Q&A on Labor Issues of Enterprises under the New Anti-Pandemic Policies

Q&A on Labor Issues of Enterprises under the New Anti-Pandemic Policies

On December 26, 2022, the Chinese State Council’s Integrated Group of Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism for Responding to COVID-19 issued the Notice on the Issuance of the Overall Plan for the Implementation of “Prevention and Control according to Class B Infectious Diseases” for COVID-19. According to the Notice, as of January 8, 2023, China has made significant adjustments to the prevention and control measures for the COVID-19 and will no longer implement the strict prevention and control measures that have been in place since January 2020.

In order to help enterprises better understand and cope with the employment problems arising from employees infected with COVID-19, this article will briefly introduce the problems faced by enterprises at this stage of labor employment in the light of this latest regulation.

If the infected employees take leave at home, how will they be paid?

According to the latest regulations of the State Council, from January 8, 2023, according to the Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, quarantine measures will no longer be implemented for people infected with COVID-19. Therefore, if COVID-19 patients choose to take leave at home, before January 8, 2023, it belongs to home quarantine scenario, enterprises should pay wages to employees in accordance with normal standards; since January 8, 2023, it belongs to sick leave, the enterprise shall pay the employees according to the sick leave wages standards.

Can the enterprise require employees to make up the working hours during the leave period without regard it as overtime?

No. The enterprise shall, in accordance with the needs of production and operation, negotiate with the trade union or staff representatives under legal circumstances to make overall arrangements for working hours and rest time within the year. If employees are arranged to work overtime, according to relevant laws and regulations, overtime wages shall be paid.

Whether the employee can continue to work if the employee’s co-resident is diagnosed with COVID-19?

Based on the regulation issued by the State Council on December 17, 2022close contacts who are eligible for home quarantine are required to be quarantined at home for five days and can be released on the fifth day after a negative result for PCR test and then return to work. But according to the latest regulation of the State Council, from January 8, 2023, it is unnecessary to identify the close contacts. Therefore, after January 8, 2023, the employees cannot refuse to come to work because of a co-resident is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Suppose an employee is tested positive, and other colleagues are unwilling to continue to go to work, can it be treated as absent from work?

If other employees are unwilling to continue working merely because they are worried to be infected, the enterprise should communicate with employees in time to ensure them feel safe. However, if the employees still refuse to go to work, it may be regarded as absent from work.

Can an enterprise use negative PCR test certificates, full vaccinations, etc. as necessary conditions for employee to attend work?

According to the requirements from State Council, PCR tests will be carried out in accordance with the relevant regulations for people working in high-risk positions and high-risk areas, while other people can be tested on a voluntary basis. Except for special places such as nursing homes, welfare homes, medical institutions, childcare institutions, primary and secondary schools, no negative PCR test result is required and no health code will be checked. Important authorities, large enterprises and some specific places may determine their own preventive and control measures. And starting from January 8, 2023, community residents will be screened as often as they wish, and no more full nucleic acid screening will be conducted.. Therefore, it is recommended that other general enterprises not covered by the aforementioned regulations should avoid private cascading operations.

In summary, in view of the adjustment of China’s measures to prevent and control the pandemic, enterprises and employees should adjust their response measures scientifically and reasonably in light of their own reality. Enterprises should not act indiscriminately because their employees tested positive, and employees should make reasonable arrangements for treatment and return to work.

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