On November 21 2012 the State Council issued its Draft Regulations for the Labour Protection of Female Employees, which would supersede the existing 1988 regulations. The new draft regulations would strengthen benefits and protections for female employees in several areas. The most significant changes would:

  • extend the maternity leave period from 90 days to 14 weeks (ie, 98 days); and
  • set out detailed entitlements to leave event of a miscarriage (which would replace any local regulations that provide for fewer days).

In addition, the draft regulations make clear that an employer is liable to pay the employee's maternity stipend and medical costs related to childbirth - otherwise payable by the employee's maternity insurance fund - if it fails to contribute to the fund.

In order to ensure compliance, the draft regulations also designate various government branches to supervise implementation and provide for fines of up to Rmb5,000 for each violation by the employer.

A growing number of cities have also promulgated rules and regulations for the protection of women's rights and interests. For example, on March 8 2012 regulations will come into force in Chengdu (in Sichuan province) that specifically prohibit discrimination against women in the recruitment process and require protective clauses in employment contract. Shanghai and Hangzhou have issued maternity insurance rules to standardise the calculation of women's maternity benefits. Companies should familiarise themselves with these standards to ensure that they comply with the law and avoid employee claims.

For further information on this topic please contact Andreas Lauffs or Jonathan Isaacs at Baker & McKenzie's Hong Kong office by telephone (+852 2846 1888), fax (+852 2845 0476) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).