Special Working Days! If you’re new to Chinese work culture, I’m sorry to break this news to you – China has nationally scheduled make-up days around holidays… on the weekends.
That’s right, every year there are a handful of Saturdays and Sundays, right around bigger national holidays, that convert over to workdays. There are 8 special working days scheduled in 2024, a number that can vary slightly year by year and is announced right from Beijing.
Check out our super simple 2024 China Public Holidays & Special Working Days Calendar:
1999: The Beginning of Special Work Days in China
In an effort to boost domestic travel and consumer spending, the supervising government agency passed an extension of some holidays:
- The three-day Spring Festival holiday remained the same.
- Labor Day holiday extended from one day to three days.
- National Day holiday extended from one day to three days.
Essentially the plan was to give workers two extra weekdays off for two major holidays and thus, with one weekend included, a full seven-day stretch of time off. To balance the extra days, the policy makers added ‘special working days’ on weekend days before and after the holidays.
The plan to boost spending and travel has generally worked out well, and this trend has continued through 2023.
2007: More Public Holidays Added to the Calendar
2007 further expanded public holidays, adding The Qing Ming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival to the list. Here’s the list of changes made with the policy update:
- The Qing Ming Festival added as a one-day holiday.
- The Dragon Boat Festival added as a one-day holiday.
- Mid-Autumn Festival added as a one-day holiday.
- Labor Day holiday reduced from three days to one day.
A note to add here is that the three new holidays added are all traditional festivals and are celebrated according to the lunar calendar.
2019: May 1st Labor Day Holiday Scheduling Update
In 2019, Beijing once again extended the May 1st holiday back to 3 days. The target schedule is 4-5 days off in a row, with 2 make-up working days. To be clear, 3 days off with 2 make-up workdays actually nets in 1 day off.
Special Working Day Scheduling Rules
Scheduling gets interesting! When it comes to deciding how the holidays are scheduled and which days will be special ‘make-up’ work days, there is a general system…
For the one days holidays, that is – Qing Ming Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival. Below is a breakdown of how things are [usually] scheduled the lunar calendar holiday falls on each day of the week:
Monday: The holiday naturally becomes a 3-day weekend. (In our mind) A nice, simple scenario – a long weekend with no weekend work!
Tuesday: If the holiday falls on a Tuesday, the preceding Monday and Sunday are off, forming 3 consecutive days off. This creates a special workday on one weekend day. It is often (but not always) the Saturday right before the 3-day holiday.
Wednesday: One day off in the middle of the week. No make up work days. Not bad all.
Thursday: Much like Tuesday, if the holiday falls on a Thursday, the following Friday and Saturday are off, forming 3 consecutive days off. This creates a special workday on one weekend day. It is often (but not always) the Sunday right after the 3-day holiday.
Friday: Like Monday, the holiday naturally becomes a 3-day weekend. A long weekend with no weekend work!
Saturday: A Friday or Monday is given off. No extra workdays, with a 3 days weekend.
Sunday: A Friday or Monday is given off. No extra workdays, with a 3 days weekend.
Chinese New Year: When scheduling holiday leave for Chinese New Year, administrators look for at least seven consecutive days off. Two special working days are added before and/or after the holiday. Here’s the schedule for CNY 2024 as a reference, with holidays in teal and special workdays in red:
National Day: Always October 1st-7th (not lunar based). Two make up special working days added before and/or after the holiday. Again, here’s the 2024 calendar as an example. Notice the special working days split before (September 24th) and after (October 12th) the holiday week:
May 1st Labor Day Holiday
The Labor Day holiday schedule is somewhat unique. The scheduling optimizes 4-5 days off in a row to encourage travel and spending. The downside is that 2 make-up days come in tow with this. Here’s the 2024 schedule as an example of this in action:
Should Managers Enforce Special Working Days?
As someone responsible, such as the HR manager, business manager, or business owner – you don’t have to make your staff work, but it’s understood and expected. Moreover, these days are paid regardless.
In our experience hiring in China, most companies are fully operational on these special days. Within your business, this especially relates to outside-facing roles such as logistics or sourcing, as well as client-facing roles. Both will likely still be receiving inbound communication on special working days.
In the end, it’s he individual organization’s decision on how to specifically treat special working days, if not just like a normal workday.
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References & Further Reading:
- Gov.cn: http://big5.www.gov.cn/gate/big5/www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/202310/content_6911527.htm
- Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-05-03/china-s-holiday-travel-surges-giving-boost-to-economy-s-rebound
- ZaoAn JianKang 早安健康: https://www.edh.tw/article/29486
- The Beijinger: https://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2023/01/12/why-make-working-days-thing-china
- CPOK: https://cpok.tw/38793