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Working Hours and Overtime Regulations

Understand the laws governing work hours and overtime in China

Standard working hours

In China, the Labor Law of the People's Republic of China provides the regulations for standard working hours.

The key provisions include:

  • Maximum Daily Hours: The standard workday in China should not exceed eight hours.
  • Maximum Weekly Hours: The standard workweek should not exceed 44 hours. This usually translates to a five-day workweek with one or two rest days.

It's also important to note that the specific working schedule can vary depending on the industry. Certain sectors, like retail or hospitality, may have extended hours due to customer service demands.


Chinese labor law has specific regulations in place to manage overtime work and ensure fair compensation for employees. Here's a breakdown of the key rules:

Overtime Threshold

  • Any work exceeding eight hours in a workday is considered overtime.
  • Total overtime cannot surpass 36 hours per month.

Overtime Approval and Consent

  • Employers must obtain employee consent before arranging overtime work.
  • If a trade union is present within the company, it should be consulted regarding overtime arrangements.

Overtime Pay Rates

  • For weekday overtime, employees should receive at least 150% of their normal wage.
  • For weekend overtime, employees should receive at least 200% of their normal wage.
  • For holiday overtime, employees should receive at least 300% of their normal wage.

"Normal wage" refers to the employee's base salary divided by the number of standard working hours in a month.

Exceptions and Alternative Arrangements

  • The Comprehensive Working Hour System allows for a flexible work schedule with a longer averaging period for calculating working hours. However, it requires government approval and may not always entitle employees to typical overtime pay.
  • Employees in specific sectors like transportation or sales may have different overtime regulations based on the difficulty of tracking their working hours. These roles typically receive a fixed salary and may not be eligible for standard overtime pay.

These are the general regulations, and specific industries might have additional guidelines. Employers and employees should always refer to the latest labor laws and industry-specific regulations for the most accurate information.

Rest periods and breaks

Chinese labor law mandates rest periods and breaks for employees to safeguard their well-being and optimize productivity. Here are the key entitlements:

Minimum Rest Periods

Employees working eight hours a day are entitled to a minimum rest period of one hour. For those working more than four hours but less than eight hours daily, the minimum rest period is 30 minutes. These rest periods should be factored into the workday schedule and cannot be used to extend working hours.

Scheduling of Rest Periods

The specific timing of rest periods is not mandated by law. However, employers must ensure these breaks are scheduled at appropriate intervals throughout the workday to prevent fatigue and promote employee well-being.

Employers should strive to offer breaks at convenient times that do not disrupt the workflow significantly. They should also provide employees with access to designated rest areas that are comfortable and conducive to relaxation.

National Holidays and Leave Entitlements

While not strictly rest periods, Chinese labor law guarantees employees paid leave for national holidays and annual vacations. China observes several statutory holidays throughout the year, during which employees are entitled to paid time off. Employees also accrue paid annual leave based on their tenure. The minimum entitlement is five days for one year of continuous service, increasing progressively to a maximum of 15 days after ten years.

Night shift and weekend regulations

Night shift and weekend work are common in some industries in China, and there are specific regulations governing these schedules.

Night shift work is typically defined as working hours between 11 pm and 8 am. Workers on this shift are legally entitled to a shorter workday compared to the standard eight hours, with the specific reduction varying depending on local regulations. Usually, it's around one hour less. In terms of compensation, night shift work qualifies for a night shift allowance, which is in addition to the regular salary. The exact amount can vary, but it should be no less than 300% of the minimum wage for the corresponding working hours.

As for weekend work, employees are legally entitled to at least one rest day per week, although companies can offer two. Ideally, the rest day should fall on a weekend. Work performed on an employee's designated rest day is considered overtime and must be compensated accordingly. The minimum pay rate for weekend overtime is at least 200% of the employee's regular wage.

There are also important considerations to keep in mind. Employers must obtain employee consent before scheduling them for night shifts or weekend work, except in special circumstances. Special protections exist for female employees. Employers are generally prohibited from assigning night shifts to pregnant women or women with young children.

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