After 10 February 2020, many companies started to resume their business operations after a long break. The PRC governments both at State and local levels issued some policies to support the stabilization of employment relationships and resumption of operation of the companies. To brief you on these policies, we have issued a newsletter on 7 February 2020 on the topic Coronavirus Outbreak: What can companies do in HR management during the epidemic period? The PRC Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security, the All-China Federation of Trade Union, the China Enterprise Confederation and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce right afterwards issued the Opinions on Better Supporting the Stabilization of Employment Relationships and Resumption of Operation and Production of Enterprises during the Period of Prevention and Control of Coronavirus (“Opinions”). Such regulation applies nationwide. Please find below the major updates.
- The Opinions confirm that the consultation with the employees about working and resting with rotations, shortening working hours and reducing salaries of employees can be made collectively, i.e. discussing with the employees’ representatives’ congress or all staff, asking for their proposals and consulting with the trade union or the employees’ representatives. As long as most employees do not make objection, the company can implement its arrangements accordingly.
- The Opinions clarify that if an employee is not able to duly come back to work due to the coronavirus, the company can arrange the employee to work from home by means of telephone and Internet and so on. If it is not feasible for the employee to work from home, the company may arrange the employee to take annual leave upon consulting with the employee.
- The Opinions did not specify the comprehensively calculated working time system for employees. But the Opinions encourage companies to arrange the working time of the employees flexibly and avoid employees’ going to work at peak time during the epidemic period. Companies getting tasks from governments for the support of control and prevention of coronavirus can, while ensuring the employees’ work safety and physical health, ask the employees to work longer than statutory limits upon consultation with them.
Based on the above, in Shanghai, the government encourages companies to arrange rest days of the entire year for the employees comprehensively upon consultation with them, i.e. to take rest first and then work later.
- The Opinions confirm that if an employee, after taking various leaves and holidays, is not yet able to come back to work after one month, upon consulting with the employee, a company may suspend the work of such employee and only pay the living allowance.
- The Opinions clarify that companies providing both off-line and online occupational trainings for employees during the periods of stop of work and resumption of operation can enjoy training subsidies.
- According to the Opinions, in order to mitigate companies’ cash flow difficulties, companies who are unable to pay employees’ salaries timely may negotiate with the trade union or the employees’ representatives to postpone salary payments.
- The Opinions encourage companies resuming operation to actively mobilize employees to come back to work. If the employee does not return to work without justified reasons after the company has tried to persuade him or her in vain, the company may take relevant labor disciplinary measures according to law, which shall include but not limited to terminating the employment contract with the employee immediately due to serious breach of company rules and regulations.
- The Opinions further clarify that during the epidemic period, companies can still make mass lay-off if this is unavoidable. But for such mass lay-off the companies must follow the statutory requirements and procedures.
Based on the above, some local governments also issued or will issue detailed implementing rules to support companies that may contain more beneficial or preferential measures. We suggest companies also to pay close attention to such local policies.