Employees better protected under amended law on occupational disease prevention

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On 31 December 2011, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress promulgated the revised PRC Occupational Diseases Prevention and Control Law, which took effect on the date of its release. An occupational disease is a disease contracted by individuals due to exposure to certain toxic or hazardous substances or dust or other practices in a working environment. If an employee suffering from such a disease is officially appraised by the local labour bureau as suffering from a “work injury”, the employee would be entitled to certain statutory benefits.

Old law impractical

However, in practice employees have found it difficult to claim protection under the old law, often due to the inability to produce evidence.

The Amended Occupational Disease Law helps employees by imposing strict rules on employers for maintaining and releasing occupational health/disease records.

bld_image_2occupationEmployers can be fined up to RMB100,000 (US$16,000) for failure to provide the employee with a copy of an occupational disease file upon the termination of the employee’s employment. In addition, if the employer refuses to produce relate d documents or files for diagnostic purposes, or if it conceals, falsifies, changes or destroys relevant documents, the employer could face a fine of up to RMB200,000. In serious circumstances, the employer could be closed down by the government.

In a dispute concerning occupational disease, arbitration panels and courts may order the employer to produce records that they control.

If the employer fails to produce such records, the arbitration panel or court may issue an adverse ruling against the employer.

In addition, there is now greater pressure on employers to fulfil their legal duty to pay for medical examinations for employees exposed to occupational disease hazards.

Under the Amended Occupational Disease Law, if an employer fails to pay for expenses related to diagnosis and appraisal of the disease, or related medical costs and living expenses of the employee, the employer may face the same consequences specified above for falsifying or destroying relevant documents.

If implemented strictly, the Amended Occupational Disease Law could lead to a wave of lawsuits, and force manufacturers to comply with existing health and safety standards.

Business Law Digest is compiled with the assistance of Baker & McKenzie. Readers should not act on this information without seeking professional legal advice. You can contact Baker & McKenzie by e-mailing Zhang Danian (Shanghai) at: danian.zhang@bakermckenzie.com