Childcare leave (also called parental leave) is relatively new in China and was only introduced recently as part of an effort to address the growing demographic imbalance and boost childbirth. So how much childcare leave do Chinese companies offer and does parental leave differ by region?
On May 9, 2019, the State Council issued guidelines encouraging local governments to start pilot childcare leave programmes within their jurisdictions. The policy was designed to provide more support for home-based childcare services, rather than expensive daycares.
In the period following, multiple regions began exploring the implementation of childcare leave, including the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian and Ningxia. At that time, however, employers were only encouraged to grant employees childcare leave until a child reached a certain age, and were not obliged to do so.
Then, China announced the three-child policy in May 2021 and updated its Population and Family Planning Law in August 2021. The Population and Family Planning Law says that the state supports the establishment of childcare leave where conditions permit. In the following months, this suggestion was translated into concrete local policies, as more and more provinces amended their population and family planning regulations and stipulated that both parents who lawfully have a child are entitled to a certain amount of paid childcare leave per year until their child reaches a certain age.
How long is childcare leave in China?
Childcare leave is managed by local governments. Therefore, each province has different regulations. As of December 2021, 20 provinces have amended their population and family planning regulations, of which 18 have set out the exact length of childcare leave.
Beijing and Shanghai both stipulate that each couple can enjoy five days’ childcare leave each year until their child reaches three years. Beijing further stated that the total amount of childcare leave a couple can take each year should be no more than 10 working days.
Some provinces offer longer childcare leave. Heilongjiang, Hebei, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Guizhou, Zhejiang, Tianjin, Ningxia, Henan, Hubei, and Guangdong all offer 10 days of childcare leave each year for couples with children under the age of three. Shanxi, Qinghai, and Gansu provinces give 15 days of childcare leave each year to couples with children under the age of three.
In other provinces, the revised family planning regulations have not yet been adopted, but some have published revised drafts to solicit public opinions. For example, Shaanxi plans for each parent to have no less than 30 days of childcare leave each year until their child reaches three years. Hainan plans to set up two options for childcare leave: employers are encouraged to give 10 days’ childcare leave to each parent per year until their child reaches three years, or to give one hour of childcare leave to either parent every day until the child reaches three years.
How is childcare leave in China implemented?
Childcare leave has been established, but details on how it will be implemented are yet to be clarified in most provinces.
Beijing and Shanghai have made it clear that annual childcare leave is not calculated by calendar years but in ‘anniversaries.’ For example, if a child was born on 19 December 2021, then 18 December 2022 will be the ‘anniversary’ marking the end of the year in which each parent is entitled to five days of childcare leave.
In Shanghai, childcare leave days are calculated according to the number of children an employee has. If the employee has two children both under three years old, then they will be entitled to 10 days of childcare leave for the year. Childcare leave can be taken over consecutively or on separate days and also stipulates that normal wages should be paid in full during childcare leave.
Companies operating in provinces where childcare leave has been established are advised to keep a close eye on further policy developments and to start considering amendments to their employee handbook to adapt to this new form of statutory leave.
A version of this article was first published by China Briefing, which is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices across the world, including in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, India, and Russia. Readers may write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more support.