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POLICY EXPLANATION: Legal Countermeasures Concerning the Management of Employees’ Medical Treatment Periods
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‘Medical Treatment Period’ has always been one of the core subject matters which Human Resource managers are concerned with, and it is a popular topic for both employers and employees at the same time. The following passage is produced based on the laws and policies concerning medical treatment periods which are currently in force. It is introducing you to the system of medical treatment period from a corporation’s angle, hence in order to offer measures that can be adopted by corporations for management accordingly, it aims to provide a guidance on the practice of Human Resource management.
 
What is a ‘medical treatment period’? 
Article 2 in the “Regulation of Medical Treatment Periods concerning Employees who Suffer from Illness or with Non-work Related Injuries” (hereinafter referred to as “Medical Treatment Period Regulation”), which was promulgated by the former Ministry of Labour in 1994, clarifies that medical treatment period refers to the time period within which the concerned employees who suffer from illness or with non-work related injuries are entitled to suspend working for rest and whose employment contracts shall not be dissolved within such a period. 
 
In practice, employers tend to confuse the definition of a medical treatment period with the one of sick leaves: the latter is a biological concept whilst the former is a legal perception. Sick leave refers to the actual period during which an employee who is suffering from an illness or with non-work related injuries receives treatments; whilst the length of a medical treatment period is determined based on statutory conditions, and unless an employee’s statutory condition(s) changes, the length shall not be altered. As a consequence, there will be situations whereby an employee’s sick leave period exceeds his/her length of medical treatment period, and on this point, a lot of corporations have mistakenly considered that for those employees who request sick leave upon the completion of a medical treatment period, such requests may be declined. Actually, it has only been stated by relevant regulations and policies that a corporation shall be entitled to dissolve the employment contract with an employee after the completion of his/her medical treatment period. However, if a corporation chooses to maintin the concerned labour relationship, and the employee has submitted the application materials for sick leave in accordance with the corporation’s rules, then the employee’s request for sick leaves shall be settled. 
 
Calculating medical treatment periods
A medical treatment period is generally granted for 3-24 months based on both the employee’s entire length of working and his/her the length of service at the current employer. For an employee who suffers from specific diseases such as cancer, psychosis, paralysis, etc. and not able to fully recover within 24 months, his/her medical treatment period may be reasonably extended provided that such has been approved by the corporation and the relevant labour bureau. 
 
One’s medical treatment period should be calculated starting from the first day of his/her sick leaves, and regardless of whether such sick leaves are enjoyed consecutively or intermittently, they are calculated in an accumulated manner within the medical treatment period until its expiry. Meanwhile, the calculation of the rest period includes public holidays, vacations and statutory holidays. 
On the other hand, employers should pay specific attention to the fact that medical treatment periods can be calculated in a recurrent manner. For instance, if the medical treatment period for an employee is 3 months, and the accumulated resting period within 6 months did not reach 3 months, then his/her medical treatment period shall be recalculated from the beginning from the 7th month. In practical terms, there are employees who abuse such systems and intentionally request for sick leaves recurrently. Considering such factors, it is recommended that employers may unilaterally improve and perfect the procedures in relation to sick leaves applications, requiring employees to provide complete medical records besides diagnosis certificates issued by a hospital which has been designated by the corporation. The provision of complete medical records shall include registration forms, clinical history, test results, payment receipts or invoices, etc. hence, the possibility of an employee providing false medical records will be significantly reduced accordingly. Furthermore, it should be clarified in an employee handbook and/or an employment contract that any behaviour involving applications for unnecessary sick leave shall be deemed as a serious violation of regulations and rules, and therefore, the organisation is entitled to dissolve the employment contract of the concerned employee if the case is severe. 
 
Payment during one’s medical treatment period
When an employee has fulfilled all prescribed procedures concerning an application for sick leave, in accordance with the corporation’s rules and regulations, and hence has started to enjoy his/her period of rest, such employees are then entitled to enjoy his/her medical pay within the medical treatment period. 
 
According to Article 59 in the “Opinions concerning Issues regarding the Implementation of ‘Labour Law of People’s Republic of China” (hereinafter referred to as “Opinions on Labour Law”) which was promulgated by the former Ministry of Labour, it stated that the standard of sick-leave wage payment can be determined by the corporation itself, and if an employee has not been able to provide regular labour during his/her sick period, his/her sick-leave wage can be lower than the minimum wage in the locality. However, in order to preserve such rights from being abused by corporations, it is also stipulated that the sick-leave payments made by an employer to an employee shall not be lower than 80% of the minimum wage in the locality.
 
Dissolution of an employment contract 
At present, there are a number of employers who hold mistaken concepts and consider that an employee’s employment contract cannot be dissolved during his/her medical treatment period. However in fact, an employment contract may be dissolved if an employee applies to resign during his/her medical treatment period or the parties mutually agree upon negotiation. On the other hand, if there are situations whereby an employee severely violates disciplinary proceedures, or commits serious dereliction of duties or practices graft or corruption, or any other statutory reasons during his/her medical treatment period, then the employer is also entitled to dissolve the employment contract unilaterally and immediately.
Conclusion   
It is inevitable that employers will come across various problems or disputes concerning the issue of medical treatment periods, and since the laws and regulations regarding medical treatment periods issued in our country were promulgated quite long ago, it is indeed the case that they have, to a certain extent, separated themselves from the needs by the modern concepts of corporate management. As a result, there is a considerable number of corporations who do not know what course to take in dealing with disputes concerning medical treatment periods. In fact, the existence of countermeasures is not that mysterious. On the one hand, employers should pay attention in terms of improving and perfecting their internal regulations and rules; whilst on the other, employers should strengthen the bridge of communication with the employees who suffer from illness or injuries in a timely manner whenever disputes concerning medical treatment periods arise in order to avoid any intensification or sharpening of the employee and his/her family’s emotions. Employers should deal with such matters in a humanised manner whilst insisting a firm dependence on the law, making every effort to solve the problem by means of harmonious conversations.    
 
 
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