Hong Kong currently has anti-discrimination legislation covering four areas:

  • disability discrimination
  • family status
  • sex discrimination
  • race discrimination.

In very general terms, discrimination legislation protects people from discrimination, victimisation, harassment and vilification on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, family status and race, in a variety of areas including employment, education and the provision of goods, facilities and services – subject to certain exemptions.

The legislation also provides a framework for redress, either with the assistance of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), the statutory body tasked with implementing the anti-discrimination legislation and promoting awareness of diversity and equal opportunities, or privately in the District Court.

There is currently no express legislative protection against discrimination on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  However, in July 2014, a court order took effect, allowing those who have received full sex re-assignment surgery to be treated for the purpose of marriage registration as being of the sex to which they are re-assigned after the surgery.  Amendments to the legislation to reflect this position are still pending.

In February 2015, three days of paid (at 80% of average daily wage) paternity leave became a statutory entitlement.  The provisions largely mirror those for maternity leave, although the period of maternity leave entitlement is ten weeks.

Looking ahead

The EOC is currently finalising its Discrimination Law Review (DLR), aimed at harmonising the current law.  The study report was originally expected in mid-2015 but is now expected in early 2016. 130,000-plus submissions were made by individuals and organisations during the three-month public consultation period.  Some of the areas under review are:

  • Combining the four laws into one law, to provide consistent protections.  There is currently some inconsistency between the different laws, for example "indirect discrimination" is not consistently defined;
  • Changing the protected characteristics to include, for example, de facto relationships, nationality and citizenship;
  • A duty to provide reasonable "accommodation" (adjustments) for persons with disabilities;
  • Situations where harassment is prohibited.

Interestingly, the EOC stated that the DLR was not intended to be a consultation on developing comprehensive discrimination legislation for new protected characteristics, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, or age.  These have been made the subject of two separate studies, with reports expected in late 2015:

  • Feasibility Study on Legislating Against Discrimination on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex (LGBTI) Status, and
  • Exploratory Study on Age Discrimination in Employment.

Despite Hong Kong's overall modernity, its society is relatively conservative on aspects of equal opportunities, and calls for change are often met with significant resistance.  The EOC has a lot of areas to tackle on its mission to build a fully diverse and inclusive workplace.