While couples in China are welcoming the end of the nation’s decades-long one-child policy, private companies seem to be reacting to the news with ludicrous new policies regarding maternity leave. They’re actually asking female employees to submit an application of pregnancy, seeking the company’s approval to become a parent up to a year in advance.
It seems that these companies are introducing ‘reproductive schedules’ to avoid too many maternity leaves arising from ‘simultaneous pregnancies’. A woman who recently applied for a job in northeast China’s Jilin Province was told that if recruited, she’d have to apply for pregnancy approval at least a year in advance, and wait for her turn to become a mother.
“It’s out of helplessness that we regulate this,” she quoted the company’s HR department as having told her. “After the easing of the one-child policy, many of our working staff say that they want a second child. But from the management side, we need to take the interest of the company into consideration.”
Another company in China’s Henan province issued its employees a rather controversial notice that stated: “An employee birth plan has been established and will be strictly enforced. Employees who do not give birth according to the plan and whose work is impacted will face a one-time fine of 1,000 yuan and will not be considered for promotion.” The notice added that women who gave birth outside the schedule may also have to forego their year-end bonuses.
Mr. Zhang, a manager at a private company in China, explained to the media how overlapping maternity leaves could affect his organisation. “There are six women at my department in total, and three of them are now pregnant,” he said. “Because of limited budget, it’s almost impossible to recruit new people; thus some other colleagues may need to take extra work during the leave of pregnant workers.”
According to some news reports, the policy to fine women who don’t get pregnant on schedule isn’t legal yet. But in a country where 64 percent of the workforce is made up of women, experts say that laws protecting pregnant workers aren’t always enforced. In the meantime, citizens who are aware of the nation’s labour laws are taking to social media to express their outrage.
“In the past, women at marriageable age faced discrimination in finding jobs,” a Weibo user wrote. “Now there are further discriminations on whether they will have a second baby.”
“How idiotic are these leaders to come up with such a policy?” questioned another. “Where is our right to give birth?”
“Well, I think this is still better than companies that directly reject single ladies at marriageable age,” another wrote, taking a positive view of the situation.
“I suggest men should also have maternity leave after wives give birth,” a user suggested. “This will help reduce discrimination.”
A number of users have taken to the internet that this sort of scheduled pregnancy policies are quite common in China, even if they are not formalized. “Many hospitals and schools are doing the same; it’s an unwritten rule that everyone knows,” one user wrote. “The hospital where I work forbids nurses from having a child during their first two years on the job.”
There does exist a small segment of Weibo users that understands the employer’s perspective, though. “Some women are pregnant as soon as they start a job,” one person wrote. “It’s those people who don’t work hard and use the excuse of taking care of their baby that have caused some organisations to be afraid to recruit women.”
On the other end of the spectrum are regions in China that are more progressive with their women-friendly policies. In fact, Shanxi province and the city of Wuhan in Hubei province have drafted proposals to give female employees a day or two of paid leave per month during menstruation.