Opinion / Editorials

Protect employees from overwork

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-22 08:12

Liu Xianjun, a 33-year-old engineer, was recently found dead in his room in Dongguan, Guangdong province; records show he worked 190 extra hours in March alone.

The tragedy was made worse by his manager's cold comment that he was "willing" to work the extra hours and the fact that working excessive overtime is common practice in many enterprises. Some companies even promote long hours as part of the corporate culture.

It is time to strengthen the law to put an end to such a perverted culture, says a column in Beijing Times.

Working extra hours is sometimes a normal choice considering the huge pressure on workers in today's society. However, it is immoral for managers to boast of this or to force employees to work extra hours, and absurd to promote it as part of the corporate culture.

Liu, like countless other employees, probably dared say nothing when asked to work extra hours. Do they really have the option of saying no when they are handed assignments by their bosses?

According to the Labor Law of China, an employee may not work more than 36 additional hours per month; but the law is like a scrap of paper in practice. A primary cause is that the penalty for breaking the law is too light. The law only fines employers who violate the right of workers to rest 100 yuan ($16.0) to 500 yuan in each instance, which hardly constitutes a deterrent.

And to sue their employers, employees must go through a series of complicated procedures before the case will even be accepted by a court.

If that's not bad enough, some local authorities protect employers that bring in large tax revenues, making it even more difficult to punish lawbreaking enterprises.

To change this situation that is tilted in favor of the employer, it is necessary to strengthen legislation first and increase the penalties imposed on employers that force their employees to work excessively long hours. Judicial branches need to better execute the law, too, so that what's written on paper will be truly effective in practice.

Only in this way will employees get the protection they need, with enterprises abandoning the overwork culture. And this process should be accelerated, as millions of workers can no longer wait.

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