Recently, Guangdong Province and Tianjin Municipality changed their local rules on protecting female employees, while Jiangsu Province released draft regulations on this same topic. These regulations demonstrate a continuing trend among local governments to strengthen workplace protections for female employees.

On February 1, 2017, the Implementing Measures of Guangdong Province for Regulations on the Labor Protection of Female Employees took effect to supersede the 1989 implementing measures on the same subject. The measures address and clarify several key issues on maternity leave and benefits, nursing leave, and non-discrimination. The measures provide more generous leave than national law for pregnancies that end in miscarriage (e.g. 75 days of leave for a miscarriage during the third trimester of pregnancy). Furthermore, if an employee needs to take leave to avoid miscarriage as instructed by a doctor, the leave period should be treated as sick leave. The measures' other most noticeable change clarifies the employer's payment responsibility for maternity allowance. During maternity leave, the employer must pay any shortfall between the maternity allowance paid by the maternity insurance fund and the employee's average monthly salary over the past 12 months before childbirth.

The Provisions of Tianjin Municipality for Protecting the Rights and Interests of Women will take effect March 1, 2017. According to the provisions, an employment contract with a female employee should include provisions on the protection of female employees and may not restrict her right to marriage and childbirth. In addition, if the employee experiences difficulties in caring for her baby after the maternity leave period ends, the employee may take up to six months' nursing leave with employer approval at 80% of her base salary if the parties cannot agree on an adjusted salary during this period. This nursing leave period may not be a factor in decisions about the employee's future promotions, salary adjustments, or service year calculations.

On February 9, 2017, Jiangsu authorities publicized the draft Regulations on the Implementation of Special Provisions for the Labor Protection of Female Employees. The draft includes more generous miscarriage leave than national law, and includes increased rest entitlements and working hour restrictions for employees in their first trimester of pregnancy. It also gives female employees the right to resign and demand severance if a company fails to take effective action to prevent sexual harassment. The provincial government is still in the process of collecting public comments on the draft. There is no timeline on when the draft will be promulgated.

Key take-away points:

Local governments in China are enhancing protections for female employees. Employers should stay informed about these latest developments and update policies, procedures and employment contracts as necessary to protect female employees in accordance with local laws and regulations.