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China: Maternity Leave Further Extended by Provinces

(May 3, 2016) In the past several months, Chinese provinces have been revising their regulations to implement the recently amended Law on Population and Family Planning (Family Planning Law) and at the same time specifying extra parental leave periods applicable in their jurisdictions. Nearly half of the revised regulations have been located; they cover 14 provinces and provincial-level municipalities: Anhui, Beijing, Fujian, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Qinghai, Shandong, and Shanghai. (Anhui Provincial Population and Family Planning Regulations (revised Jan. 15, 2016), Health and Family Planning Commission of Anhui Province website (in Chinese); other regulations available at Westlawchina online subscription database.) The length of parental leave varies from province to province.

In China, women are entitled to 98 days of paid maternity leave, according to a female labor protection regulation promulgated by the State Council in 2012. (Special Provisions on Labor Protection of Female Employees, Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China website (May 7, 2012) (in Chinese); Laney Zhang, China: Maternity Leave Extended from 90 Days to 98 Days, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 18, 2012).) Maternity leave is being further extended and paternity leave is now becoming a practice in many places, along with the implementation of the “two-child policy” that just became law on January 1, 2016. (Laney Zhang, China: Two Child Policy Becomes Law, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Jan. 8, 2016).)

When the Family Planning Law was revised to adopt the “two-child policy,” the provision encouraging “late marriage and late childbearing” was removed.  Couples qualifying as “late childbearing” used to be rewarded with extended maternity leave and a paternity leave that was not otherwise available. The new Law instead allows all couples who “bear children in compliance with laws and regulations” to be rewarded with the extra leave. The Law itself does not specify the length of the additional leave, which is to depend on provincial population and family planning regulations. (Id.)

The aforementioned provincial regulations extend the maternity leave made available to couples by 30 or 60 days, for a total of 128 or 158 days. In some cases, the extended period is even longer; Hainan extends the existing 98 days of maternity leave by three months, and Fujian, by 60 to 82 days. Beijing allows an extra one to three months above its 30-day extension, as long as the person’s work unit permits it.  (Id.)

All of the regulations surveyed provide for paternity leave, which is typically 15 days.  However, Shandong gives only 7 days and Shanghai 10 days, while Hunan gives 20 days. Anhui also gives 10 days, but if the husband and wife live in different localities, the permissible paternity leave is 20 days. The new paternity leave appears to be generally for a longer period than what the old regulations had provided as a reward for late childbearing. (Id.)

It should be noted that the extra parental leave is applicable to couples “bearing children in compliance with laws and regulations.” Therefore, couples must be married and bear up to two children, unless they are allowed by law to have more children, to qualify for the extra parental leave. (China: Two Child Policy Becomes Law, supra.)