Labour and employment: foreign firms in China

Baker McKenzie FenXun

Baker McKenzie FenXun 's labour and employment experts routinely advise financial institutions and multinational corporations across a wide spectrum of sectors on the full spectrum of contentious and non-contentious issues. Led from Hong Kong by Baker McKenzie, the team works closely with its counterparts in the corporate, intellectual property, tax and immigration departments. Elsewhere, the key names to note are Zheng Lu in Shanghai and Bofu An who sits in Beijing.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Isaacs

Other key lawyers:

Zheng Lu; Bofu An


‘Baker McKenzie’s Hong Kong-based team has a deep understanding of the market’s labour practices across international financial institutions and large multi-national corporations’.

‘This is a highly responsive and pragmatic team which offers support both in terms of advice and in training’.

DLA Piper

DLA Piper's labour and employment group is particularly strong in the retail, banking and finance, technology, life sciences and hospitality sectors where it represents both international and domestic clients. Beijing-based Johnny Choi regularly oversees the contentious removal of company executives, and investigations into senior level corruption; he also defends clients from IP theft by existing and departing local managers, and assists with large scale redundancies and collective labour unrest in China. Helen Colquhon heads the Hong Kong team.

Practice head(s):

Johnny Choi

Other key lawyers:

Helen Colquhoun


‘DLA Piper gives hands-on practical and helpful guidance and suggestions about how the next steps should be taken. The team provides guidance from A-Z on multi-jurisdictional employment matters’.

‘The team’s approach is very commercial, and its advice is relevant and specific. The team works well together to provide a consistently high level of service’.

‘Helen Colquhoun is a stand-out legal partner who provides exceptional and practical legal advice and guidance on difficult labor matters. She’s a star’.

‘Helen Colquhoun and David Smail are extremely hands-on, responsive and helpful. They go above and beyond to help clients’.

‘Helen Colquhoun is brilliant’.

Key clients





Newell Inc

Work highlights

  • Successfully advised the vendor on the negotiations of the sale of a business with employee-related clauses to the sales agreement with potentially cross-border applications.
  • Advising on the relevant tax and employment issues in the relocation of a senior executive, a French national, from China to Hong Kong.
  • Advising INESA on various matters including FCPA compliance and replacement of a board-level employee in Hungary.
  • Assisted Sonos with drafting a China supplement to its 2018 Employee Equity Incentive plan and also helped it register the plan with the Beijing branch of the PRC State Administration of Foreign Exchange.
  • Advised Meltwater on visas that executives or employees should apply for based on various factual scenarios, drew up plans best tailored for each employee, and guided the entire process.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP

Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP 'understands how to convey information to clients viewing Chinese law through a US lens'. Lesli Ligorner and her team are 'knowledgable and trustworthy', and advises a broad range of employment and compliance issues 'efficiently and holistically'. Todd Liao and Charles Mo are the main names to note within the firm's Shanghai and Hong Kong offices, respectively.

Practice head(s):

K. Lesli Ligorner

Other key lawyers:

Todd Liao; Charles Mo


Super fast response and always acts as a partner with client’s best interest at heart‘.

Very involved with each step of the matter‘.

The team is extremely responsive and knowledgeable about current developments in the law and enforcement trends, which continue to change rapidly in China‘.

The lawyers think strategically and deliver concise and practical advice. Where clients need to make decisions based on the advice they outline, they provide risk-based and strategic analysis, which the clients particularly value in their external counsel‘.

Key clients

American Greetings

Arthrex Corporation


Bristol Myers Squibb

Comcast / NBC Universal



Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China

Gilead Corporation

JP Morgan Chase

Kroll Associates


Work highlights

  • Advised a global corporate on the impact of the Cybersecurity Law, and advised on the collection and movement of personal data to be gathered in China.
  • Acted for a multinational technology company on general employment advice related to post-merger integration as well as planning for partial shutdown and closure.
  • Continues to advise the board of a foreign correspondents club on its response to #metoo allegations made within the company.
  • Represent a client in the entertainment industry In a dispute filed by a former employee regarding an unpaid annual bonus.

Simmons & Simmons

Simmons & Simmons 's labour and employment team is headquartered in Hong Kong and spearheaded by Fiona Loughrey . In China, Matthew Durham and May Lu sit in the Shanghai office and provide board-level advice on sensitive strategic issues, including employee misconduct, corporate restructures and senior appointments and exits. The group also handles contentious matters such as labour disputes, investigations, director and executive liability and sexual harassment policies. Also notable is Hong-Kong based Sarah Berkeley who has substantial experience advising financial institutions and major corporates.

Practice head(s):

Fiona Loughrey

Other key lawyers:

Matthew Durham; May Lu; Sarah Berkeley

Bird & Bird

At Bird & Bird, the employment team sits at the core of the firm's Asian practice and supports its focus on digital and technology sectors. The group is particularly strong in advising on cross-border and multi-jurisdictional employment projects arising from international assignments, business establishments, or global restructuring projects. Also notable is its expertise in employee share schemes and other incentivisation programmes, and the implementation of private equity driven employee share schemes, phantom share schemes and employee share schemes. Jointly led by Hong-Kong based Pattie Walsh  and the 'commercially-mindedYing Wang, who sits in Shanghai, the team recently strengthened its contentious offering through the hire in Hong Kong of consultant Diana Purdy from Bank of New York Mellon.

Practice head(s):

Pattie Walsh; Ying Wang


‘Bird & Bird’s labour and employment team has been great to work with’.

‘Ying Wang is absolutely brilliant, and clients love working with her. Sven-Michael Werner is also a standout. His long experience in corporate law make him excellent to work with because it makes his handling of high-level executive matters extremely well-informed’.

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP excels employment disputes, with particular expertise in post-employment restraint litigation, incentives disputes and litigation arising out of workplace injuries; it also handles non-contentious work, particularly involving employee incentive schemes and cross-disciplinary advice. Karen Ip sits in Beijing and leads the team, while in Shanghai, Nanda Lau regularly advises multinational clients on employment termination, employee transfer and redundancies issues in China. Hong Kong-based senior associate Tess Lumsdaine is 'very experienced in the practice of employment law and is able to provide comparison employment legislation and treatment across different jurisdictions'.

Practice head(s):

Karen Ip; Nanda Lau; Gareth Thomas


‘Herbert Smith Freehills has the ability to combine legal and practical advice to formulate suitable solutions for the client. The team consists of litigation and employment experts who are able to advise comprehensively on different stages of employment relationship and disputes that may arise’.


Key clients

Credit Agricole

Credit Suisse

Goldman Sachs

Société Générale


Anglo Chinese Corporate Finance

Mitsubishi Corporation

Commonwealth Bank of Australia



Hogan Lovells International LLP

Hogan Lovells International LLP advises on a wide range of employment-related issues including employment contracts, expat hiring, transfer of employees, termination, redundancies, restrictive covenants, share option and purchase plans, tax obligations, know-how, privacy protection, provident funds and retirement schemes, anti-discrimination legislation, trade union, employee compensation claims, and dispute resolution. Roy Zou specialises in corporate law with a specific focus on the restructuring and employment-related aspects of transactions; he sits in Beijing with recently promoted partner Sherry Gong. Shanghai-based Philip Cheng is also a key name to note.

Practice head(s):

Philip Cheng; Roy Zou

Other key lawyers:

Sherry Gong

Allen & Overy LLP

Allen & Overy LLP handles both contentious and non-contentious matters, working with employers in financial institutions and large multinational corporations on a broad range of issues related to employment law, benefits, pensions, large restructurings and employment litigation, regulatory investigations, internal employee investigations and employee data privacy. In Beijing, Victor Ho jointly leads the practice with Hong Kong's of counsel Susana Ng.

Practice head(s):

Victor Ho; Susana Ng

Key clients

Societe Generale



Thomson Reuters


China Unicom

Feld Entertainment Inc.



Work highlights

  • Advised Thomson Reuters on employment issues relating to a multi-jurisdictional sale of its Global Financial and Risk business to a consortium led by the Blackstone Group for approximately $17bn.
  • Acting for a longstanding client Google in a project spanning 53 jurisdictions, involving the review of Google’s human resource policies, processes and practices in order for Google to better understand its HR risk profile, prioritize remediation efforts and, where necessary, put in place a structure to maintain compliance.
  • Advising China Unicom on a wide variety of employment matters ranging from employment contract and internal HR policy reviews, disputes before the Labour Tribunal and settlement negotiations, advice on anti-bribery related matters and investigations, employee monitoring, HR data privacy matters, and restrictive covenants work arrangement of freelancers.
  • Advised Zalando in relation to employment issues arising out of the proposed downsizing of its operations and issues relating to the funding of redundancy costs.

Clyde & Co LLP

Clyde & Co LLP's labour and employment team is led by Victor Yang in Shanghai and regularly advises clients on executive recruitment, workplace policies and manuals, termination of employment and enforcement of restrictive covenants. In recent highlights, the group has also been advising on cybersecurity and personal data privacy issues. On the junior front, Shanghai-based associate Helena Chen acts for both international and domestic clients on the full gamut of employment issues. Richard Bell recently relocated to the Abu Dhabi office.

Practice head(s):

Victor Yang

Other key lawyers:

Helena Chen


‘Clyde & Co has knowledge of the Chinese and international conventions and legislations’.


Split between the Beijing and Shangahi office, though predominantly operating out of the latter, the employment team at CMS is active in a wide range of both contentious and non-contentious work. Recent mandates include option plans, mass terminations and restructuring, labour arbitrations, and the drafting of employment documentation. Team head Jeanette Yu, who sits in Shanghai, handles several of the groups most complex mandates, while associate Sophy Wang is also a notable figure within the team.

Practice head(s):

Jeanette Yu

Other key lawyers:

Sophy Wang


CMS provides reliable and quick feedback, and they understand the needs of foreign companies operating in China‘.

Jeanette Yu is professional and timely in her preparation of legal advice, an experienced negotiator who cooperates well with all stakeholders‘.


Deacons has a dedicated PRC and Hong Kong employment offering with a particular strength in the contentious space. Cynthia Chung leads the team from the Hong Kong office with the support of PRC and Hong Kong dual-qualified Helen Liao who advises multinational companies in a broad range of sectors, including the aviation, telecommunications, media, fuel, construction, retail and financial services industries on employment compliance issues. Eunice Wu recently joined from AllBright Law Offices.

Practice head(s):

Cynthia Chung

Other key lawyers:

Helen Liao; Eunice Wu


The team provides comprehensive and well-thought-out legal advice, which is carefully taken into account the needs of clients‘.

The lawyers are familiar with the mainland labour laws and regulations‘.