Coronavirus Impact on Chinese Employment Laws

Emily Kuhnert February 04, 2020

At the end of 2019, China reported an outbreak of coronavirus.  To date, there are more than 20,000 confirmed cases and 425 deaths in China alone.

As China has many areas where the population is very dense, strict preventative measures have been put in place to stop the spread of the virus for the purpose of preventing an epidemic.  We’ve been in contact with our local in-country employer, TalentBank, to understand what efforts the government has put into place to control the spread of the virus. In general, the Chinese New Year holiday has been extended to February 9th in hopes of controlling the spread of the coronavirus.  In addition, large gatherings of people should be avoided, and companies are encouraged to allow for their employees to work from home where possible.

How does this impact the workforce in China in the various regions?

Shanghai

In Shanghai, the Social Security Bureau has set strict labor guidelines in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

As the New Year holiday has been extended, employees are not able to return to work until February 10th.  If a company needs to resume work before this date, the company will need to go through an auditing process to explain the reason for the need to resume work.  This audit includes measures the company will take to prevent the spread of an epidemic, as well as information regarding any foreign employees.  If approved, the company will need to report to the epidemic control headquarters. If the company is found to be non-compliant or there is a confirmed case of coronavirus within its organization, they will be forced to cease work immediately.  The company may also be held accountable.

Since this period is considered rest, an employee who works during this time must be compensated overtime at the rate of 2 times their normal salary.

Beijing

In Beijing, the New Year’s holiday has been extended to February 2nd.  Employees who worked between January 31st– February 2nd are entitled to overtime pay (also 2 times the rate of the regular pay). Until the epidemic alert is lifted, employers must arrange flexible working arrangements such as allowing employees to work from home. If this is not possible due to the nature of the business, work schedules must be arranged in a manner that prevents a high concentration of people working in the same space.

In addition to making sure that employees are guaranteed the ability to use their sick leave, employers are mandated to pay regular wages for employees who have been quarantined. For employees who were not able to return to Beijing due to the outbreak, employers are able enforce employees to take their annual leave as follows:

  • 1-10 years of employment- the employee can take 5 days of paid leave
  • 10-20 years of employment- the employee can take 10 days of paid leave

Annual leave in China is paid at the same rate as a regular workday. If the employee is not able to return to work for an extended period of time, companies must pay at least 70% of the minimum wage to the employee.

If an employee’s employment agreement is set to expire during a period in which they are quarantined, the expiry date will be postponed to the same date that medical treatment is no longer necessary.

For employees who were on a business trip and were not able to return to Beijing due to the epidemic alert, employees are entitled to their regular wages.

Other Regions

In general, other regions’ policies are similar to that of Shanghai and Beijing.

Although subject to change based on any further developments, TalentBank has assisted in providing Papaya Global with a table of the date that the New Year’s holiday has been extended by region:

Holiday extended to: Province or city:
24:00 on February 17Wenzhou city (in Zhejiang Province)
24:00 on February 13Hubei Province
24:00 on February 9Provinces: Anhui, Fujian, Shaanxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Yunnan, Jilin, Zhejiang (except Wenzhou), Chongqing City, Jiangxi, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Guizhou, Henan, Liaoning, Guangxi, Ningxia, Qingyang city, Shanxi, Zigong/ Luzhou /Deyang / Pingchang/ Nanchong city
24:00 on February 3-9 (at the sole discretion of the company)Sichuan Province (except Zigong/ Luzhou/ Deyang/ Pingchang/ Nanchong), Hainan Province
24:00 on February 3Gansu Province (except Qingyang City), Qinghai Province, Xinjiang, Tibet

*The above do not include regions of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.