What is ‘Unhappy Leaves’? A Look at the New Employment Policy a Chinese Company Has Implemented

What is 'Unhappy Leaves'
What is ‘Unhappy Leaves’

In a novel approach to employee wellness and work-life balance, a Chinese retail tycoon, Yu Donglai, has introduced a revolutionary concept: ‘unhappy leaves’. This policy, unveiled by the founder and chairman of the retail giant Pang Dong Lai, allows employees to take up to 10 additional days off if they feel unhappy, to ensure that personal discontent does not hinder professional performance.

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The Concept of ‘Unhappy Leaves’

‘Unhappy leaves’ empower employees to take time off without the need for justification related to physical health or family emergencies—factors traditionally recognized for leave approvals. Instead, these leaves focus on mental and emotional well-being. Yu Donglai believes that no employee should have to work when they feel emotionally unwell or unhappy, and this leave policy ensures they don’t have to. Importantly, the policy stipulates that such leaves “cannot be denied by management,” framing their denial as a violation of company rules.0

Pang Dong Lai’s innovative leave policy is part of a broader suite of benefits designed to enhance employee satisfaction and promote a healthy work environment. Employees at Pang Dong Lai enjoy a seven-hour workday, weekends off, and a generous annual leave allowance ranging from 30 to 40 days, plus an additional five days during the Lunar New Year. This impressive package highlights the company’s commitment to not just being a successful business, but being one that truly cares for its employees’ well-being.

Cultural Impact and Social Media Reactions

The introduction of ‘unhappy leaves’ has resonated positively across Chinese social media platforms, where users have expressed overwhelming support for this humane approach to corporate management. Comments on platforms like Weibo celebrate Yu Donglai as a visionary leader whose policies should serve as a benchmark for companies nationwide. The public’s response underscores a growing awareness and acknowledgment of mental health issues and the importance of addressing them in the workplace.

Salary Structure and Employee Development

Further distinguishing Pang Dong Lai, Yu Donglai has also implemented a job-level certification system that remarkably allows all employees, including those in entry-level positions such as janitors, to earn up to 500,000 yuan (approximately US$70,000) annually, provided they meet certain professional capability standards. This progressive salary structure not only incentivizes skill development but also fosters a sense of equality and opportunity across all levels of the company.

The Broader Context

Yu Donglai’s policies come in response to a broader cultural and economic context where more than 65 percent of Chinese employees reported feeling tired and unhappy at work, according to a 2021 survey on workplace anxiety in China. By addressing the pressing need for better mental health considerations and work-life balance, Pang Dong Lai stands out in a market often criticized for its gruelling work hours and high-pressure environments.


Yu Donglai’s introduction of ‘unhappy leaves’ at Pang Dong Lai could potentially signal a shift in corporate China’s approach to employee welfare. By prioritizing the emotional and psychological well-being of employees, Pang Dong Lai is not only enhancing its own productivity and workplace morale but is also setting a precedent that might inspire other companies to follow suit. In doing so, Yu Donglai is reshaping what it means to be a successful and responsible employer in today’s fast-paced corporate world

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