Employees to have the right of ‘offline rest’ added in China’s labour laws

China is considering amending labour laws to add working laws that clearly set boundaries on online overtime and compensation.
By: | March 8, 2024

Protection from invisible overtime should be improved for the benefit of employees, say policy advisers and lawmakers at the ongoing “two sessions” in Beijing.

This is the sentiment of Lyu Guoquan, delegate at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Director of the General Office of China’s trade union federation. He has proposed including the right of “offline rest” into labour laws, while also raising the legal penalties for companies involved in “invisible overtime practices”.

“Digital information technology in the internet era … has blurred the ‘boundaries’ between work and life, making invisible overtime increasingly normalised as ‘unpaid overtime’,” Lyu said.

“The state of being ‘always online’ has left workers ‘trapped in the work system’, adversely affecting their physical and mental well-being.”

Lyu has suggested revising standard working hours to clearly define online overtime and compensation. He has also suggested setting limits on hours for positions that rely on online platforms with fluctuating schedules and high workloads. The government, in turn, should also raise supervision and penalties for employers with “invisible overtime”, and improve the mechanism for employees to protect their rights against unreasonable and unpaid overtime.

According to China’s labour laws, employees should not work more than eight hours per day, or 40 hours per week, on average. While employers may, due to production and business needs, extend working hours after consulting trade unions and employees for no more than one hour per day on occasion, overtime should be paid.

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However, many employees spend far more than an hour in their work groups after work, but are not  paid for their labour accordingly.

“Many work arrangements may seem as simple as sending a message or checking data, but it’s exactly these seemingly easy tasks that can turn work into something to be done at any time, even becoming a 24/7, 365-day affair,”said Workers’ Daily, reported South China Morning Post.