A policy shift has been taking place in China: governments are encouraging increased procreation by Chinese couples, and the “One-Child Policy” is being replaced by incentives that encourage citizens to marry earlier and have more children.  Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong have promulgated new local rules along these lines, and other provinces and cities, such as Beijing, are in the midst of finalizing their own rules.

Shanghai is the most recent to join this trend.  The local Regulation on Population and Family Planning has been amended effective March 1, 2016 (“Amended Regulation”) to offer longer leave for qualified couples who marry and/or have a child.

Major changes in Shanghai include the following:

1. Greater Marriage and Maternity Leave Entitlements

Previously under the One-Child Policy (and for population control purposes), the government encouraged late marriage and late childbirth by providing longer marriage leave (additional 7 days; 10 days in total) and maternity leave (additional 30 days; 128 days in total) to qualified couples/mothers who were older than a specified age threshold.  These thresholds were age 25 or older for men and age 23 or older for women.

Under the Amended Regulation, all newly married couples are now entitled to 10 days’ marriage leave.  In addition, all qualified mothers will have an additional 30 days’ maternity leave, regardless of their age at childbirth.  In other words, all mothers in Shanghai are now entitled to a total of 128 days’ maternity leave.

2. Longer Paternity Leave for Fathers

Before the Amended Regulation, fathers were entitled to 3 days’ paternity leave and only if the childbirth qualified as a “late childbirth” (in most regions, the mother needed to be at least 24 years old when giving birth to their first child).  Now all fathers in Shanghai will be entitled to 10 days’ paternity leave regardless of the mother’s age at childbirth.

3. Retroactive Effect to January 1, 2016

Although the Amended Regulation is effective March 1, 2016, an officer from the Shanghai Government has clarified that couples in Shanghai who have already registered their marriage or given birth to a baby during the period from January 1, 2016 to February 29, 2016 may also enjoy the new “compensatory” marriage leave, maternity leave or paternity leave benefits.

4. Recommendations for Employers

Employers in China should review their marriage and maternity/paternity leave policies and practices, and keep up to date with the changing regulations.