Legal experts call the legality of the 996 work schedule into question
Legal experts have questioned the legality of the 996 work schedule common in China's tech sector, where employees work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week without clearly stipulated overtime pay.
An employee in an office at 2 a.m. at the Zhongguancun Software Park in Beijing on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. [Photo: IC]
A survey conducted by the Legal Daily found that at least 84 IT companies in China used a 996 schedule. By making employees work 60 hours a week, these companies might be breaking national labor laws.
"China practices a working system of eight hours a day, 44 hours a week," said Shen Jianfeng, a professor at the Law School of the Central University of Finance and Economics. "As stipulated under China's laws, overtime should generally not exceed one hour per day, and should not exceed three hours even for special reasons, and the total overtime in a month shall not exceed 36 hours."
Aside from problems with the number of hours employees are expected to work, most companies using a 996 schedule seem to lack a clear compensation scheme for overtime work. China's labor law stipulates that workers should get 150 percent of their usual rate for overtime work, and three times their regular pay if they work during a national holiday.
Many of the lights were still on at the offices of Internet giant Baidu at the Zhongguancun Software Park in Beijing at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. [Photo: IC]
Zhang Liyun, a deputy professor with the China University of Labor Relations, said that companies tend to make the 996 schedule the "default norm" rather than a formal policy. By doing so, they are evading responsibility for their violations of labor laws and the legal requirement to pay overtime. This makes the companies "the biggest beneficiary of the 996 work schedule," she said.
Overtime work is legal only when the terms are clearly stimulated in a labor contract and the method for calculating compensation for overtime work are clearly documented, Zhang Yi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told journalists from CGTN.