On 26 January 2020, the Chinese State Council issued a circular extending the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) holidays for workers to 2 February. This is issued amid the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has been widely reported in the news. Many people in China stayed at home instead of going out or visiting family to celebrate. It is thought that extending the holiday period will reduce or delay the spread of the virus.

The Spring Festival holidays are originally scheduled to run from 24 to 30 January. Now, after the extension, the first day after the holidays officially ends is Monday 3 February. Generally speaking, workers need to return to work on that day. However certain locations have issued further notices that vary this. For example, the Shanghai municipal government on 27 January issued a notice requiring workers not to return to work before 9 February. For these locations, there is no consistent guidance on whether employers may require employees to work from home before the date of return to work and how much employees should be compensated accordingly.

Generally speaking, the extended non-working period may be treated as rest days, meaning an employee who works on those days is eligible for overtime pay at 200% or have alternative rest days arranged. Employers are advised to watch closely for further updates on local regulations and take a practical approach when dealing with work arrangements over the course of the next few weeks.

Numerous cities in the central Chinese province of Hubei, including its capital, Wuhan, as well as other cities outside Hubei province have been locked down indefinitely since the beginning of the Spring Festival holidays amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus. On 27 January, the Ministry of Human Resources issued a circular stating that workers who are unable to return to work due to quarantines or other disease prevention measures taken by the government shall continue to receive remuneration and employers are prohibited from terminating their employment on this basis. In the event business operations need to be suspended, an employer is still required to pay remuneration for the first payroll cycle. After that, the employer may reduce pay, the level of which depends on the location. The epidemic and disease control measures may also impact on timelines for processing and hearing labor dispute cases and the circular states that these will be postponed accordingly.

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