Working Hours In China

It’s a widely known reality that workers in China frequently find themselves exposed to extended hours of unpaid overtime. But what do China’s labor rules require when it comes to working hours and overtime, and what are you rights as a worker?

The Rules

A worker in China can legally put in no more than eight hours per day, or 44 hours per week. Any overtime completed on top of these hours should be paid at 150% of the base pay if the overtime was worked on a regular day, 200% of the base salary if on a rest day (such as Saturday or Sunday) and a whopping 300% if on a national holiday.

Officially, workers cannot be compensated for overtime by having time off subsequently. To follow the letter of the law, if an employee puts in 11 hours of work, they should be compensated for 8 of those hours at the regular rate and 3 of those hours at the overtime rate. In addition, overtime should not exceed three hours a day or 36 hours per month.

There Are Three Systems in Use Across One Country

However, Chinese labor laws recognize the fact that the Standard Working Hour System of eight hours a day and 44 hours a week is not practical for every job and industry. There are therefore two other systems employers in China can use.

The Flexible Working Hour System - which is only applied to certain positions, such as sales executives, senior management and drivers - allows employers and employees to work together to design a system where hours are calculated on a weekly or monthly basis. However, the final number of hours worked must be as close to a 44-hour working week as possible. Paying a worker a set salary by month regardless of the hours worked is not permitted. With this method an employer is not required to pay overtime, but the employer must ensure the workers have “sufficient time off” to ensure their well being.

The Comprehensive Working Hours System is another approach, but it, too, is limited to use in specific industries like the transportation, construction, and tourism sectors. Under this system, an employee’s working hours are calculated periodically, such as by the week, month, quarter or year. However, again, the average daily and weekly working hours should be more or less the same as the standard system. Under this method employers can compel workers to toil for any number of hours each day at no overtime pay as long as then total number of hours doesn’t exceed those permitted within the cycle.

In general, the local labor authority's blessing is required for any business that wants to implement either the Flexible Working Hours System or the Comprehensive Working Hours System with their employees.

The Reality

In truth, a lot of enterprises in China just flout the labor rules and create up their own internal procedures. It's very common, for example, for Chinese companies to have employees redeem their overtime hours by coming in late or finishing early on other days rather than paying them the overtime rate.

By law, the CEO of a factory and a line worker must both be paid on a rigid hourly system. As this is simply not practical, most companies in China will adopt a system of its own, often not entirely in keeping with the law.

In the severe circumstances, especially in less formal sectors such as construction and service, individuals might find themselves compelled into excessive overtime with no remuneration at all. Some employees without a formal employment contract may discover they’re not paid until a project is done or even until the Lunar New Year when Chinese people usually want to settle their affairs.

The Consequences

When companies ignore the labor laws, as is quite common in China, they leave themselves at risk of disgruntled employees making claims for overtime pay after they have either resigned or been terminated. Companies not obeying the rules may be charged with unpaid overtime hours, plus interest, plus penalties. The labor authorities in China tend to come down rather severely on violators when presented with a case, especially if the accused firm is foreign owned.

Your Cards as an Employee

Make sure you understand the company's policy on calculating overtime before signing a contract in China. By referencing the aforementioned platforms, you'll demonstrate to your potential employer that you know your stuff and won't be easily exploited. If your potential employer cites a system outside of the rules, such as getting time off instead of overtime pay, it’s up to you whether or not you agree to this. As such an agreement won’t be in your work contract and is not technically legal, you may find the reality is different once you get to work. You will, however, be allowed to file a complaint against your employer if you ever felt the need to. If you think such a move could be in your future, be sure to record all the unpaid overtime hours you work. Yet, in the end, it is preferable to insist on a legal system from the start.

Let the right job find you!

Job search function
Recruitment function

Global job opportunities for Chinese companies

GEOR provides 100,000+ jobs for foreigners in China and around the world.
Employment Solutions
Free legal advice
Get professional foreign-related legal advice

Worldwide Talent Acquisition

GEOR provides a global human resource labor management platform tailored to your requirements. We will connect you with top-notch international talent while ensuring your hiring processes align with local labor regulations. Access Talent Globally through our International Recruitment Solutions.

Explore Chinese Job Vacancies

As a top-tier provider of recruitment outsourcing services, we offer expat job opportunities in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, whether you're in Asia Pacific, Europe, or the Americas. For additional career opportunities and job listings in China, please log in or register to access more detailed information.
GEOR Global Recruitment is an industry-leading recruitment outsourcing service provider, we are committed to achieving compliant and efficient global recruitment for all kinds of companies around the world. We provide one-stop human resource solutions for digital global employee recruitment and management for Chinese overseas enterprises with our technology platform and professional services, and aspire to become a global human resource labor management platform, which mainly provides foreigner recruitment, foreign talent recruitment, overseas talent recruitment, foreigner job search, foreign talent network, foreigner recruitment network in China, foreign talent recruitment platform, foreign talent job search platform, foreigner talent Recruitment in China, Overseas Foreign Talent Recruitment, Foreign Talent Job Hunting in China, Foreign Talent Headhunting Service, Overseas Foreign Talent Job Hunting, Foreign Talent Intermediary Service, Foreign Talent Recruitment Platform, Foreign Talent Job Hunting Platform and so on. The company has branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Suzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Tianjin, Ningbo, Qingdao and Changsha. Our global market experts provide a range of customized recruitment solutions based on your needs. Whether in Asia Pacific, Europe or the Americas, we will match you with the best international talent and ensure that your recruitment practices comply with local labor laws. Our experts have a unique insight into all aspects and every step of the overseas recruitment process. We offer our experience and expertise in everything from inquiring about interviews and developing offer letters to onboarding employees. By leaving the complex hassles of overseas recruiting in our hands, you can save more time and focus on your company goals of global expansion success.

Overseas Employment Agencies and International Recruitment

Whether you're looking for job opportunities abroad or planning to hire foreign talent, our guide has all the information you need. Explore the latest job openings, receive expert agency recommendations, and learn how to secure employment overseas. Don't miss out on global career opportunities; discover trustworthy international employment services right here.