduct a "work from home" policy or other modes of work adjustment.
5. In the event of a refusal, can an employee be dismissed for refusal to comply with the employer's vaccination policy? Will the employee's refusal constitute just cause for termination?
An employer cannot directly terminate any employee who refuses to be vaccinated.
6. What benefits or accommodations do employers have to make for vaccinated employees?
On May 5, 2021, the Central Epidemic Command Center announced that it would implement an unpaid vaccination leave policy, effective immediately. The policy allows employees to take a day of vaccination leave, starting from the date of vaccination until 24:00 the following day. This is done in consideration of possible adverse reactions after vaccination. As a result, an employee can apply for such leave by providing their COVID vaccination record card.
Apart from the above, there are no other benefits or accommodations that employers are required to make for vaccinated employees.
7. Can vaccinated employees refuse to work in the same vicinity as employees who are not vaccinated?
No regulations explicitly give employees the right to refuse to work in the same vicinity as employees who are not vaccinated.
8. In your country, are employers required to provide paid leave for employees to get vaccinated?
As indicated above, employers are only required to provide unpaid vaccination leave for employees for the time during which employees get one of the vaccinations.
Brian Hsieh, firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Hsu, email@example.com