Job contracts

What you should know about Chinese labour law

Job contracts

From a cultural perspective, contracts are not seen as binding in China as they are in other countries. It is rare for an employee to take an employer to court over breach of contract.

Try to get a clear statement on the length of your employment in your contract, including any probation periods. If your contract is for a year or less, the probation period should only be one month long.

You should check salary details, payment dates and currency you’re paid in, taxes that will be deducted from your pay, the terms of overtime work and holiday policies. Also make sure that any ‘extras’ such as housing, travel expenses and mobile phone costs are stated in your employment contract.

Check in advance on what terms you can leave your job, and the company’s procedure if it decides to terminate your employment. For maternity leave, the law in China states that women 25 years and older are entitled to four months off work after giving birth. If you’re under 25, you’re only entitled to three months.

Chinese labour law

The Labour Contract Law, which covers all workers in China, changed on January 1 2008 in an effort to address the rising number of labour disputes. The law requires that employment contracts must be put in writing within one month of employment commencing, and gives clear recourse to employees whose rights have been violated. It covers areas such as severance pay, probationary periods, lay-offs, non-compete clauses and collective bargaining. An English translation of the law can be found on the American Chamber of Commerce Shanghai’s website ( ).

If you are badly treated at work, you should first complain to your personnel department, preferably in writing, with evidence to back your case. If there is subsequently no change then it could be time to speak to a lawyer. Try to find a reliable Chinese lawyer, as they will be familiar with the local regulations.

If your company wants to fire you for any reason, they should give you one month’s notice, first providing verbal and written warnings in cases of alleged misconduct.

Further reading

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