The People’s Republic of China (PRC) consists of 31 top-level administrative units (excluding the Special Administration Regions of Hong Kong and Macao, which have their own legal systems), made up of 22 provinces (excluding Taiwan, which is claimed by the PRC), five autonomous regions and four cities directly controlled by the central government (Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai and Tianjin). Responsibility for employment law matters is shared between the national level and the individual provinces, regions and cities.

At national level, the main general items of legislation on employment rights and protections are the Labour Law and the Labour Contract Law. National statutes on specific issues include the Trade Union Law, Employment Promotion Law, Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests, Law on the Protection of People with Disabilities, Law on Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases and Company Law. A range of Regulations, Provisions and Decisions issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) and other state agencies deal in detail with matters regulated by these various laws.

Rules adopted by the public authorities at the level of individual provinces, regions and cities play an important role in some fields of employment law, including minimum wages, social security, maternity leave, paternity leave, sick leave, bereavement leave, marriage leave, working time and industrial relations. The main focus of this article is on national regulation, though we indicate areas where lower-level regulation is important and give examples of such rules.

Employment law is interpreted by the civil courts. Under the PRC’s judicial system, courts’ judgments do not set binding precedents. However, despite the absence of case law as such, judicial interpretations issued by the Supreme People’s Court provide definitive guidance on how employment legislation should be applied.

Other sources of employment law include collective agreements and individual employment contracts.

This article refers only to employment in the private sector.

Temporary Covid-19 Crisis Measures (as at 15 July 2020)

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the national Government has not taken any specific measures in relation to amending employment law. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has:

  • encouraged the use of remote working and flexibility in working hours and leave

  • confirmed that employees who contract Covid-19 or quarantined are entitled to receive full pay and are protected from dismissal

  • discouraged pandemic-related redundancies (instead promoting negotiated pay and working time adjustments).

The Government has also issued guidance on relevant health and safety measures to be observed. The governments of individual provinces, regions and cities have taken a range of measures, including wage subsidies for certain employers in some cases.

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