The nation is tightening up supervision on overtime work to protect workers’ rights to adequate rest and to create a more harmonious working environment.
The Beijing government released a notice last month saying that from March 15 to May 15, it will regulate illegal work-related behavior, such as requiring employees to work overtime. Provinces and regions, including Shandong, Anhui and Henan, have already launched similar campaigns.
According to the notice issued by Beijing’s bureau of human resources and social security, internet companies, those focused on research and development, and labor-intensive enterprises are the targets of this campaign.
The notice said a supervision team will check companies’ rules on regulating employee working times and rights to rest, as well as company records on negotiating extra work with employees and labor unions.
It said that payment for overtime work and financial compensation for not taking annual leave will be checked during the two-month campaign.
According to the notice, employers who are found to have taken part in illegal behavior related to labor laws will face administrative punishment. A hotline and online complaint channels have been opened to the public to help workers protect their rights.
Excessive overtime has become commonplace in many industries and companies in recent years, particularly those involved in technology, where the notorious “996”work schedule (9 am to 9 pm, six days a week) has been implemented.
In a recent report by Zhaopin, an online recruitment platform, over 50 percent of white-collar workers surveyed said that they follow a 996 work schedule, much higher than the 37.8 percent surveyed last year.
Also, about 42 percent of white-collar workers said that they voluntarily work overtime even though their companies claim not to implement a 996 work schedule anymore, according to the report. These respondents said that they wanted the government to ban such a schedule and improve complaint channels to protect their rights.
Yao Junchang, co-founder of the Beijing Weiheng Law Office, said that the labor law says the employer should make sure their employees have at least one day off work a week, and that total weekly working hours should not exceed 40 hours.
“If a company behaves illegally and lengthens workers’ working hours, the labor department can issue warnings and an order to rectify the situation within a certain time period,” he said. “Currently, the employer will be made to pay the aggrieved workers a penalty above 100 yuan ($15.70) but below 500 yuan per person.”
Yao said the current penalty isn’t punitive enough and is not an adequate deterrent.
“In my view, it’s better to impose a heavier punishment on employers who violate the law to provide a real deterrent. Then they will follow the regulations and treat their employees fairly and legally,” he added.
Since last year, the government has made efforts to better regulate overtime work. In August, the Supreme People’s Court and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security published several cases and determined that the 996 work schedule severely violates the labor law on lengthening people’s working hours.
The court warned employers about the illegal use of labor and reminded workers to use the law to protect their rights.