China Explores Legal Safeguards for ‘Invisible Overtime’

Photo by Nuno Alberto on Unsplash

China is contemplating providing legal safeguards for employees compelled to stay online beyond regular office hours, a situation referred to as “invisible overtime,” which the supreme court acknowledges as deserving compensation, as reported by South China Morning Post (SCMP). 


The inclusion of the right to “offline rest” in labor laws has been proposed by the head of the general office of China’s trade union federation to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on March 8, suggesting the establishment of a legal definition and compensation framework for “working overtime online.” 


Concerns were also raised regarding the issue of “invisible overtime” by the president of the Supreme People’s Court in a report to the National People’s Congress.


To address the issue, recommendations included revising standard working hours for online overtime, proposing limits for online platform positions, and calling for increased government oversight and penalties for “invisible overtime.” An improved mechanism is also sought to protect workers from unreasonable and unpaid overtime.


While an independent confirmation of the decision has not been made, there are indications that the proposal has garnered acceptance from the country’s top political advisory body, with various government agencies expected to engage in discussions on the matter.


Additional Information:


  • “Invisible overtime” refers to the concept of work that employees perform beyond their regular working hours, often in a manner that may not be easily observable or officially recorded. 
  • The growing trend of answering work-related messages on instant messaging apps like WeChat after office hours and managing work tasks on mobile phones during days off is on the rise in China, aligning with patterns seen in various other countries.
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