Annual leave in China

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When hiring employees in China, foreign businesses and employers must know the different kinds of leaves they must provide to ensure compliance with local and national law. This article will discuss the various types of leaves that are applicable to employees in China.

What is the Minimum Level of Annual Statutory Leave, and How is it Managed?

Statutory leave pertains to the minimum number of paid holidays that almost all employees are entitled to take annually. It is usually based on the tenure and level of experience of the employee as described in the table below:

Annual leave in China according to employment duration

As shown in the table, employees with less than a year of tenure are not entitled to statutory leave. However, China is one of the most generous countries in awarding paid annual leave to employees. Rather than interpreting the table as applicable only to the current employer, it is generally based on the employee’s overall work experience or tenure, including work years from past and present employers.

Statutory leaves do not include public holidays, rest days, or any holiday the Chinese government declares.

If an employee has worked for a new employer for less than a year, their annual leave can be computed as follows:

Amount of annual statutory leaves = (The number of days the employee will be working for the current employer in the year) / 365 days x (The employee’s total statutory annual leave in the same year based on their overall work years)

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How is Untaken Leave Treated?

Untaken statutory leaves are usually carried over to the next year. However, employers set a deadline for when this is applicable.

Generally, employees must use their leftover leaves from the previous year before the end of the current work year. If employees voluntarily decide not to use their remaining leaves by the deadline, they must sign a written agreement to avoid possible future disputes.

However, suppose the employee decides not to carry over the untaken leaves and there is no prior agreement regarding the matter. In that case, the employer must pay the employee at least 200% of their daily wage for each unused leave. For instance, if an employee has 10 remaining leaves, they will be paid twice their average daily wage for each of the 10 statutory leaves.

Major Types of Leaves in China

Sick Leave

The minimum number of sick leaves given to employees varies according to provincial and municipal regulations. This gives employers more control over the paid sick leaves they want to give their employees per year.

However, China has laws regarding the employee’s recuperation period. An employer cannot terminate the employee on leave due to non-occupational sickness or injury. Additionally, the law requires employers to pay a portion of the sick employee’s salary.


In Beijing, the recuperation period is computed based on whether the employee has worked for the last 10 years and the years they have worked for their current employer.

If they have worked for less than five years in their current company, they are entitled to a three-month recuperation period.

However, if their cumulative working years are greater than 10 years, even if they have worked for less than five years for their current employer, they are entitled to up to six months of recuperation leave.


In Shanghai, the minimum recuperation period implemented is three months. One month is added to this period for each year of the employee’s service to the company from the second year onward. The total allowed recuperation period cannot exceed 24 months.

Maternity Leave / Prenatal Check-ups

In China, leaves for pregnant women vary per region, depending on what the local government imposes. However, according to the general guidelines, employees from their 12th week of pregnancy are entitled to paid leave for their prenatal checkups.

Maternity leaves in China consist of two parts:

  • The leaves given to employees are based on the Provisions on Female Labor Protection under Special Circumstances (State Council Decree No. 619).
  • The local government grants the extra leaves according to their local family planning regulations.

Women are entitled to 98 days of maternity leave if they have a normal childbirth. However, this can be extended by another 15 days under certain circumstances. For cases of multiple childbirths, an additional 15 days per infant is granted.

Employees can start maternity leave 15 days before their expected due date.

In case of abortion or miscarriage, employees are given a 15-day maternity leave if the pregnancy lasted not longer than four months and a 42-day leave for those who carried the baby for four months or more.

The government enforces the basic 98-day maternity leave throughout the country. However, extra maternity leave for special cases varies by city. For example, in Beijing and Shanghai, the local extra maternity leave is 60 days, while in Hainan and Jiangxi, it can be up to 90 days.

Lactation & Breastfeeding Leave

A breastfeeding employee will be granted at least a one-hour paid leave per day for breastfeeding during work hours. This is effective up to a year after giving birth.

Paternity Leave

Unlike maternity leave, paternity leave is not governed by related national legislation defining the amount of time off that men are entitled to.

Instead, paternity leave benefits are based on local family planning regulations at the municipal or provincial level. Still, employers can grant more leaves beyond the 15-30 days of paternity leave provided in most regions in China.

Parental Leave

Parental leave is given to parent employees who must provide care and support for children under a certain age.

Parental leave, also called childcare leave, is fairly new in China. It was introduced in 2021 to encourage childbirth and support home-based childcare services.

Take note, though, that not all provinces have a mandatory parental leave policy.

Generally, parental leave is five to twenty days until the child reaches three years old. In the province of Chongqing, parents are given five to ten days of leave each until the child reaches six. The Shaanxi province is also drafting a policy to extend parental leave to 30 days per year for each parent until the child reaches three.

Marriage Leave

To support childbirth, China has given newlyweds marriage leave.

On the national level, there is no clear law on how many days at the minimum can be given to newly married couples. However, local governments usually mandate companies under their jurisdiction to give at least three days of leave.

The Gansu and Shanxi regions are the most generous, allowing newlyweds up to 30 days of marriage leave.

Bereavement Leave

When a parent, spouse, or child of an employee dies, they are entitled to a paid bereavement leave. The bereavement leave may vary from one to three days, depending on local and employer regulations.

Employees who are the only children in their families are entitled to fully paid leave so they can take care of their parents. Several provinces allow employees to take 10 to 20 days off to care for sick parents annually.

Final Thoughts on Paid Leaves in China

China is one of the most generous countries in the world in terms of paid leave. Chinese labor laws are very amicable to employees, as is evident in the different types of paid time off companies offer.

For employers, the number of leaves to consider can be challenging.

In addition to the national regulations, each region in China has different laws on leaves that businesses must follow. Non-compliance can result in labor disputes that harm business operations and brand reputation.

To establish a business in China, you must know the laws and regulations regarding paid annual leave. Contact our team today to use our expertise on local and national employment laws in China to ensure compliance throughout each stage of the corporate set-up process.