In light of the decrease of the working-age population and the increase of the number of people of over 60 years old, China's central government has decided to abolish its long-standing one-child policy. Since 1 January 2016, Chinese married couples are permitted to have up to two children. China's Population and Birth Planning Law (PBPL) has been amended to reflect this change; local implementing rules in this regard have already been issued or are in the pipeline. These changes may have a considerable impact on employers and employees in China, including changes in statutory entitlements of marriage, maternity and paternity leave.

Revised PBPL

The revised PBPL came into effect on 1 January 2016. Key revisions include:

  1. Married couples are now encouraged to have two children (before the revision, a married couple was generally permitted to have one child only, except in circumstances prescribed by law);
  2. Late marriage leave for a female employee married after 23 years old or a male employee married after 25 years old has been abolished;
  3. Late maternity leave for a female employee who gives birth at or over 24 years old has been abolished; and
  4. Additional maternity leave for a female employee, and paternity leave for a male employee whose wife gives birth, may be available depending on local rules.  

The revised PBPL also clarifies that the statutory benefits and entitlements that had been gained under the original PBPL before 1 January 2016, such as benefits for late marriage leave, late maternity leave, one-child allowances, etc., will not be affected after the revision.

Local Implementing Rules

Different provinces and municipalities in China have issued, or are working on, local implementing rules in light of the abolition of the one-child policy and the revision of the PBPL.

The Guangdong province was the first to issue its new implementing rules which became effective since 1 January 2016. Tianjin, Zhejiang, Hubei, Anhui, Shanxi and Guangxi have since also issued their own implementing rules. Other regions, such as Beijing and Shanghai, are drafting implementing rules, which are expected to be released in the first quarter of 2016.

The entitlements with respect to additional maternity leave and paternity leave under the new implementing rules for each of Guangdong, Tianjin, Zhejiang, Hubei, Anhui, Shanxi and Guangxi are summarised below. For each of these provinces, the additional maternity leave will be added to the statutory maternity leave of 98 days.

Click here to view table.

Beijing released for public comment its draft implementing rules on 8 January 2016. Similar to the rules in Guangdong, Zhejiang and Hubei, the Beijing implementing rules also propose for 30 days of additional maternity leave and 15 days of paternity leave for the first and the second child.

Practical tips for employers

In light of the above regulatory changes, employers should:

  • Review the company's employee handbook and other internal policies with regard to marriage leave, maternity leave, paternity leave and related entitlements and make revisions as appropriate to ensure compliance with the revised PBPL and the relevant local implementing regulations;
  • Monitor regulatory progress, especially the local implementing regulations, in relation to the abolition of the one- child policy; and 
  • Prepare for a possible increase of child-birth leave, and make appropriate human resource arrangements to satisfy workforce needs if there is a "baby boom" in the future.