China Employer Rules and Policies: Effective Communication is Key

Though we are always emphasizing how different China’s employment laws are from those in the West (especially the United States), there are some basic things employers should consider in handling employment matters pretty much everywhere in the world. This post discusses how effective employer communication is key pretty much everywhere.

By employer communication, I am referring to pretty much everything, written or spoken that passes from the employer to its employees. Written documents tend to be key because they are what companies typically use to make employment decisions and what employees typically use before a court or other tribunal to show employer wrongdoing. It is therefore critical that employers make sure all their employment documents, especially their employer rules and regulations (a/k/a employee handbook/employer manual), are in good order.

To make sure your company’s employment documents have been effectively communicated to your employees you should require all of your employees to sign an acknowledgment of receipt of your employment documents as proof they received them. You should require your employees sign such an acknowledgement each and every time you make any changes to your employment documents. You also should get any new employee to sign acknowledgments for all of your company’s employee documents. Then you need to be sure to store these signed acknowledgments of receipt are kept in a safe place for as long as possible.

Our China employment lawyers have been involved in many China employment matters that have been influenced by the existence or non-existence of a signed acknowledgment of receipt. We have also been involved in matters where an employee claimed not to understand what he/she had signed because it was in English, not Chinese, and we have been involved in matters where our clients insisted that an employee had signed an acknowledgment of receipt but stolen the copy out of the company’s files.

Another way to achieve good employer-employee communication is to write your company’s employee rules and policies as clearly as possible. For example, if you as the employer want to prohibit certain types of activity (assuming it is legal to do so in the specific locale), you should explicitly describe the prohibited acts in the document. Saying “you are discouraged from doing X” is not going to cut it. You should also clearly describe the specific employee discipline you will mete out for engaging in the prohibited activity.  You also should delete anything from your employee documents that you do not plan to enforce, along with anything you will never be able to enforce under Chinese law.

Making sure your employment documents are consistent with each other goes hand-in-hand with the above. If you have one policy that says, “employees can do X” and another that says the opposite, you have not effectively communicated your policy to your employees, and documented contradictions will give your employees great fodder in court and make it difficult for you to enforce your policies. Beyond any potential employer enforcement action, your having clear and effective employment documents will tell your employees you are making efforts to comply with the law.

Are you effectively communicating your employment program to your China employees? If you are uncertain, make sure by doing an employer audit.