New rule aims to guarantee more rest for weary
The central government has proposed a new regulation to ensure that employees working irregular hours have ample time for rest, but labour experts have expressed doubts about whether it could be enforced.
The proposed Regulation of Management on Special Working Hours, drafted by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, targets occupations like managers and reporters who have 'flexible working hours' and those like miners, drivers and postmen who are paid according to their 'aggregate work hours' over a set period of time.
The draft rule, released for public feedback on Tuesday, says such employees who work more than four hours a day should have a paid rest period of at least 20 minutes. It also says that those paid according to 'aggregate work hours' should work no more than 11 hours a day on average.
The mainland's existing Labour Law stipulates a maximum workday of eight hours, and 44 hours of work a week. But it allows employers who are unable to implement those provisions because of special production requirements to have their own working hour policies and does not set standards.
Experts say the latest draft fills in the gap in an effort to protect those who do not work normal hours and are usually tireder.
Those working night shifts, from 10pm to 6am, should be given extra night shift pay as long as they work for more than two hours during that period, the draft said. The amount of extra pay would be decided by local governments, it said.
Professor Liu Erduo, deputy director of Renmin University's school of labour and human resources, said the provisions were well-meaning but would be hard to carry out at the grass-roots level.
'Private companies, especially those that are medium-sized or small, tend not to abide by the rules if they're very specific,' Liu said, 'For example, I don't think the 20-minutes' paid rest period could be implemented since it's hard to supervise and there are various situations in different companies.'
Liu's concern was echoed by many internet users, who complained that laws and regulations meant to protect workers' benefits were ignored by many employers.
One internet user wrote: 'Even the Labour Law cannot be implemented well, let alone such regulations. Pay a visit to factories in Jiangsu and Zhejiang and you'll find few have their employees work less than 12 hours a day or give them a single day off in a week!'
Many others complained that their employers could not even guarantee them public holidays and that no government department had ever intervened, even though they worked for 16 hours a day.
Professor He Wenjiong, of the Research Centre of Labour Economics and Public Policy at Zhejiang University, said he believed change would take time because 'the reality of the labour market now is that supply exceeds demand'.
He said that most blue collar workers in private factories were willing to work long hours in order to earn more money, because they were usually paid by the working day instead of on a monthly basis.
'Instead of letting them have nothing to do for two days a week, many of them would rather keep working so they get paid,' he said.