The Consequences of Ghosting Your Employer in China

The Consequences of Ghosting Your Employer in China
Jun 14, 2023 By Trey Archer ,

Anyone who’s lived in China, especially those who have worked in the ESL field, will likely recognize this scenario: You arrive at work one morning to find your boss in a frenzy, frantically calling your co-worker who hasn’t shown up. After a day or two of them being MIA, you can probably assume you’ll never see your disappeared colleague again. He or she has pulled the infamous “midnight run”—grabbing their paycheck and leaving the company without telling a soul. So what are the consequences of ghosting your employer in China?

The Consequences of Ghosting Your Employer in China
Source: Suzy

While breaking an employment contract in China had very few repercussions in the past and it’s still not necessarily the end of the world now, around 10 years ago, the government issued certain measures to dissuade foreigners from ghosting their employers. So, before you or someone you know decides to pull a midnight run, here’s some things you should know about leaving your employment contract early in China.

The consequences of ghosting your employer

There is a right way and a wrong way to break your employment contract in China. If you decide to do a bunk without telling anyone, be aware that your personal information, including your nationality and passport number, could end up on an online blacklist. Breaches of privacy aside, appearing on this list could seriously damage your credibility and future employment prospects. Furthermore, if the company is really out for revenge and reports you to the government, you could technically be banned from working in China for three years or more. In the worst-case scenario, which is probably more likely for those working in major corporations rather than ESL institutions, a lawsuit could be filed. Although companies filing law suits against individuals isn’t very common in China, it’s definitely not a position you want to find yourself in. As China Law Blog warns, foreigners tend to do “poorly” when facing contract disputes in the Chinese courts.

How to switch employers in China

The good news is that switching employers within China, even if it means breaking your contract early, is possible and relatively straightforward, as long as you don’t burn any bridges. A detailed rundown of the process can be found here, but, essentially, you need a release letter from your previous company stating that you no longer work there, your personal medical examination results and the foreign expert certificate — all of which your ex-boss is lawfully required to provide. Once your new employer has these documents, they can transfer your Z Visa to their company and keep you in the country legally.

How not to…

However, if you leave your old company on bad terms and/or ghost them, you may find the release of these documents is delayed, or, worse still, that some of them have been inexplicably “lost.” If this occurs, you’ll have to go through the whole process of applying for your work visa again, which will take a lot of time, money and effort and may well hinder your employment status at your new job.

How to professionally quit your job

There are a number of reasons expats decide to break their employment contracts in China. Some, such as personal health issues and family emergencies back home, will hopefully be deemed acceptable by any boss who understand the inevitable misfortunes life throws at us.

On the other hand, while the majority of companies/schools in China are reputable, there are some shady operations out there that can make your life as an employee a living hell. Those trapped in these unfortunate circumstances usually have an endless list of grievances and just want out by any means necessary. If the company is breaking China’s employment law, you’re well within your rights to leave without warning. However, doing so could still cause problems for you when it comes to obtaining your visa and finding new employment in China. There are a few steps you can take to help soften the crash landing, however.

First, re-read the contract you signed on employment, as leaving might actually be easier than you think. Some contracts stipulate a three-month trial period that allows new hires and employers to see if the pairing works. If you have this clause in your contract and want to leave within that timeframe, therefore, it’s easy to quit with few repercussions. Other contracts may state that it’s possible for an employee to leave at any time simply by giving a certain amount of notice.

Second, tell your employer you’re leaving, but don’t lose your cool. Emotions can run high on both sides of the table when addressing sensitive issues, but ghosting or losing your temper could create a mountain of problems, especially if you need the paper work required for switching jobs, as discussed above.

Lastly, since every situation/company/contract is different, (discretely) ask a colleague you trust about what’s happened to people who’ve quit before their contract is up in the past. They can likely give you some good advice having seen the internal process/fallout with their own eyes.

Give it time

In conclusion, it’s always best to honor your employment contract in China whenever possible, especially as most expats are only signed up for a year at a time anyway. While this may seem like an impossibly long stretch when you’re first starting out with a company, you’ll be surprised how quickly it can pass. Instead of jumping the gun and pulling a midnight run as soon as something rubs you up the wrong way, give it a chance. Once you’ve gotten used to the way the company works (and, indeed, the unique work culture in China), you may discover that it’s not as bad as you first thought. I was disappointed and considered leaving when I started out at my first job in China, but it grew on me over time and I’m now very content with my life here.

If you do find yourself stuck with a truly terrible company and you’re sure negotiating or rationalizing with the boss will only make matters worse, then perhaps tough times call for tough measures. Just make sure that you’re willing to accept the consequences of ghosting your employer in China. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

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So if you do a runner and leave China and the school does try to sue you or report you, can this prevent you from ever working in China again? If you have renewed your passport with new passport number and you have been gone for more than 5 years, is there a chance you still would not be able to get a work visa?

Jun 26, 2023 23:34 Report Abuse



Jun 26, 2023 23:44 Report Abuse


so another-words, suck it up and accept being treated like sh*t. Even if you are reasonable and give your crap employer the benefit of the doubt, they will still screw you over as much as they can, and then some. Sometimes doing a runner is the best option because chances are you won't want to work in China again - EVER. Chinese employers don't treat foreign workers well if they can possibly get away with it. That is the truth.

Jun 15, 2023 14:37 Report Abuse