The Equal Opportunities Commission (“EOC”) has launched a comprehensive review of discrimination laws in Hong Kong. The Discrimination Law Review (“DLR”) will be the first review of Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination legislation since the passing of the four anti-discrimination laws: the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance, the Disability Discrimination Ordinance and, most recently, the Race Discrimination Ordinance. A public consultation process on the DLR which was due to close in early October has been extended as a result of an overwhelming level of interest from the public and other organizations. The EOC announced the new deadline to provide feedback is now 31 October 2014. The EOC will issue a report with recommendations to the government in the middle of 2015.

The DLR seeks to address gaps in the existing legislation and simplify existing laws where possible.

Key topics covered by the DLR relating to employment

  • Whether to legislate against discrimination based on immigration and residency status - a question prompted by the anti-Mainlander protests earlier this year;
  • Whether to widen the definition of marital status to include de facto relationships;
  • Whether to introduce a statutory duty or requirement to provide reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities;
  • Whether to extend protection for sexual harassment to workers employed by different employers working in a common workplace; and
  • Whether to merge all four anti-discrimination ordinances into one for ease and consistency.

Changes to Sexual Harassment Laws?

In the short term, we are also likely to see changes to sexual harassment laws following the second Reading of the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill in June. The proposed amendments will offer legal protection to employees of service industries from sexual harassment by customers. Currently it is unlawful for a service provider to sexually harass a customer, but not for a customer to sexually harass a service provider. The proposed amendments will rectify this hiatus.