Chinese companies vow to limit overtime work

More Chinese companies have said that they will scrap corporate policies pushing employees to work overtime, as the country's regulators warned against the excessive work culture that has become increasingly prevalent at large domestic tech companies and has drawn widespread attention from the public. The move specifically targets the “996” culture, which means working from 9 am to 9 pm six days a week, and “big/small workweeks” – alternating five-day and six-day workweeks. Smartphone maker Vivo said that it would scrap the big/small workweeks system and let employees work five days each week, and create a “happy, progressive” environment for its employees.

Vivo announced the policy after discussions erupted on China's twitter-like Sina Weibo claiming that overtime work has increasingly become the norm for Chinese companies, especially in the internet sector. Earlier, video-sharing platform Kuaishou announced that it would cancel alternating workweeks starting from July 1, and its employees could choose to work extra hours according to their needs. Similarly, ByteDance also canceled the alternating workweeks. Alibaba said that it never ordered its employees to work on Saturdays, unlike some other companies. “We don't have a 996 work system, and therefore we don't need adjustment,” a spokesperson said.

The Supreme People's Court and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security published a statement on labor violations and unreasonable overtime, indicating that overtime policies like 996 were unlawful. Independent tech analyst Fu Liang told the Global Times that although rumors about the 996 culture being prevalent at internet companies were somewhat exaggerated, it is true that the internet sector's work model is more irregular and flexible compared with other industries. Government supervision could push those companies to strictly abide by labor laws. Fu also said that enforcement of labor laws will be stricter in the future, and the number of labor lawsuits might increase accordingly, the Global Times reports.