New regulations concerning the labor protection of female staff and workers in China recently came into effect. These regulations were designed to provide working women with better job protection and longer periods of maternity leave following the birth of their children.

According to the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), the population of female workers from 1988 to the present has increased nearly 63 percent and now comprises 42.7 percent (102 million) of the total workers in China. The rising rights consciousness of women workers demands that legislation address persistent challenges such as discrimination, freedom of marriage, sexual harassment, and protection over women's reproductive rights.

The new regulations replace the ones that have been in effect since 1988, and highlight the following:

  • Maternity leave has been extended from 90 days to 98 days after a woman has given birth. In addition, the regulations also stipulate miscarriage leave with specific days and relevant compensation by insurance or employer.
  • Women have a greater level of assurance when it comes to the payments they will receive during the time they are off work looking after their newborn. The regulations now ensure that an insurance policy taken out either individually or through an employer will continue to pay out wages throughout a woman’s time off.
  • The employer should prevent and stop sexual harassment in the workplace, a gap left open by previous legislation.
  • The fine at which employers will be penalized if they fail to adhere to these new rules has also been increased from RMB 1,000 to RMB 300,000. Companies breaching the regulations may also be suspended from operating in China.