Employment in China vs. America
Working in China can differ greatly from working in America in terms of employment law. It’s crucial to understand that while many things are similar between the two countries (fast food, use of automobiles, skyscrapers, modern technology capabilities, etc.), there are still many areas of disparity when it comes to employment law.
1. Contracted employment only
In China, all employment is contracted. At-will, in our traditional American sense of the phrase, does not exist. Transitioning from at-will employment to contracted employment isn’t usually that difficult for employees, however, from a management or leadership standpoint, having contracted employees is more cumbersome process-wise.
It is important to work with you lawyer to understand what legal obligation you have when contracting employment in China.
2. Contracts are mandatory
Since at-will employment doesn’t exist, contract issuance is mandatory. As an employee, ensure that you have read and signed your contract prior to employment. It’s important to note that termination of contracted employees is only for cause and these reasons are enumerated in the law.
As an employer, it’s important to sync up your contract verbiage with that of local laws. Make sure you aren’t promising something in the contract that won’t hold up in court. Contract terms are left to the employer’s discretion. Most common are fixed one- and two-year term contracts.
Interestingly enough, after two successive fixed term contracts, the third contract issued is considered an “open-ended” contract. Colloquially, these contracts are viewed as ensuring a job for life!
3. Extensive protection for employees
Unlike US law, Chinese law explicitly outlines extensive protection for certain groups of employed people. These protected groups of people include:
- Sole breadwinners during layoffs
- Pregnant women
- Persons 16-18 years of age
As you work out your own employment situation, keeping these three key things in mind will mitigate the majority of problems you may face.