The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has issued new regulations designed to combat discrimination against migrant workers, women and people living the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), and crackdown on exploitative employment recruitment agencies.
If enforced effectively, the Regulations on Employment Services and Employment Management, issued on 30 October, could prove to be of significant help to workers across China who suffer from widespread and often blatant discrimination in the workplace. For example, the regulations state that employers can not reject job applicants on the grounds of their HBV status or force employees or applicants to take a HBV test. Employers who violate these clauses are to be fined up to 1000 yuan, and risk being sued in the civil courts.
The regulations were hailed by HBV activists as the first concrete step towards fighting discrimination in the workplace. "There have been other documents prohibiting HBV tests in employment situations, but there has never been a fine," Lu Jun, the head of the Yirenping HBV support group told the South China Morning Post.
The regulations, designed to clarify certain provisions of the Employment Promotion Law before it goes into effect on 1 January 2008, also protect woman workers by outlawing clauses in labour contracts that prevent women from marrying or getting pregnant. Such clauses are commonplace in service industries where women earn significantly less than men.
Under the new rules, migrant workers should have same rights to employment as their urban counterparts, and those who have been resident in a city for more than six months will be entitled to unemployment benefits and services from the local government. Migrant workers are routinely discriminated against in the workplace and denied access to the social welfare and medical benefits of their urban counterparts, rendering them second class citizens in China's cities.
In order to combat the scams and malpractice rampant in the employment recruitment industry, all recruitment agencies are to be approved and registered, and operated by professional staff in fixed premises. All service charges should be clearly listed, and unsuccessful referrals should not be charged for. All employers should specify the working hours, potential working hazards, and salaries in the recruitment notice, and they should not use unspecific terms, such as "negotiable".