Setting standard or alternative working hours in China

Employers are normally obliged to utilise the standard working hours, as prescribed by the Labour Law of the People’s Republic of China (‘Labour Law’). In cases where the constraints of the work characteristics or production limits the implementation of the standard working hours, the employer may apply the flexible working time or cumulative working time system. Such alternative working hours are subject to case-by-case approval by the labour administrative department.

What Are Standard Working Hours?

Standard working hours are restricted to 8 hours per day and 44 hours per week on average. Employers are obliged to guarantee at least one day off in a week.

Working hours may be extended after consultation with the trade union and employees but restricted to one hour maximum per day. Under special circumstances, and if employees’ health is unaffected, the working hours may be extended to three hours maximum per day, and the accumulated total extension shall not exceed 36 hours per month.

Extended hours limitations do not apply in the extraordinary circumstances as defined below:

  • In the event of a natural disaster, accident, life and health of employees or the safety of property is in peril and urgent dealing is needed;
  • In the event of a breakdown of production equipment, transportation lines or public facilities, production and public interests are affected, and rush repairs must be done without delay; and
  • Other circumstances stipulated by the laws, administrative rules and regulations.

Any extension of working hours according to the prescribed extension provisions shall be remunerated accordingly using the below calculation:

  • If the extension of working hours falls within normal working hours, 150% of the normal working wage shall be remunerated;
  • If the extension of working hours falls on an arranged day off and no off-day is compensated, 200% of the normal working wage shall be remunerated;
  • If the extension of working hours falls on a statutory holiday, 300% of the normal working wage shall be remunerated.

What are the alternative working hours?

Flexible Working Time System

Flexible working time system refers to irregular or working hours which cannot be fixed under the standard due to particular business activity, special requirements of work or duties of a particular post. The following employee may apply for flexible working time system:

  • Senior management personnel, personnel who work outside the office, sales personnel and other enterprise employees whose work cannot be properly measured with the standard work hours;
  • Long-distance transportation personnel, taxi drivers, certain railway, port or warehouse employees who carry out loading and off-loading and other personnel whose work must be flexible due to the special nature of their job; and
  • Other employees for whom, due to special characteristics of the business, the special demands of job or scope of duties, the application of flexible working time system is appropriate.

Workers of flexible working hours shall enjoy at least one day per week and employers shall take employee’s opinions into account and apply proper methods of work and rest to ensure employees’ right to enjoy rest and holidays and the completion of production and work tasks.

Cumulative working time system

Cumulative working time system refers to a working time system adopted by an enterprise for certain personnel due to the special nature of their posts, the continuous nature of a business activity, or seasonal or other natural restrictions. The working time is comprehensively calculated on the basis of a weekly, monthly, seasonally or yearly period, provided that the average working time per day and per month respectively are generally the same as the statutory standard working time.

The following employees may apply to implement the comprehensive working time system:

  • Personnel in industries such as communications, railway, postal service, marine conveyance, airlines or fishing who due to special nature of work must work continuously;
  • Certain personnel in industries such as geological and resource surveying, construction, salt-production, sugar-production, tourism etc, which are restricted by season and natural conditions; and
  • Other suitable personnel.

The total working time of one day or one month can be longer than eight hours or forty hours, but the total working time of a comprehensively calculated period should not exceed the total statutory working time. Any work exceeding the statutory working time shall be deemed as extended working time and subject to overtime pay.

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