Chinese New Year is a significant travel period for many Chinese citizens to return home and celebrate the new year. Usually, the period marks the largest migration in the world with many returning for an extended holiday. However, amidst the on-going pandemic and domestic COVID-19 breakouts, the Chinese government encourage only necessary travel during the Chinese New Year. Provincial and municipal governments across China have also issued local travel restrictions for individuals entering in.
For employers, such travel restrictions and unpredictable breakouts can directly impact business operations after the holidays. Specifically, China has assigned low, medium, and high-risk levels to areas including roads and districts within cities, cities, and provinces depending on the current situation.
Equally, provincial, and municipal governments have issued local travel restrictions for individuals traveling from or through high or medium risk areas. For example, under the ‘Spring Festival pandemic prevention and safety fifty questions’ issued by Shanghai Municipal government, individuals travelling from or through high-risk areas are subject to mandatory central observation quarantine and two nucleic tests. Whilst those travelling from or through medium-risk areas are subject to 14 days strict community health management and two nucleic tests. Therefore, employers should keep abreast of the latest local travel restrictions and risk areas.
At Horizons, we have advised clients to establish clear guidelines to migrate risk and potential employee disputes for returning employees after the Chinese New Year holidays. Below, we highlight five aspects for employers to consider.
- Before the holidays’ period, employers should send written reminders of company policies and procedures concerning pandemic prevention and safeguard. Especially, policies and procedures concerning employees unable to return to work due to travel restrictions should include timely notification, work from home arrangements, arrangements in the case employee cannot work from home, and so forth.
- If policies and procedures related to pandemic prevention and safeguard are not established, it is advisable to seek legal professions to amend accordingly to the labour laws and rules and regulations.
- If employers request travel plans and personal data to reduce COVID-19 risk, written notifications should be timely sent to employees and data collection should comply with the relevant data protections laws.
- If employers request nucleic tests from employees, sufficient notification should be sent with any specific requirements, such as health organisation, validation period of nucleic test, reimbursement policy and so forth.
- Employers may offer incentives for employees to remain in the city, especially where employees cannot work remotely. Although, such incentives should adhere to the company policy practices and notified clearly to employees.
With circumstances, employers should be prepared and remain alert during the holiday period to ensure business continuity after Chinese New Year.
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