Navigating Chinese employment contracts needs a lawyer

Navigating Chinese employment contracts needs a lawyer

Navigating Chinese employment contracts needs a lawyer

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of taking on a job in China is the employment contract.

Understanding exactly what you’re signing up for can be tricky enough in your own language, but it’s impossible without qualified, bilingual legal assistance if your career is taking off in China. It’s not just the contract itself, it’s the rest of the paperwork including non-compete agreements and the rules and regulations of your employer’s company. Even if you’ve mastered enough Standard Chinese to get by in conversation, reading through and understanding the cultural connotations can ruin your day as well as your chance of gainful employment.

Firstly, some employers attempt to just present your contract in the English language, giving the reason that expats can’t read Chinese. True, but it’s necessary for you to be given a contract in both languages as the Chinese version is the only official one. You should also request both versions are set within the same document, thus making is easier and faster for your lawyer to discover any inaccuracies. Checking your contract word for word is essential, simply to verify it says what you agreed to during negotiations.

Lawyers in China don’t just check the paperwork and give it the OK or otherwise, as they’re fully aware that any discrepancies between the two linguistic versions almost always favour the employer. They’re also there to facilitate negotiations, concentrating on essential terms such as salary, bonuses, holidays and commissions if applicable. Even when everything’s been checked and agreed, it’s still not a done deal as employers often try to reopen negotiations in order to get more favourable terms for themselves at the last minute. A good lawyer will shoot this down in flames whilst you’re thinking whether you really want to work for this company!

Even if the above trick doesn’t materialise, further negotiations on minor details are the norm, with applicants urged to list in writing all questions, comments and requests for consideration by their potential employers. Although sticking to emails and WeChat makes the process faster and cheaper, it doesn’t make it better or more watertight. Employing a lawyer experienced in the Chinese way of negotiation can save a great deal of hassle down the line and ensure expats unaccustomed to the Chinese way don’t lose out as a result.

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