Why did the couple get married 4 times in 37 days?

In Taiwan, one of the few places in the world that offers maternity leave to couples on their way to the altar, a bank employee married his partner on April 6, 2020.

They divorced days later, on April 16th.

Then they remarried the following day.

A second divorce and a third marriage followed on April 28 and April 29.

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 time-off policy for couples getting married – eight days’ leave – the man’s employer, a bank in Taipei, said in public records.

The bank refused to approve the husband’s application for paid time off beyond the eight days of the mandate for his first marriage. This prompted him to lodge a complaint with the Labor Department for violations of leave rights. The bank was fined $ 700 in October last year, but appealed the sanction in February, claiming the employee had abused his rights.

After much public debate, the head of the Taipei City Department of Labor, Chen Hsin-Yu, announced last week that the bank’s fine would be lifted. The bank, the man and the woman are not identified (the bank’s name was redirected in public documents). But the couple’s rapid succession of marriages and divorces has left officials gobsmacked.

“I am stunned,” Taipei’s deputy, Huang Shan-shan, wrote on Facebook last week. “The law exists for the people and not for exploitation, profit or harm. Of course, enforcing the law is important, but knowing when to be flexible is not the real disaster! She added.

The case has also thrown the labor market authorities in the capital Taipei into disarray and raised questions about how easy it is to exploit the maternity leave policy. In a statement, Ms Chen, the civil servant, urged public servants not to lose sight of common sense.

“Although my colleagues had seriously studied labor laws, they had not reached a breakthrough on whether the bank employee was abusing his rights.” Mrs Chen added: “Instead, they had dug into the black hole of ‘whether the marriage was genuine’.”

Matrimonial leave was introduced in Taiwan as part of other employment benefits, such as holidays and paid sick and death pay, when the island’s labor law was created in 1984, according to Chiou Jiunn-yann, a professor of labor law at the Chinese University of Culture in Taiwan.

“Traditionally, Asian regions place great 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 could be time consuming. “When the norm of the labor law was drafted,” he said, “this ‘maternity leave’ was included.”

Maternity leave codified in Taiwan’s labor rules is generous compared to the few other jurisdictions around the world that offer such leave. Malta provides two working days. Vietnam allows three days for one’s own marriage and one day for a child’s wedding. In China, the duration of the leave varies by region: Most offer at least three days, but Shanxi Province allows 30 days.

Taiwanese maternity leave does not impose quotas on those who claim it, nor does it limit how often employees could take leave. The right is simply renewed for every marriage, even for those who repeatedly marry each other. (Compared to maternity leave, workers receive five days of parental leave.)

“The worker has the right to leave if he remarries,” said Chen Kun-Hung, the Taipei City government’s chief of staff.

The sanction on the bank was revoked after the case was covered by local news outlets, prompting public debate, he added. “The public believed that there was concern about the abuse of workers’ rights, and the abuse has not been 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 justice for both employers and workers.

“If there is no plan to address this, there is no guarantee that no one would be playing this kind of game with you 365 days a year,” he said.