2015 looks poised to bring a new set of challenges to employers in Hong Kong with the possible enactment of various changes to the employment law regime. 

Whilst Hong Kong has traditionally been known as an “employer-friendly” jurisdiction, in recent years there have been efforts to level the playing field, most notably with the introduction of the Minimum Wage Ordinance. 

In 2014 we saw a number of amendments to the employment law regime being proposed or considered in the LegCo which could further enhance the protection of employees. We already know that the introduction of statutory paternity leave will come into effect on 27 February 2015. We anticipate that a number of other changes will be enacted in 2015, such as: 

  • Power for the Labour Tribunal to make compulsory orders for re-instatement and re-engagement of employees where the employee has been unreasonably dismissed or had his/her contract unreasonably varied (currently the Labour Tribunal can only make an order for re-instatement or re-engagement with the consent of the employer); and
  • Expansion of discrimination legislations – there are numerous changes being considered in relation to the discrimination legislations in Hong Kong, but the key proposed changes for employers to take note of are: 
    • a proposal to introduce a statutory duty of reasonable accommodation on employers in relation to employees with a disability; 
    • whether the burden of proof should shift to the respondent to prove no discrimination once the claimant establishes that facts from which discrimination can be inferred; and 
    • whether the law should provide protection from sexual harassment in common workplaces even if it is outside of the employment relationship (currently the Sex Discrimination Ordinance does not cover situations where, for example, different employers share one workplace, and a person is harassed by someone other than his or her employer). 

Employers are advised to understand these impending changes to the employment and anti-discrimination law regime, how they may impact employee’s existing employment terms and conditions and whether any changes need to be made to future employment terms or employment practices to address these amendments to the law.