Beijing and Shanghai have extended maternity leave for eligible women by an additional 30 days and introduced the right to “parental leave”, or extra days off per year, for eligible parents of children under 3. Employers with workforces in these locations will need to update their handbooks and leave policies to reflect these changes, which took effect immediately.
As the number of births in China continues to decline, the Chinese government is seeking to put in place policies to reverse this trend and encourage married couples to have more children. Effective January 1, 2016, the government removed the one-child policy that was in the national family planning regulations and, for the first time since 1979, officially allowed eligible couples to have a second child.
In May 2021, in response to the census taken in 2020 which showed a significant drop in new births from 2016, the government further relaxed regulations to allow eligible couples to have up to three children. In announcing the policy change, President Xi Jinping further announced that there would be measures to support families who have additional children.
Presumably, the municipal governments of Shanghai and Beijing took President Xi’s promise of greater support to heart and announced new measures to encourage more eligible couples to have another child. This support, however, must be borne by the employers and not by the national or local government. The national duration of maternity leave is 98 days. In 2016, the governments of Shanghai and Beijing, among other municipal and provincial governments, granted eligible employees an additional 30 days of maternity leave on top of the basic 98-day period, bringing the total duration of maternity leave to 128 days. On November 25 and 26, 2021, the governments of Shanghai and Beijing, respectively, announced the following changes to their respective local family planning regulations, which took effect immediately:
- First, Shanghai and Beijing have extended maternity leave from the current 128 days by another 30 days, bringing the total duration of maternity leave to 158 days.
- Second, both municipalities have introduced the concept of “parental leave”, which entitles eligible parents to five days of paid leave every year until the child reaches the age of 3. According to media responses from the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, the five days of paid leave accrue each year from the child’s birthday.
Therefore, in light of these changes, employers are urged to update their leave manuals and policies immediately to reflect these new benefits for eligible employees. Whether employers will extend these benefits to employees who have children who do not comply with family planning regulations, such as a single parent or unmarried couples, is a matter of discretion. Additionally, employees will need to adjust how they calculate parental leave, as it will depend on the date of birth of the employee’s child, as opposed to the calendar year.
Finally, employers are urged to monitor further developments as other provinces and municipalities may adopt these same or similar measures. Indeed, at the time of publication of this LawFlash, many other provincial-level local municipalities and provinces have announced similar measures, including Zhejiang, Hubei, Anhui, Chongqing, Henan, Jiangxi and Qinghai. .