If you want to teach English in Taiwan and make the mistake of applying for a job with Reach to Teach, there is a good chance you will be entering into an illegal contract. Reach to Teach Recruiting works with a school called Principal Language School, with locations in Tucheng, Xinzhu, Taoyuan, Linkou, and Zhongli, all smaller cities in Taiwan. Their contract, a sample of which Reach to Teach sent me when trying to sell me on Taiwan schools, is completely illegal and Reach to Teach knows this. After she sent the information about this school, Carrie Kellenberger called me to talk about the contract in one of our phone conversations and there are at least three things I found that are totally illegal.
The first thing that violates Taiwan law is written explicitly in their contract. Principal will withhold 20,000NTD (about USD $610) from a teacher’s first pay day as a deposit. If a teacher leaves the contract early for any reason, Principal keeps the money. Every part of this is against Taiwan’s labor laws. First, no employer can withhold money from a teacher’s check for anything but taxes or insurance. Second, they cannot hold deposits. Third, they cannot fine people for leaving early. So every aspect of this directly violates employee labor rights under Taiwan law.
How does Reach to Teach Recruiting explain this? They admit that it’s totally illegal and then they promise, if for some reason you have to leave early, they will help fight your case with Council of Labor Affairs in Taiwan to get the money back that the school shouldn’t have in the first place. Carrie even told me they once had a teacher who left early and they helped her fight to get her money back, which took a few weeks and happened only after a mandatory meeting between the school, the teacher, and the government. You have understood correctly- Reach to Teach thinks this is all quite reasonable even though the government has informed everyone this is illegal; years later, teachers’ deposits are still taken from that first paycheck and only returned at the end. What happens if a teacher has a true medical or family emergency, needs to leave early, and is unable to pursue a case with the government? Nothing, because you can only bring a case against the school with the government yourself; despite what Reach to Teach might promise, there is nothing they can do to help you if you must leave and you would be out hard-earned money.
The second thing Principal does is force teachers to work illegally without a work permit or correct visa. Most country’s citizens get 90 days visa free entry on arrival to Taiwan. That 90 days is for tourism, not for work. You can look for a job, but you can’t work until the work permit is approved, which takes about 3 weeks (that’s how long it took mine when I was teaching in Taiwan). Nowadays, most schools just have people wait until the work permit is approved. Not Principal- they would rather force teacher to show up a few days before school begins and work illegally for a few weeks. A simple solution would be to have teachers arrive a few weeks early so that they do not need to work illegally- that would take a bit of effort on their part, though, so no dice.
An acquaintance of mine worked at one of their schools (Zhongli if I remember correctly) and told me about a meeting with the manager where they were going over procedures for what to do if the government showed up in those first couple of weeks. There were escape routes and hiding places and the teacher was told to be on guard, ready to run and hide to keep from being fined and deported.
Finally, Principal is a full time kindergarten. For some strange reason, it is completely illegal for foreign workers to work in kindergartens in Taiwan. It’s a dumb law, but it is the law and the internet is littered with stories of people being deported for only this. In other words, the entire business model, which relies on using foreign teachers to entice parents to enroll their children, is an illegal one. No wonder they don’t care about the rest of the law and have no intention of stopping requiring deposits from teachers. No reputable recruiter would work with such a school, but Carrie Kellenberger told me “Principal is one of our oldest and best schools.” If this is one of the best, imagine the rest!