Chinese company comes under fire for penalizing staff who don’t walk 180,000 steps a month

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A real estate firm in southern China has sparked debate on social media platforms across the country for putting in place a controversial rule for its staff to walk 180,000 steps a week. The unnamed firmed in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, fines its employees about 0.01 yuan for each step under the target.

Xiao C, a human resources officer in Guangzhou, told local newspaper that her company had deducted her October salary by $14 because she had failed to reach the monthly goal of 180,000 steps. That’s about 85 miles. She was some 10,000 steps – 4.7 miles – behind the target.

“I understand that the company wants employees to exercise more. But we are very busy at work, and we often work late into the night. To meet the walking goal, we may not even be able to get enough sleep. This assessment is an extra burden,” she was quoted as saying.

Xiao C’s company isn’t the only firm in China that includes a step count as part of staff performance reviews. According to a report by Metropolitan Express last year, a Chinese firm that develops health monitoring apps in the eastern city of Hangzhou, also demands that its employees walk 7,000 steps every day. The Managers of Weijian Technology will have their bonuses cut if anyone on their team misses their goals.

Many who criticized the campaign, faulted it for being punitive instead of being rewarding. One social media user said, “If the company wants to encourage its employees to exercise, it should award bonuses to those who meet the target. Fines without rewards only make people less willing to take part in the campaign.”

GB Times quoted a Chinese lawyer as saying that the real estate firm had no legal grounds to use the number of steps taken by an employee as a measure of performance, and that  if employees were spending time outside work trying to reach their work target, they could be eligible for overtime. The lawyer also said that if employees are injured while walking, they could claim workplace injury compensations.

Xiao C and her colleagues though have found a way to rig the system. They have bought a cradle for the phone that rocks on its own, mimicking steps. But she said she only uses the device at home, as she does not want her boss to find out that she was cheating.

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