According to Chinese Labour Law, women shall enjoy the same employment rights as men. In the labour market, employers may not refuse to employ women on the grounds of gender or raise recruitment standards for women, except for roles that are unsuitable for women, as stipulated by the state.
However, in the past, gender discrimination in the workplace was very common in China. When a female candidate applied for a job, the HR department would ask her about her marital status and whether she had any children. Companies would do this to filter out female candidates that may potentially ask for marriage or maternity leave in the future, in order to reduce their labour costs. What’s worse, women would have fewer opportunities for promotion than men.
Women’s current status in the Chinese labour market
In recent years, since the Chinese government’s efforts to protect the legal rights of female workers, there has been a decrease in the number of gender discrimination cases. The government has drafted specific legislation to tackle gender discrimination in the workplace, outlining sanctions for companies who are found to be in violation. If a HR department asks about a female’s marital status, the candidate can report them to the local government.
Another reason is that Chinese women have become more independent and have chosen to stay single or not to raise a child so as to gain more career opportunities. Nevertheless, women in China are enjoying female empowerment with more rights and are taking leadership positions in companies. For example, in China’s Alibaba group, 34% of the senior executives are women and women account for almost 47% of its workforce.
There are many signs that women share more and more power in the labour market in China, however, as an employer, you still need to pay special attention to your female workers to protect their rights in the workplace.
How to protect and motivate female workers
As an employer, you firstly need to fully recognise the importance of female employees for the long-term development of your company and organisational diversification. You need to establish a systematic talent selection and promotion system, and guarantee equal promotion rights and opportunities for women workers. In most cases, the more women workers you have, the more open and diversified a company image you’ll create.
When it comes to maternity leave, companies need to adequately prepare for their female employee’s departure, ensuring that they find a replacement to fill the gap in her absence. This is to ensure that the business is not negatively impacted. In many cases, a woman can enjoy her maternity leave and return to her position shortly after giving birth.
To simultaneously protect women’s rights in the workplace and your company’s normal operation, the employer can establish a job rotation system and start a staff assistance program to meet the needs of the company’s development, even when female workers have to take a maternity leave for an extended period of time such as 90 days.
How not to get caught out
Chinese labour law and labour contract law both have special regulations to protect women’s rights and interests in the workplace. However, many companies may fail to comply with these rules if they are unfamiliar with them.
One of the most common issues that companies face relates to maternity leave. It’s always a difficult task for an employer to understand maternity leave in China if they’ve never operated in the market before. Labour contract rules are set at a national level, but the local governments are given administrative autonomy and room to interpret national rules. It goes without saying that it’s better to be safe than sorry when doing business in a new market. Consult our China Labour Law guide to make sure your business stays compliant at all times.