virus outbreak in China

Daxue Talks transcript #37: Workplace safety law during the outbreak in China

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In this episode of Daxue Talks, Nicolas Coster, a French business lawyer based in Shanghai, shares his knowledge on the new regulation of the Chinese work and safety law. He answers questions on remote work obligations and issues concerning the storage of masks and disinfectants.

Full transcript below:

I am Nicolas Coster, I’m a French business lawyer. I’ve been in China for 16 years and specialized in foreign direct investment. So, basically, I set up companies in China.

What are the obligations of employers to their teams? What about masks and disinfection?

So, as an employer, art. 14 of the work safety law says that you have to protect your employees. This does not mean that you are obliged to buy masks for them. It depends on each situation in each company. For sure, if you ask your employees to work, it is better to buy masks for your employees and soap. During the highest periods of the coronavirus, you are not able to open your company if you cannot prove to the Chinese authorities that you follow some safety measures.

If you would be asked to buy masks for your employees, it would mean that you could buy masks from the mask market. Nevertheless, it is not often the case. You have to try your best to protect your employees and if it is possible, your employees should work from home – but it is not compulsory.

In Shanghai, companies were able to reopen the offices one week ago. The management of buildings took temperature downstairs and asked people to wash their hands. Visitors are not allowed to enter the buildings, or they have to apply for it. As an employer, you have to take the best measures possible to protect your employees. If the Labor Office asks you to close your company, you have to follow the rules. Thus, you must make sure to know the local policies and follow them

Are employers obligated to accept remote working from their teams?

It is not compulsory. It is advised to accept it but if you can show that you need your employees back at the office, you can ask them to come back. If an employee refuses, you can ask the Labor Union to try to convince them to come back to work. If there is no reason to refuse to come back, then you can dismiss them.

Are there some changes in terms of relationships between employers and employees due to the virus outbreak from a legal perspective?

From a legal perspective, I think that you have to renegotiate the bonuses. It will be difficult for companies to increase salaries this year, so many companies will probably postpone the salary increase and see what happens on the market.

The other change is the turnover. The turnover will be really high in industries such as in the high-tech or hotel industry and others that suffer a big impact from the crisis. Most of the clients I have, have dismissed employees they wanted to dismiss before the Chinese New Year. It depends on the field, but the biggest impact will be that contract renegotiation will be in the hand of the employers and not anymore in the employees’ ones.

Is it punishable by law to stock masks or hydro-alcoholic solutions? Can it be taken by the government?

It is not illegal to buy masks and alcohol. Nevertheless, if you are stocking them to get benefit from it, it is illegal. You are not allowed to buy masks and sell them for a higher price if you don’t have a license.

The Chinese government is chasing this kind of behavior. For alcohol, you need to be careful because it depends on what kind of solution you stock. In fact, it is not allowed to stock big quantities in offices as they are not warehouses. So, if you stock too much, it can also be dangerous in case of fire. Therefore, you need to check the composition of the product you stock and if it is safe to be in a building. If you have a doubt, you should ask your management. For masks, you need to stock what is needed.


Daxue Talks is a show powered by daxue consulting, a china-based strategic market research company founded in 2010! With Daxue Talks, you will stay up to date with all the latest business updates in China.

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