The outside of a ByteDance office in Shanghai pictured at night.
Image: © Robert/Stock.adobe.com

TikTok owner ByteDance orders shorter working hours for staff

1 Nov 2021

Chinese tech giant ByteDance is said to have issued the decision after a court criticised the country’s culture of overworking and the notorious ‘996’ schedule.

ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns social media platform TikTok, has reportedly mandated shorter working hours for its employees.

The company has ordered staff to finish work by 7pm every day and they will need permission to work overtime. Any extra time employees put in will net them a compensation of up to three times their usual wage. That’s according to an internal document seen by Bloomberg.

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ByteDance’s policy change follows a recent statement by a Chinese court, reminding employers that they cannot require staff to work 72 hours a week.

A ‘996’ schedule is common in China, particularly in the tech sector, with workers punching in from 9am to 9pm six days a week. In August, China’s top court and labour ministry warned that these gruelling schedules are illegal.

The court acknowledged that extreme competition was a factor in many companies’ decision to overwork staff, but that this was not legal under Chinese law. Furthermore, the court said the practice was harmful to people’s mental and physical health.

In some cases, people have died due to stress caused by working overtime for long hours. Earlier this year, a woman’s death in China made headlines. The woman, who was employed by e-commerce start-up Pinduoduo, regularly worked more than 300 hours every month, and following her death several workers from the company said they had been pressured into similar schedules.

According to China’s labour law, a standard work day is eight hours long and an average work week 44 hours. Any work beyond that requires overtime pay.

The debate on the 996 schedule has been going on for several years. Jack Ma, founder of Chinese tech giant Alibaba, has defended the controversial work culture and previously said it was “a blessing”.

In 2019, dissatisfied workers collaborated on a GitHub project called 996.ICU. The organisers said that the project was inspired by “an ironic saying among Chinese developers, which means that by following the ‘996’ work schedule, you are risking yourself getting into the ICU”.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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