Earlier this year China introduced new legislation to strengthen the protection of female employees in the workplace. The Special Labor Protection Regulations for Female Employees came into force on 28 April 2012 and contain numerous requirements on employers. It is essential that companies understand these new Regulations to ensure they avoid potentially substantial financial sanctions.  

Under the new Regulations employers must:  

  • prevent and put a stop to sexual harassment of female employees in the workplace;
  • organise training for female employees on labour safety; and
  • notify female employees in writing if their work constitutes “prohibited work” under the Regulations.  

The new legislation also contains new rights for women on maternity leave or those who have recently given birth, including:  

  • extending maternity leave from 90 to 98 days;  
  • giving women who miscarry within the first four months of their pregnancy the right to take 15 days’ maternity leave;  
  • giving women who miscarry after the first four months of their pregnancy the right to take 42 days’ maternity leave;  
  • new provisions to encourage employers to participate in maternity insurance programmes;  
  • giving pregnant women the right to take paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments during working hours;  
  • allowing women who are at least 7 months pregnant the right to take a break during the working day and the right not to be asked to work overtime or at night or to engage in certain types of work; and  
  • the right of women who are breastfeeding to take a one-hour break during working hours to breastfeed. Such women also have the right not to be asked to work overtime or at night or in certain types of work.  

There are hefty financial sanctions for any employer breaching these new Regulations. They could be fined between RMB 1,000 and RMB 5,000 (£1-500) for each affected female employee. Employers which ask a pregnant or breastfeeding employee to perform any 10 prohibited work may be subject to a fine ranging from RMB 50,000 to RMB 300,000 (£5- £30,000). In serious cases, the Government authorities may even order the employer to cease or close its business.