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Last updated on: May 31st, 2023

Labor Requirements

Labor Law in China is regulated mainly by the People’s Republic of China Labor Law & Labor Contract Law. The Labor law governs the terms and conditions of employment such as working hours, weekly rest and breaks, wages, and other employment conditions. Apart from the labor requirement provided under the People’s Republic of China Labor Law, local cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin have their own local labor legislations which govern the employer and employee relations in the cities.  Other regulations which govern the employment laws in China are the Ordinance on Annual Holiday, Regulation on Paid Annual Leave, Special Rules Concerning the Labor Protection of Female Employees, Regulation on Enterprise Workers Illness or Non-Work Related Injury Medical Period Specified, etc.

Hours & Pay Regulations

Normal Working Hours

The standard working hour of an employee shall not be more than 8 hours a day and an average weekly working time of no more than 44 hours (exclusive of overtime). 

Standard working hours include both the daily working hours of employees and the weekly working hours of employees and the various states may implement  working hour system.

Standard working hours, piece-rate working hours, and other working hours are the three categories of working hours. The time allocated by state law and under ordinary circumstances for regular employees to perform work or labor are referred to as “standard working hours.”

The employing unit must fairly decide the labor quota and piece-rate compensation standards for employees who use piece-rate work, which must be performed for no more than 8 hours per day and no more than 44 hours per week on average. Labor Law Art 36,37 and 41.


Shortened Working Hours – Shortened working hours refer to the working hour system stipulated by law that under special circumstances, the working hours of employees are less than the standard working hours. An employee work less than 8 hours a day and applies to:

      • employees engaged in underground mine operations, high temperature, poisonous and harmful, particularly heavy or excessively stressful operations; or
      • employees engaged in night shift work; or 
      • Female employees who are breastfeeding their child.


Extending working hours – Extended working hours refer to the working hours exceeding the standard working hours in a way that employees daily working time exceeds more than 8 hours, and the weekly working time exceeds more than 40 hours. Employers can extend the working hours of the employees after negotiating with the trade union and the employees due to the needs of production and operation. 


Comprehensive Working Hour System – The process of calculating working hours comprehensively involves a centralized approach to determine the total duration of work and breaks over a specified period of time. The working hours are computed across cycles of weeks, months, quarters, and years; nonetheless, the average daily and weekly working hours should essentially match the statutory standard working hours (8 hours per day or 40 hours per week). 


However, the total actual working hours in the comprehensive calculation period (on average) shall not exceed the total statutory standard working hours, and the excess part shall be regarded as extended working hours, and wages and remuneration shall be paid in accordance with the overtime remuneration. The following condition applies : 

          • employees in the transportation, railway, post and telecommunications, water transportation, aviation, fishery, and other industries who need to work continuously due to the special nature of their work;
          • geological and resources Some employees in industries such as exploration, construction, salt production, sugar production, and tourism are limited by seasons and natural conditions;
          • other employees who are suitable for the comprehensive calculation of working hours.

Irregular working hours– refers to a working hour system without fixed working hours. Applicable to employees whose job nature and scope of responsibilities are not limited by fixed working hours. For example, the senior management personnel, field personnel, and salespersons in the enterprise are on duty, staff engaged in transportation, and other employees who are suitable for the irregular working system due to product characteristics, special needs of the work, or the scope of responsibilities. For employees who implement the irregular working system, the enterprise shall reasonably determine the assessment standards of the employee according to the standard working hour system, so as to arrange for the employee to have a rest period. 


Flexible Working Hours System – The flexible work hour system accommodates employees whose working hours are impractical to measure. Employees on such a work-hour system will generally be paid as salaried employees. No overtime cost is associated with the flexible work-hour system. Employers are required to observe appropriate work and rest schedules, though it is ultimately up to the employer’s discretion. Such roles include senior management, salespeople; and employees in the transport, warehousing, and railway sectors. Regulations of the State Council on the Hours of Work of Employees, 1995, art. 3-5.


Recording Requirement – Employers are required to keep copies of employment contracts for each employee. These contracts should outline the terms and conditions of employment, including job responsibilities, working hours, wages, benefits, and termination provisions. Employers need to keep records of employee attendance, including arrival and departure times, working hours, overtime hours, and leave taken (such as annual leave, sick leave, and maternity leave). 


Employers must also maintain accurate payroll records, including details of wages, bonuses, deductions, and social insurance contributions for each employee. These records should be accessible for review by both employees and labor authorities. Labor Law Art 8.


Any work that exceeds 8 hours per normal work day and 44 hours per week is considered as Overtime work.  The standard 8-hour workday generally cannot be extended more than 1 hour per day, although up to a 3-hour extension is permitted under special circumstances. Employees shall be entitled to overtime pay for work performed beyond 44 hours per week.


The employer can ask employees to work longer hours for production and operational reasons prior to taking approval from the trade union and employees.  Generally, the extra hours should not exceed 1 hour per day. If there are special reasons to extend the working hours even further, the employer must ensure the employee’s health and well-being.


Pay – An employee is entitled to receive premium pay for overtime work at the rate of not less than 150% of the regular wage. Labor Law, 1995, art. 44.


No special requirements concerning meal and rest breaks exist, refer to any applicable company regulations which may exist.

Work On Rest Days

An employee is entitled to at least 1 day off in a week.


Pay – An employee who is required to perform work on a weekly rest day shall be entitled to a premium pay at the rate of 200 percent of the regular rate of pay if the employer cannot provide for compensatory time off. Labor Law, Art 38 and 44.

Public Holidays

Employees are entitled to 11 national holidays, the dates of some of which vary year to year depending on the lunar calendar:

  • Dec 30 – Jan. 1: New Year’s Day;
  • Spring Festival: 7 days in total, usually between late January and mid-February;
  • Tomb Sweeping Day: 3 days in total, usually between April 4th – 7th;
  • May 1: International Labor Day;
  • Dragon Boat Festival: 3 days in total; Friday to Sunday, usually in May or June;
  • Mid-Autumn Festival: 3 days in total; Friday to Sunday, usually between mid-September and mid-October; and
  • National Day: 7 days in total; Tuesday to Monday (early October).


The adjusted holiday arrangement permits switching non-working days with working days to grant longer consecutive periods of days off for the employees.


Every year, the government also provides additional public holidays to make long holiday weeks, known as “Golden Weeks,” for the Spring Festival and the National Day holidays.


Pay – An employee is entitled to receive premium pay for any work done at the rate of 300 % of the regular wage. Regulations on Annual Holidays; Labor Law, 1995, art. 44.

Annual Leave

Employees are required to have worked continuously for 1 year in order to be entitled to paid annual leave. Employees are entitled to annual vacation as per the following criteria: 

  • With less than one year of work tenure – No leaves;
  • With 1-10 years of work tenure – 5 working days of leave;
  • With 10-20 years of work tenure – 10 working days of leave; and
  • With over 20 years of work tenure – 15 working days of leave.

Calculation of Annual Leave – The number of paid annual leave new employee is entitled to is calculated using the following formula: 

(the remaining calendar days during the calendar year the employee started their employment ÷ 365) × the number of statutory vacation days the employee is entitled to under the law (as stated above, this depends on the total number of years the employee has worked).

Pay – During the employees’ annual leave, the employer must pay each of the employees the wages the employer would have paid each of them during the normal working period.

Carryover of Annual Leave – Annual leave may be taken at once or for several times within the current year; generally, it may not be carried over to the next year. Where an entity needs to carry it over to the next year for special production or working reasons, it may be carried over to the next year only.

An employer who fails to allow an employee to take annual leave must pay that employee 300% of the employee’s daily wages for each unused annual day. This 300% payment is not required if the employee voluntarily chooses not to take his or her vacation days.

Employees may not take paid annual leave under the following circumstances:

  • The employee is entitled to winter/summer holidays and the length of these holidays exceeds the amount of annual leave that the employee may have;
  • The employee has taken paid personal leave for more than 20 days in that year;
  • The employee has worked with their employer for more than 1 year but less than 10 years and has taken sick leave for more than 2 months in that year; and
  • The employee has worked with their employer for more than 20 years and has taken sick leave for more than 4 months in that year.

Annual leave can be arranged to be taken together within a year or may be taken in parts. Unused annual leave may be carried over to the following year. Regulations on Paid Annual Leave for Employees, 2007, arts. 3, 5.

Special Leave

Maternity Leave

Female employees are entitled to a minimum of 98 days paid maternity leave including 15 days prior to childbirth (discretion of the employee). Leave may be extended by 15 days under special circumstances such as dystocia. If the employee gives birth to more than one child at a time, an additional 15-day maternity leave shall be given for each additional infant.


In addition to this, some regions in China have implemented even more generous maternity leave policies. For example, Shanghai offers up to 158 days of maternity leave for female employees who have given birth to their first child, while employees who have given birth to their second child are entitled to 168 days of leave.


15 days of maternity leave is offered in cases of abortion after a pregnancy shorter than four months, and no less than 6 weeks (42 days) of maternity leave in cases of miscarriage/abortion after a pregnancy longer than four months.


Maternity leave entitlements vary according to provincial regulations, i.e. each locality has a separate regulation that has implemented additional duration of the leave. For example, the Fujian regulation provides for maternity leave ranging from 158 days to 180 days.


Pregnant female employees shall be entitled to take paid time off during working hours in order to get prenatal examinations.


PayFor female employees not covered by maternity insurance, the maternity allowance shall be paid by the employer based on the female employee’s wage prior to her maternity leave. For female employees who are covered by maternity insurance, the maternity allowance shall be paid out from the maternity insurance fund by the local social security bureau based on the average monthly wage of the employees.


Breast-feeding period

A female employee is also given at least 1 hour of paid break daily during work hours for breastfeeding during the first-year post birth of the child. For female employees who have multiple births, 1 additional hour of breastfeeding time per day shall be added for each additional infant. Special Rules Concerning the Labor Protection of Female Employees, 2012, art. 7-9.


Paternity Leave

Paternity leave entitlements vary according to provincial regulations, i.e. each locality has a separate regulation that has implemented an additional duration of paternity leave.  For example, in Shanghai, a male employee is entitled to 10 days of paternity leave in the case of late childbirth, and in Shenzhen and Beijing, a male employee is entitled to 15 days of paternity leave if their wife is 23 or older.


Sick Leave

Sick leave entitlements vary according to provincial and municipal regulations.


An employee is entitled to sick leave between 3 and 24 months which must be granted depending on total years of work experience, tenure with the current employer, and local regulations. 


Pay: As a general principle, however, the amount an employee is paid during sick leave should be no lower than 80 % of the minimum monthly salary announced by the local government.


An employee on sick leave is entitled to compensation, the amount of which varies by location. In some locations (such as Shanghai), the amount an employee is paid depends on salary and work experience. In other locations (such as Shenzhen), the amount is based exclusively on salary. In still other locations (such as Beijing and Jiangsu Province), the amount depends on the employment contract.


Medical Certificate – The medical certificate must be issued by a qualified medical professional and should contain the following information:

      • The name of the employee
      • The date of the examination
      • The diagnosis and recommended treatment
      • The expected duration of the illness or injury
      • The signature and seal of the medical professional

Employees must submit the medical certificate to their employer as soon as possible, usually within 2-3 days of their absence from work. Failure to provide a medical certificate may result in the leave being treated as unpaid leave or even disciplinary action. Enterprise Workers Illness or Non-Work Related Injury Medical Period Specified, 1994, art. 3.


Childcare Leave

Childcare leave refers to a period of paid or unpaid leave granted to employees for the care and/or support of their children under a certain age. Childcare leave entitlements vary according to provincial regulations, i.e. each locality has a separate regulation that provides childcare leave to parents.


Visitation leave

It is a paid leave entitlement granted to any employee who: 1) Is working in government organizations or state-owned enterprises; 2) Has worked for more than 1 year for that employer; 3) Does not live with his or her spouse or parents, and 4) Cannot visit his or her spouse or parents on a rest day.


If the employee is to visit his or her spouse, such an employee is entitled to 30 days of spouse visitation leave once a year.  State Council, Regs. on Treatment for Employees Who Visit Their Relatives, eff. Mar. 14, 1981.


Bereavement leave

When an employee’s parent, spouse, or child dies, such employee is entitled to between one and three days of paid bereavement leave.


Paid Leave to Take for Sick Parents

A number of cities in China are starting to introduce new leave entitlements enabling employees, who are the only children in their families, to take fully paid leave to care for elderly parents. Fujian, Guangxi, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, and Heilongjiang provinces have all issued similar paid leave regulations enabling employees to take off between 10 and 20 days per year to care for sick parents.

Employees in Chongqing are entitled to up to 10 days of paid leave per year to take care of their hospitalized parents.

Employees in Guangzhou are entitled to paid leave of up to 15 days per year to take care of parents older than 60 years old who are receiving treatment in a hospital.

Disclaimer: The material provided above is for informational purposes only and is subject to change. We endeavor to keep all material up-to-date and correct but make no representations about the information's completeness, accuracy, or reliability. Laws vary by jurisdiction and are subject to change and interpretation based on individual factors that may differ between organizations. The material is not meant to constitute legal advice and we suggest you seek the advice of legal counsel in connection with any of the information presented.