What Should an Employment Contract in China Include?

The Employment Law in China, a crucial aspect of the country’s legal framework, encompasses comprehensive regulations for hiring both national and foreign employees. These laws are designed to regulate the labor market, ensure fair employment practices, and protect the rights of workers. Key highlights of China’s Employment Law include:

The Labor Law

The Labor Law is a foundational statute that sets the general standards for employment in China. It covers a wide range of aspects, including working hours, wages, rest and leave days, labor safety, hygiene, and the special protection of female and underage workers. The Labor Law applies to all enterprises and individual economic organizations in China and serves as the primary legal basis for employment relations.

The Labor Contract Law

This law specifically deals with the contractual aspect of employment relationships. It mandates the use of written contracts, stipulates provisions on contract termination, and outlines the rights and obligations of both employers and employees. The Labor Contract Law emphasizes the importance of clear and fair contracts, ensuring that the terms and conditions of employment are transparent and legally binding.

The Social Insurance Law

This law provides the framework for China’s social security system, which includes pension, medical insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance, and maternity insurance. Both employers and employees are required to contribute to these social insurance schemes. The Social Insurance Law plays a critical role in providing a safety net for employees, offering protection against various risks and ensuring social welfare.

Pitfalls for Foreign Companies in Employment Contracts in China

Foreign companies operating in China often encounter unique challenges when navigating the complexities of Chinese employment laws and contracts. Understanding these pitfalls can help foreign businesses avoid legal issues and foster a more stable working environment. Here are some common pitfalls:

1. Misunderstanding Legal Requirements

Foreign companies may not be fully aware of the intricacies of Chinese labor laws, leading to non-compliance. This includes misunderstanding regulations regarding working hours, wages, mandatory benefits, and termination procedures.

2. Drafting Contracts Without Legal Help

Due to language barriers and differences in legal systems, foreign companies might draft employment contracts that do not comply with Chinese laws or fail to protect their interests adequately. Not seeking assistance from local legal experts often results in contracts that are either non-compliant or incomplete.

3. Underestimating the Importance of Written Contracts

Some foreign companies overlook the necessity of having written contracts, as practices may differ in their home countries. In China, written contracts are legally mandatory, and failure to provide them can lead to legal penalties and disputes.

4. Neglecting Non-Compete and Confidentiality Clauses

Foreign companies sometimes fail to include non-compete and confidentiality clauses, or they draft these clauses in ways that are not enforceable under Chinese law. These clauses are crucial to protect the company’s business interests, particularly in industries where intellectual property is a key asset.

5. Overlooking Termination Provisions

Terminating employment contracts in China is not straightforward and requires adherence to specific legal procedures. Foreign companies often encounter problems when they do not fully understand the termination conditions and notice period requirements under Chinese law.

6. Inadequate Handling of Social Insurance Contributions

Foreign companies might be unfamiliar with China’s social insurance system, leading to non-compliance in making the necessary contributions for their employees. This can result in legal penalties and disgruntled employees.

7. Assuming Similarities with Western Labor Laws

There is a tendency to assume that Chinese employment laws have similarities with Western laws, which often leads to misinterpretation and misapplication of legal practices.

8. Failure to Update Contracts with Legal Changes

Chinese employment laws and regulations can change, and foreign companies must ensure that their contracts and employment practices are updated accordingly. Failure to do so can result in contracts becoming outdated and non-compliant.

Types of Employment Contracts in China

Fixed-Term Contracts

Fixed-term contracts in China are characterized by their definitive duration, with a clear start and end date. These contracts are particularly common in many industries and can range from a few months to several years, depending on the nature of the employment and the agreement between the employer and employee.

The main advantage of fixed-term contracts is the certainty they provide. Both parties know the exact length of the employment relationship, allowing for better planning and resource allocation. For employees, it offers a sense of security for the duration of the contract, and for employers, it provides an opportunity to evaluate the employee’s performance before considering a contract renewal or extension.

However, these contracts also come with certain limitations. They can lead to a lack of job security for employees as the end of the contract approaches, potentially resulting in a need for frequent job searching. For employers, the end of a fixed-term contract might mean the loss of a trained and experienced employee, and the need to invest in recruiting and training new personnel.

Open-Ended Contracts

Open-ended contracts, in contrast, do not have a specified termination date. This type of contract is typically used for long-term employment and is indicative of a more stable and ongoing employment relationship. Open-ended contracts continue until either the employer or the employee decides to terminate the employment, subject to the conditions and notice periods stipulated in the contract and governed by Chinese labor laws.

One of the primary benefits of open-ended contracts for employees is the enhanced job security. The indefinite duration can lead to a stronger sense of stability and commitment from both the employer and the employee. For employers, these contracts can foster loyalty and retention of experienced staff, as employees are more likely to stay with an organization that provides long-term employment prospects.

On the other hand, open-ended contracts require employers to be more cautious with termination processes, as they must ensure compliance with labor laws regarding dismissal, which can be more stringent than those for fixed-term contracts. For employees, while these contracts offer job security, they may also lead to complacency, lacking the periodic evaluations and renewals that come with fixed-term contracts.

Key Elements of an Employment Contract in China

In China, an employment contract is a crucial document that outlines the terms of the professional relationship between an employer and an employee. Understanding the key elements of such a contract is essential for ensuring legal compliance and a clear mutual understanding. Here’s an overview of these elements:

1. Identification of Parties

This fundamental section identifies the parties involved in the contract – the employer and the employee – by providing clear and accurate details like names, addresses, and any other relevant information. This clarity is vital as it legally defines who is bound by the terms of the contract.

2. Contract Duration

This part specifies whether the contract is fixed-term, with a definite end date, or open-ended, without a specified termination date. In fixed-term contracts, the exact expiration date should be clearly mentioned, establishing the time frame of the employment.

3. Job Description and Workplace

A detailed job description, including roles, responsibilities, and the department or position, sets clear expectations. Information about the workplace or location where the employee will perform their duties is also included, aligning the job with organizational needs.

4. Working Hours, Rest, and Vacation

This section defines the work schedule, including daily working hours, rest periods, and vacation policies. It must comply with Chinese labor laws regarding working time and leave entitlements, ensuring fair work conditions.

5. Remuneration

The contract should outline the salary and any additional compensation, such as allowances, bonuses, and increments. The payment schedule (e.g., monthly, bi-weekly) should also be detailed, providing transparency in financial matters.

6. Social Security Obligations

This part outlines the obligations related to social security, such as pension, medical insurance, and unemployment insurance, delineating the contributions required from both the employer and the employee.

7. Workplace Safety and Health

Information on safety protocols and health policies demonstrates the employer’s commitment to maintaining a safe work environment. This can include procedures for handling workplace hazards and ensuring overall well-being.

8. Probation Periods

If a probation period is applicable, its duration and specific terms should be clearly stated. In China, probation periods cannot exceed six months and are used to evaluate the suitability of the employment arrangement.

9. Termination Conditions

The contract must spell out the conditions under which it can be terminated, including any notice requirements, typically 30 days in China. This ensures both parties understand the process for ending the employment relationship.

10. Confidentiality and Non-Compete Clauses

These clauses protect the employer’s proprietary information and business interests. They must be fair, reasonable, and legally enforceable, clearly stating the expectations and limitations placed on the employee.

11. Dispute Resolution

This section specifies the agreed mechanisms for resolving disputes arising from the employment relationship, such as mediation, arbitration, or legal action, providing a clear path for addressing conflicts.

12. Governing Law

Finally, the contract should state that it is governed by the laws of the People’s Republic of China, anchoring the contract within the legal framework of the country.


A comprehensive and well-drafted employment contract in China not only meets legal requirements but also fosters a transparent and secure working relationship. It serves as a vital reference for both the employer and the employee throughout the duration of employment.



Q1: What are the main laws governing employment in China? A1: The primary laws are the Labor Law, the Labor Contract Law, and the Social Insurance Law, all enforced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the People’s Republic of China.

Q2: What does the Labor Law in China cover? A2: The Labor Law sets general standards for employment, including working hours, wages, rest and leave days, labor safety, hygiene, and special protection for female and underage workers.

Q3: What is the focus of the Labor Contract Law? A3: This law deals with the contractual aspects of employment relationships, mandating written contracts, stipulating provisions for contract termination, and outlining the rights and obligations of both employers and employees.

Q4: What does the Social Insurance Law encompass? A4: It provides a framework for China’s social security system, including pension, medical insurance, work-related injury insurance, unemployment insurance, and maternity insurance.

Q5: What types of employment contracts are recognized in China? A5: China recognizes two types of contracts: fixed-term contracts, which have a specific duration, and open-ended contracts, which do not have a specified end date.

Q6: What should be included in an employment contract in China? A6: Key elements include identification of parties, contract duration, job description, working hours, rest and vacation policies, remuneration details, social security obligations, workplace safety and health information, probation periods, termination conditions, confidentiality and non-compete clauses, dispute resolution mechanisms, and governing law.

Q7: Why is it advisable to consult Chinese employment lawyers? A7: Given the complexities of Chinese Employment Law, especially for foreign entities, consulting with legal professionals ensures compliance with laws and regulations, and helps in navigating the intricacies of hiring and managing employees in China.

Q8: How do fixed-term and open-ended contracts differ in terms of job security? A8: Fixed-term contracts provide security for the duration of the contract but can lead to uncertainty as the end date approaches. Open-ended contracts offer enhanced job security and stability, as they do not have a fixed termination date.

Q9: What is the role of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in China? A9: The Ministry is responsible for drafting, revising, and enforcing employment laws, overseeing job market regulation, social insurance administration, and labor dispute resolution.


Contact us if you need help with background investigation of Chinese companies, protecting patents, trademarks, verification of contracts to the law in China, or help with other legal challenges that you have in China.

If you require our assistance or have further questions about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Relationship Manager, Jan Erik Christensen, at janerik@ncbhub.com. We look forward to hearing from you and helping your business succeed in China.





Contact us if you need help with drafting of contracts that follows Chinese laws and are enforceable in China, background investigation of Chinese companies, protecting patents, trademarks, verification of contracts to the law in China, or help with other legal challenges that you have in China.

If you require our assistance or have further questions about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Relationship Managers Jan Erik Christensen, at janerik@ncbhub.com . We look forward to hearing from you and helping your business succeed in China.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional legal counsel. The information contained herein does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Reading this article does not establish an attorney-client relationship between the reader and the author or the author’s organization. Our website aim to provide general information for educational and communication purposes.