Coronavirus: What Employers should consider when resuming to work and production

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published on 21 February 2020 | reading time approx. 3 minutes

 
In light of the recent coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in Wuhan, employers in China are facing various challenges, not only from an economic point of view, but also from a labor law perspec­tive as well as considering the general health and safety of its employees.  

 

 

General Health and safety obligations

In this regard, alongside recently issued emergency measures by the government and local municipalities, as a basis also long-standing general laws and regulations related to public health and work safety apply and need to be followed. Basic rights and obligations are set out in foundational legislation such as the Labor Contract Law of the People's Republic of China (“PRC”), the Labor Law of the PRC (Chapter 6), the Work Safety Law of the PRC or in special industry-related legislation and rules.

 

Moreover, Chinese labor contracts must include provisions regarding the work safety of employees, which are however often of a rather general and descriptive nature.

 

Key points based on new notices and regulations regarding the novel coronavirus

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, local governments in China have published a series of notices about epidemic prevention and control as well as safe production upon resumption of work.

 

In the following we provide eight practical suggestions for enterprises upon resumption of work and production:
 

1. SET UP A “TASK FORCE”

Employers are advised to assign special personnel which shall be responsible for the handling of the health and safety measures implemented in the company. The task force may also adopt a certain Action Plan in written form for documentation purposes and review and update existing internal health and safety regu­lations specified in labor contracts or internal company rules.
 

2. STRENGTHEN EDUCATION AND SPECIAL

Employers should also consider to arrange special trainings for its employees in order to inform and teach them about necessary precautionary measures (e.g. frequent hand washing, using disinfectant, avoiding mass gatherings) and improve the safety awareness of all employees.
 

3. INTERNAL PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

  • Moreover, employers should implement an internal management on-site in China to check and test the health condition of its employees on a daily basis, collect information on whether employees have been in contact with any persons who have contracted the coronavirus and whether they have visited epidemic hot-zones (particularly Wuhan/Hubei).
  • In general follow the national and local requirements, which may vary in different locations.
  • Employers should especially adhere to national and local quarantine requirements and take care that its employees follow such requirements.

  

In the light of local regulations Beijing announced special measures:

  • CHILD CARE DURING THE EPIDEMIC
On 13 February 2020, the Beijing Human Resources and Social Security Bureau and the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education issued the "Notice on Issues of Wages and Benefits for Parents who Stay at Home due to Delayed Schools Reopening" saying that during the epidemic pre­vention and control period due to the delay in the start of primary and secondary schools and kindergartens the employer may arrange employees to take care of minor children at home and complete corresponding work through flexible means.
  • QUARANTINE REGULATIONS FOR BEIJING

On 14 February 2020 the Office of the Leading Group for Prevention and Control of the New Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic in Beijing published a notice saying that from that day on, all people returning to Beijing should stay at home or stay under intensive observation for 14 days. The quarantine can be fulfilled at home or for example in an hotel.

 

However, based on a newly issued notice of the People's Government of Beijing Municipality from 21 February 2020 there are seven exceptions to this quarantine regulation, for instance for people, who have not stayed in China for the last 14 days and who directly entered Beijing via one of its two international airports; when entering China, a health form shall be filled in and a declaration of health shall be made, a temperature measurement shall be accepted, a mask shall be worn and distance between persons shall be maintained. Another exception applies for persons who have special needs during the quarantine (e.g. pregnant women or sick persons); they can leave the quarantine by following the doctor's instructions for medical examination..
 

4. PROVIDE EQUIPMENT

In addition, employers are advised to provide necessary protective equipment. All working units should be equipped with masks, thermometers, disinfectants and other necessary protective equipment.

 
5. REGULAR CLEANING AND DISINFECTION

Employers should take care of regular cleaning and disinfection of the workplace, especially of common areas, and keep good records thereof.
 

6. WORKPLACE VENTILATION

The workplace should be ventilated on a frequent basis according to national and local rules, either by natural ventilation or ventilation devices.
 

7. SPECIAL MEASURES FOR WORKPLACE CANTEENS

If possible, it is advised that employees do not all go to the workplace canteen at the same time in order to avoid mass gatherings.
 

8. EMERGENCY MEASURES

Employers that learn of a coronavirus case or suspected case are obliged to report the case to the relevant local health or disease prevention authority in a timely and truthful manner. They should also take care that the respective employee receives prompt medical treatment and follows the required isolation procedures.
  
Please note that the above key points are a mere summary and basic suggestion based on different local rules, but do not constitute a comprehensive set of measures in any case, as the necessary measures depend on the location and special industry of the enterprise. Employers are advised to frequently examine and analyse national and local developments in the cities where they are operating or have employees, since many cities in China have issued own local rules and regulations containing rather detailed requirements upon the re­sumption of work.

 

For instance in Beijing, among other notices and regulations, several local departments have jointly issued a “Notice to Further Strengthen the Prevention and Control of the Epidemic in Commercial Buildings, Shopping Malls and Restaurants” on 11 February 2020. In addition, the Beijing Municipal Emergency Management Bureau has issued a “Notice on the Five Strict Implementation Measures to Ensure the Safety of Production during the Resumption of Production” on 12 February 2020.

  

Consequences of non-compliance

Pursuant to Chinese Labor Law and Labor Contract Law, where employers fail to provide suffi­cient safety protections, employees have the right to criticize the employer's acts which endanger their life and health and to report such acts to government authorities. Employees may also refuse to perform risky operations or orders or even terminate their labor contract without notice when given such an order. In such cases, the employer is generally obliged to pay severance payment to the employee.

 

Moreover, any failure to meet the abovementioned obligations may result in administrative sanc­tions, civil liability or even criminal liability.

 FROM THE ARTICLE SERIES

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