China Employment Laws For Female Employees

As today is International Women’s Day, this would be a good time for a quick overview on China employment laws relating to female employees. Since there are so many national and regional and even local laws and regulations regarding female employees in China, this post necessarily seeks only to hit the high notes.

First, do not forget to give your female employees half a day off as International Women’s Day is their holiday (or follow the applicable holiday policy in your employer rules and regulations if it’s more generous than the law)!

Second, let me emphasize that female workers are always a big issue in China (not just today), primarily because they are accorded many additional special protections under China law. If you have been following my posts here or if you have a copy of my book (The China Employment Law Guide), you probably already know that employees who are pregnant, nursing or on maternity leave receive special protections exceeding those in many other countries. However, it is important to also note that these are not the only protected subgroups of female employees; they are simply the most often mentioned because the issues relating to them are the most common and because it is on these issues that foreign employers so often find themselves in trouble. For example, China’s laws also provide special protections for female employees during their menstrual periods. Many localities in China require employers provide a short (usually 1 to 2 days) paid leave to employees suffering from serious menstrual issues or to those with very heavy flows during their periods, so long as the employee provides a doctor’s note proving her condition.

Terminating a China employee is generally very difficult because China is not an employment-at-will jurisdiction and terminating a female employee is often even more difficult, especially if the female employee has a special status such as pregnancy. Subject to limited exceptions, employers in China are prohibited from unilaterally terminating an employee who is pregnant, nursing or on maternity leave. One common myth is that female employees in such special status can never be fired. This is wrong as these employees may be unilaterally terminated without severance for the employee’s failure to satisfy the employer’s conditions of employment during a probation period or if based on employee misconduct or wrongdoing. Alternatively, such an employee may be terminated if the employer and the employee agree to mutually terminate the employment relationship. See Terminating a China Employee: Why Mutual Termination is so Often the Key.

Though I have many times said this previously, I must say it yet again: China employment laws are very local and this most certainly holds true when dealing with female employees. See China Employment Law: Local and Not So Simple. As a China employer, you not only must follow all relevant laws and regulations, you also need to be careful about what you put into your contracts with your employees, especially those of your female employees. For instance, do not enter into an agreement with a female employee that forbids her to go on maternity leave (or get married or pregnant) for a certain period of time.

China employers also have obligations to try to prevent and stop sexual harassment against female employees in the work place, and if you do not already have an anti-sexual harassment policy in your employer rules and regulations you should make it a point to get one, and fast.

I hope you can join me next month for my April 18 webcast Employment Law for Female Workers in China.