On August 17, 2015, the Shanghai Municipal Government issued the amended Regulations on Standards for the Medical Treatment Periods of Employees in Shanghai Who Contract Illnesses or Sustain Non-work-related Injuries During the Performance of Their Employment Contracts (“2015 Regulations”), which took effect on May 1, 2015.  The regulations will remain in effect until June 20, 2020.

The 2015 Regulations supersede the previous 2002 regulations on the same subject, although the content of the two Regulations are almost identical.  In Shanghai, an employee is entitled to 3 months’ medical treatment period (“MTP”) in his/her first year of employment with the current employer.  The entitlement then increases by one month for each additional year of service with the same employer, up to a maximum of 24 months.  During the MTP, a sick employee would be protected from most unilateral terminations (except for termination for “misconduct”). However, upon the expiration of the employee’s MTP, the employer may unilaterally terminate the employee if he/she cannot return to their original role or other work assigned by the employer.

Key Take-Away Points

In China, it is generally easy for employees to obtain a doctor’s note even when they are not genuinely sick, and in this way gain protection from unilateral termination.  Unfortunately, the new Shanghai regulations fail to address how companies should handle such situations or what options they have in suspicious cases of sick leave.