Laws on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests [ENG/CHI]
By Qian Zhou, Associate Managing Editor, Dezan Shira & Associates
  • Updated and strengthened labour laws prohibit discrimination against women in recruitment and employment management.

  • It is important for employers to implement specific rules with clear procedures for making complaints, investigating and handling claims and details of disciplinary repercussions.

Although the famous phrase, "Chinese women hold up half of the sky", was invented when China was still an agricultural society, it still rings true today. In 2020, the number of women employed in urban areas reached 67.8 million, accounting for 43.5% (according to the National Bureau of Statistics) of mainland China's total labour force. In big cities, this figure could go even higher.

Nevertheless, women in the workplace still face more challenges than their male coworkers, ranging from gender discrimination in recruitment and promotion, to non-supportive policies during pregnancy and childcare, to higher risks of being the victims of sexual harassment. Considering the significance of women’s contribution to the Chinese economy and society, such improper treatment is not only detrimental to a company’s talent strategy, but also has negative implications on the success and growth of organisations in China.

Discrimination in recruitment 

Despite the widespread condemnation of sexism, gender discrimination in the recruitment process is not rare in mainland China. According to statistics provided by, one of the most popular job sites in the country, 29.6% of the women surveyed experienced some sort of gender discrimination in their job-seeking processes. In order to reduce gender bias in hiring, companies are advised to implement concrete measures. Otherwise they may not only suffer the loss of talent but are also at a higher risk of being challenged by labour authorities.

The Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women (the Women Protection Law) stipulates that organisations cannot refuse to employ women by the reason of gender, raise the employment expectations for women except for special types of work, or advertise that the position is unsuitable for women.

The Notice on Further Regulating Recruitment Activities and Promoting Equal Employment for Women further clarifies a range of gender discrimination behaviours which are prohibited in the recruitment process:

  • Restricting certain gender (except for the job scopes prohibited to be assigned to female employees) or giving priority to certain gender in the recruitment announcement;

  • Refusing to employ female candidates on the grounds of gender;

  • Inquiring female job seekers about their marriage and childbirth status;

  • Listing pregnancy test as one of the items for physical examination of new employees;

  • Imposing restrictions on childbirth as a condition of employment; and

  • Increasing the recruitment standards for women candidates in a differentiated manner.

Employers that release recruitment information containing contents of gender discrimination could be ordered to make rectifications in accordance with the law, and could be subject to fines ranging from RMB 10,000 to 50,000 for their failure to rectify the improper behaviours. Also, the administrative punishment imposed on any employer due to the release of recruitment information containing contents of gender discrimination could be included in the human resources market integrity record – the "name and shame" list of enterprises managed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS).

Equal pay for equal work 

Equal pay for equal work is one of the most important principles in human resources management since remuneration is a key factor impacting motivation and relationships at work. Companies are recommended to make additional efforts to reward their workforce fairly.

Paying female employees equally is not just a legal requirement under the Women Protection Law, but can also contribute to commercial success. For instance, paying female employees on a par with the position standards will cascade a clear and positive message about the business and corporate brand. This practice could also boost productivity by attracting the best employees and reducing turnover. Furthermore, it can enhance company reputation, prevent damaged employee relations, and avoid low staff morale.

Gender equality in performance review and promotion 

Article 25 of the Women Protection Law stipulates that women and men should be treated equitably in such aspects as promotion, evaluation, and determination of professional and technological titles, and discrimination against women shall not be allowed. In practice, companies may take more steps to ensure the principle of equality in hiring than in the performance review process, as the former has comparatively more concrete standards to evaluate and follow. With this in mind, it is suggested that organisations provide corresponding training to their senior management to level the playing field for male and female employees, which can help reduce talent turnover and increase efficiency, as well as elevate the company’s public image.

Special protection for female employees 

Gender equality does not mean that males and females must always be treated identically and warrant the same treatment. Given the existence of biological sex differences, it is reasonable for both genders to have different legal rights in some instances and for female employees to receive special protection, especially in the biologically vulnerable periods, including menstruation, pregnancy, and breast-feeding (one year counted from the date of childbirth). Under Chinese law, the Special Provisions on Labor Protection for Female Employees set out detailed rules on work arrangements for women employees. For example, the scope of incompatible labour work for female employees prohibits work involving carrying weights that exceed 20 kg six times or more per hour, or intermittently carrying weights that exceed 25 kg. The scope of incompatible labour work for female employees during pregnancy protects women from working at premises where the density of toxic substances such as lead and mercury compounds is present.

Furthermore, female employees in China are granted extra leave related to pregnancy and childcaring, including prenatal check-up leave, maternity leave, breast-feeding leave, and childcare leave.

It is also illegal to terminate a pregnant employee during her pregnancy, maternity leave, or breastfeeding period unless the termination is requested by the employee, mutually agreed, or due to the inappropriate behaviours specified in the Labor Contract Law that constitute lawful grounds for immediate termination. If an employee gets pregnant during the term of her fixed-term contract, and the contract ends during her pregnancy, the contract shall be automatically extended (through a renewed end date or a second contract) until the end of the breast-feeding period.

Preventing sexual harassment 

Chinese law explicitly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, with Article 1010 of the Civil Code stipulating that the victim has the right to request the perpetrators to bear civil liability for acts of sexual harassment in the forms of verbal remarks, written language, images, physical behaviours or otherwise against the will of another person, requiring employers to take reasonable measures in preventing sexual harassment and providing proper complaint channels. However, it is widely believed that the legislation and regulation pertaining to sexual harassment tend to be broad-based, preventive, and provide little detail on what exactly amounts to sexual harassment.

Considering the potentially negative impact of sexual harassment cases on businesses, in the absence of a clear and uniform legal protocol for handling sexual harassment cases, employers are recommended to clearly define what types of behaviours are inappropriate and establish a strict anti-harassment code and culture for their organisations. Specifically, employers could adopt the below anti-harassment measures:

  • Define what types of behaviours are inappropriate, write them into the company’s employee handbook, and stipulate that such behaviours will result in investigations and special punishments;

  • Provide effective complaint channels for victims to report an instance of sexual harassment and develop protocols to ensure such complaints will be managed properly;

  • Offer workplace education and training to prevent sexual harassment;

  • Clearly communicate the anti-harassment code of the company to all employees.

Complaint channels and management protocols can help employers minimise risks and losses should sexual harassment occur in their organisations. Plaintiffs should be given multiple options for reporting so that they can choose the option that they feel the most comfortable with. Depending on the company size and structure, the sexual harassment case can be reported to the HR function, the relevant manager or supervisor, the owner or executive, or via a dedicated sexual harassment complaint system. For foreign companies or small branch offices, employees should be given the option to report directly to the headquarters.


Laws set the minimum standard for ethical behaviours. A strong and well-developed company framework to address gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace contributes towards boosting office morale, elevating productivity, and, most important of all, the healthy development of the business in the long haul.


撰文:周倩, 副主編,協力管理諮詢有限公司

  • 最新的勞動法規進一步禁止在招聘和就業管理過程中歧視婦女。

  • 對於僱主而言,制定並落實具體的規則和明確的程序來處理投訴、調查、以及紀律處分在女職工管理中至關重要。





《中華人民共和國婦女權益保障法》(《婦女權益保障法》)規定, 各單位在錄用職工時,除不適合婦女的工種或崗位外,不得以性別為由拒絕錄用婦女或者提高對婦女的錄用標準。


  • 限定性別(國家規定的女職工禁忌勞動範圍等情況除外)或性別優先;

  • 以性別為由限制婦女求職就業、拒絕錄用婦女;

  • 詢問婦女婚育情況;

  • 將妊娠測試作為入職體檢項目;

  • 將限制生育作為錄用條件;

  • 差別化地提高對婦女的錄用標準。

發布含有性別歧視內容的招聘信息的機構將被依法責令改正; 不改正的將被處以1萬元至5萬元的罰款。此外,對於因發布含有性別歧視內容的招聘信息而受到行政處罰的僱主,其可能會被列入人力資源市場誠信記錄,一個人力資源管理部管理的企業黑名單。







性別平等並不意味著男性和女性必須總是受到相同的待遇並且要求相同的待遇。由於存在生理上的性別差異,在某些情況下,男性和女性享有不同的法律權利是合理的。女性僱員在生理上較為脆弱的時候,包括月經期、懷孕及哺乳期(自分娩之日起一年), 應該獲得特別保護。根據中國法律,《女職工勞動保護特別規定》對女職工的工作安排作出了詳細規定。例如,每小時負重6次以上、每次負重超過20公斤的作業,或者間斷負重、每次負重超過25公斤的作業被列為女職工禁止從事的勞動之一。女職工在孕期禁止於存在鉛和汞化合物等有毒物質密度的場所工作。





考慮到性騷擾案件的潛在負面影響, 在沒有一個明確的和統一的法律體系處理性騷擾的情況下, 我們建議僱主在公司規章制度中清晰地定義什麼類型的行為是不恰當的, 並在企業中建立嚴格的反騷擾文化。具體而言,僱主可採取以下反騷擾措施:

  • 列明哪些行為是不恰當的,並將其寫入公司的員工手冊,並規定將對這些行為進行調查和特殊處罰。

  • 為受害人提供有效的投訴渠道,並製訂協議確保有關投訴得到妥善處理。

  • 提供職場防止性騷擾的教育和培訓。

  • 向所有員工清楚地傳達公司的防止性騷擾守則。




Laws on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests [ENG/CHI]
PR 19 April, 2022