Beijing and Shanghai have extended maternity leave by 30 days for eligible women and introduced the right to “parental leave,” or additional days off per year, for eligible parents of children under 3. Employers with a workforce in these locations will need to update their manuals and leave policies to reflect these changes, which are effective immediately.
As the number of births in China continues to decline, the Chinese government seeks to implement policies to reverse this trend and encourage married couples to have more children. As of January 1, 2016, the government removed the one-child policy that was included in the national family planning regulations and, for the first time since 1979, officially allowed eligible couples to have a second child.
In May 2021, in response to the census taken in 2020 which showed a significant drop in new births from 2016, the government further relaxed the regulations to allow eligible couples to have up to three children. In announcing the policy change, President Xi Jinping further announced that there would be measures to support families with additional children.
Presumably, the Shanghai and Beijing city governments have taken President Xi’s promise of greater support to heart and announced new measures to encourage more eligible couples to have another child. This support, however, must be borne by employers and not by national or local government. The national duration of maternity leave is 98 days. In 2016, the governments of Shanghai and Beijing, among other municipal and provincial governments, granted eligible employees an additional 30 days of maternity leave in addition to the base period of 98 days, bringing the total period of maternity leave. maternity at 128 days. On November 25 and 26, 2021, the governments of Shanghai and Beijing, respectively, announced the following changes to their respective local family planning regulations, which took effect immediately:
- First, Shanghai and Beijing extended maternity leave by an additional 128 days by an additional 30 days, bringing the total length of maternity leave to 158 days.
- Second, the two municipalities introduced the concept of “parental leave”, which gives eligible parents the right to five days of paid leave each year until the child turns 3 years old. According to media responses from the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, the five days of paid leave is accrued every year from the child’s birthday.
Therefore, in light of these changes, employers are advised to update their manuals and leave policies immediately to reflect these new benefits for eligible employees. Whether employers will extend these benefits to employees who have children who are not in compliance with family planning regulations, such as single parents or unmarried couples, is a matter of discretion. Additionally, employees will need to adjust how they calculate parental leave, as it will depend on the date of birth of the employee’s child, as opposed to the calendar year.
Finally, employers are advised to monitor future developments, as other provinces and municipalities may adopt these same or similar measures. Indeed, at the time of publication of this LawFlash, many other municipalities and local provinces at the provincial level have announced similar measures, including Zhejiang, Hubei, Anhui, Chongqing, Henan, Jiangxi and Qinghai.
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