A middle school in eastern China has offered its single and childless teachers two half-days of "love leave" a month to boost staff morale, local newspaper Dushi Kuaibao reported on Wednesday.
Dinglan Experimental Middle School in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, introduced the perk on Tuesday as part of a raft of new leave policies including "family leave" and "happiness leave" to take the pressure off overworked teachers.
Young single teachers and married teachers without children can apply for love leave, provided it does not interfere with teaching duties.
The school notified teachers in an internal letter sent on Tuesday, saying approval for applications would depend on the individual's situation.
About 40 per cent of the school's teachers are unmarried and the love leave was introduced to benefit this group, according to the school's principal, identified only by his surname, Zhao.
"Normally, our teachers work very hard. I hope they will take advantage of this leave twice a month to relax and enjoy life, experience its beauty, and spend time with their family," Zhao said. "I believe that students can only be happy if teachers improve their own happiness."
The school's pre-existing "single child leave", covering teachers with a son or daughter born under the one-child policy, has also been upgraded to "family leave" to reflect the two-child policy introduced in 2015.
Teachers at the school are allowed to take "family leave" twice a month if they have any children under 18, while staff whose children are adults can take "happiness leave" twice a month.
"The teachers really like this holiday. When young children fall sick, they need an adult at their side to look after them," Zhao was quoted as saying.
Unmarried science teacher Ye Jingqi suggested that romance was not at the forefront of her plans for love leave.
"Teachers normally don't leave school during the work day since we are teaching, marking homework and planning lessons all day. Our first response to the love leave is that we finally have time to manage student punishments," Ye was reported as saying.
"Obviously, if my boyfriend has time as well, the best way to take advantage of our leave would be to visit some libraries or bookshops on a work day when they are less busy. I could also visit my parents."
Teacher Chen Qing and her husband, who both work at the same school, were very happy about the news.
"I teach science and he teaches maths. Normally we are both very busy but neither of us has classes on Thursday afternoons. With the new holiday we can spend time together and take care of errands that can only be done during the week," Chen was quoted as saying.
"Now the leave can cover all the younger teachers and that is a great thing. I heard single teachers saying that they finally have time to meet their dates at the library."
Internet users reacted with amusement to the school policy.
"'Students, your sports teacher and art teacher have fallen in love and are not here, this lesson will be taken over by the maths teacher'," read a top-rated comment on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
Another commenter said: "Our school's principal really puts more work pressure on single unmarried teachers, and they are the first to get any extra tasks."
Teachers in China are entitled to paid annual leave, but school terms and other time off are determined by local educations committees.
Educators are also recognised each year on September 10, known as Teacher's Day, when students given them gifts.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.