When a China employer and one of its employees end their employment relationship, one of the most important things the employer must do is provide the former employee with a Proof of Termination of Employment Relationship document. This employer obligation is stipulated in the PRC Labor Contract Law (and in many local regulations as well). The Law says that if you as employer fail to perform this obligation, you can be subject to both administrative corrective orders and to damages.
Let’s consider an actual recent case in Beijing (simplified a bit for this post). An employee and employer entered into a contract for a 3-year term and it came to a natural end on May 3, 2014. Employee’s base salary was 16,000 RMB/month. The parties terminated the employment relationship on May 5, 2014. Employee alleged that Employer refused to provide a Proof of Termination of Employment Relationship document. Employee began working for a different employer (Employer B) on May 7, 2014. Due to the Employer’s failure to provide a Proof of Termination document, Employer B issued a termination notice on May 27, 2014 and the parties formally terminated their contract on May 30, 2014. On July 29, 2014 Employee received a job offer from a prospective employer. However, on August 8, 2014 Prospective Employer provided a notice of its decision not to extend employment due to Employee’s failure to provide a Proof of Termination of Employment Relationship document. Employer B paid Employee 22000/month and Prospective Employer offered the same rate.
Employee brought a labor arbitration claim and Employer was ordered to provide a Proof of Termination document. There was some disagreement as to whether Employee contributed to the non-issuance of this document. Employer still refused to provide a Proof of Termination document. Employee sued in court and asked for RMB 113,034.48 in damages or almost 6 months of salary.
Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court sided with Employee and found the Employer’s failure to provide a Proof of Termination document caused Employee damages but did not agree that the amount of damages should be RMB 113,034.48. Without providing much analysis the Chaoyang court awarded the employee RMB 40,000. Employee appealed and the appellate court (Beijing Third Intermediary People’s Court) affirmed the lower court’s decision. It held that the damages Employee claimed were not actual, definitive, or inevitable losses and after considering the total circumstances of the case and the parties’ fault, the lower court’s decision was appropriate.
Bottom line: Perform your employer obligations at the time of employee termination, including most importantly, issuing your terminated employees a Proof of Termination of Employment document.