Another brewing crisis sparked by the novel coronavirus pandemic is the rise in employment disputes. Covid-19 has fanned the disputes between the employers and employees with respect to wages, working hours, workplace safety, flexible working hours, work from home and lay offs. To avoid friction between both the sides, China has introduced many new regulations and policies at both national and local levels. As per People’s Republic of China’s, Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Communicable Diseases and the Emergency Response Law it is the employers’ obligation to provide safe and healthy work environment to the employees and prevent the spread of any communicable disease in the work place.
These labour laws urge the employer to abide by the following key points:
1 to undertake prevention and control measures issued by the disease prevention and control authority and medical institutions;
2 to give out true information to the local disease prevention and control authority and medical institutions;
3 to submit report for both the corona confirmed cases as well as suspected cases to the local disease prevention and control authority and medical institutions;
4 to reach out to the disease prevention authority to conduct sanitary measures to control the spread of disease in case the number of mobile employees exceeds 200;
5 not to discriminate against any employee with confirmed or suspected infection;
6 to undertake strict disinfection drive in the work place if its contaminated with the coronavirus.
In addition, to strike a balance and present the ongoing health emergency as a shared responsibility between the employer and the employee, the Beijing High People’s Court and the Beijing Labor and Personnel Dispute Arbitration Commission together released a set of directions, which act as answers to various issues concerning the Application of Law in the Trial of Employment Dispute Cases During the Prevention and Control of Covid-19.
Here’s the list of some of the common disputed points:
Double wage – An employee can claim for double wage if he or she can prove employer’s failure of issuing renewed written contract but if the employer can prove that the failure to enter into a written contract was caused by coronavirus-related circumstances, the courts will not proceed with the employee’s plea.
Compensation for corona infected or suspected employees – In this case, employer may or may not give an employee the non-guaranteed portions of the employee’s remuneration, but must pay the base salary.
Work from home – As per the law, if the employee needs to stay at home to care for a child, the employer needs to arrange for that (by letting the employee take leave) but the employee would receive basic wages for those days.
Suspension of a project/ operation – In case the employer drops a production project or operation due to the financial implications of coronavirus virus, the employer needs to pay his/her employees’ wages as per the employment contract.
Reopening of work – If the employer reopens business or production, following all the government issued safety norms but the employee doesn’t want to return to work, then the employer can terminate the employee for wrongdoing without severance only if it can show the proof that he or she has reminded the employee. Over all, China’s labor laws promote harmonious negotiation and mediation over legal filing of the dispute.