2022 China Employment

Getting right personal information protection and maternity leave

Currently, companies worldwide are called by both domestic and international regulations to become corporate citizens rather than merely profitable entities. In China, 2021, domestic legislation focused on data and cyber protection and introduced measures to support the third-child policy. Namely, Personal Information Protection Law (“PIPL”), effective from November 1 2022, obligates companies to strengthen personal data handling, process, and storage, and from late November, provinces and municipalities across China extended maternity leave to support the 3-child policy (announced on May 31, 2021, following the Chinese Communist Party Politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping). As a result, in 2022, human resources (“HR”) across China should diligently implement plans to comply with such changes and obligations.

At Horizons, we have been working with clients to adjust employee policies and summarise the main aspects for human resources to practically implement changes.

Personal Information Protection Law

PIPL is the first legislation to address misuse of personal data and sets forth mandatory requirements for companies processing such data. Though data handling related to human resources do not require the employee’s consent, PIPL does introduce stricter obligations for those handling sensitive personal information, such as biometrics, religious beliefs, medical and health and so forth. Namely, companies shall obtain specific consent and inform such individuals of the necessity and impact on their rights and interests. Therefore, companies should audit the existing personal information processing systems to gain a comprehensive employee data overview and, if necessary, draft specific consent forms aligned with PIPL.

Equally, companies may only transfer personal information outside mainland China by fulfilling provisioned conditions. Under PIPL, such conditions are generally outlined and require further guidelines for companies to proceed ahead. We suggest HR keep abreast of forthcoming related guidelines, especially those handling large volumes of personal information that meet a threshold set by the National Cyberspace Authority.   

Maternity Leave

In late November 2021, parental leave extensions were adopted in Chinese cities and provinces to stimulate the 3-child policy. Extended leave policies aim to reduce the burden of childbirth and childcare. The extended number of days varies from province to province or city to city, for example in Shanghai, the maternity leave is extended to 158 days. For companies, the amended policies shall directly impact employee leave policies and workforce planning and costs to cover extended leave.

We suggest that companies should conduct an employee consultation process before any amendments are made to employee leave policies and ensure employees are entitled to the legally allocated number of leave days. Namely, clear specification of the type of leave and number of days such as maternity leave, paternal leave for working parents and carer’s leave. In this manner, companies can reduce the risk of labour disputes since the amendments are consented by employees and blinding.

For more information on employee policies, we outline why employee policies matter in China workplace: the importance of your employee handbook.

Both PIPL and extended maternity leave reflects Environment Social and Governance (“ESG”) principles emerging in China. As an important international topic, we anticipate ESG to be present in forthcoming legislation in China, however, governed by President Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

If you are looking for labour law professionals to evaluate whether your data management or employee policy is compliant with the new legislation, please contact Horizons at country.partners@horizons-advisory.com, and our Partner in charge will be in touch.

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