Hong Kong Wage Subsidy Update 5 – Reminder: Deadline to apply for 1st tranche of Employment Support Scheme (ESS) closes on Sunday, 14 June 2020 at 23:59 HKT


A reminder for any employers intending to apply for the first tranche of the Employment Support Scheme (ESS) in Hong Kong that applications will close this coming Sunday, 14 June 2020 at 23:59 HKT.  The application needs to be made online via the ESS portal (www.ess.gov.hk).

Details on the ESS scheme can be found on the ESS portal, which also contains:

  1. A list of answers to frequent questions about the ESS (FAQs); and
  2. Terms and Conditions of the ESS (the “ESS T&C”) (https://www.ess.gov.hk/en/terms-and-conditions.html).

The ESS scheme is summarised in our earlier updates, which can be found at the links below.  

Further points for employers and potential applicants to note now that the application details and ESS T&C have been released are:

  1. Undertaking As part of the application process, employers must give an undertaking, which is worded as follows in the online application: 
    1. “I undertake and warrant that I must not “make redundancies” during the subsidy period (i.e. the number of employees on the payroll in any one month of the subsidy period must not be less than the number of paid and unpaid staff in March 2020); and must spend all the wage subsidies on paying wages to employees in the relevant months during the subsidy period.  I understand that if I am found to have breached the above undertakings, the Government reserves the right to claw back all or part of the wage subsidies and/or impose other penalties.”
  2. This is consistent with the Government’s earlier statements regarding the undertaking to be required of employers.  However, employers should note that:
    1. The ESS T&C and undertaking indicate that whether an employer has “made redundancies” will be initially assessed based on whether the number of employees on the MPF record certificates in the subsidy period is less than the number of paid and unpaid employees on the MPF record certificates in March 2020.  Curiously, the ESS T&C does not currently refer to or adopt the definition of “redundancy” used in the Employment Ordinance (as at 12 June 2020). 
    2. The ESS T&C sets out the clawbacks and penalties that may be applied if the employer does not spend all the subsidy on paying wages or if the number of employees in the subsidy month is less than the number of paid and unpaid employees in March 2020.  In both the undertaking and the ESS T&C the Government reserves its right to also impose other (as yet unspecified) penalties for breach of the undertakings.
  1. ESS T&C may be amended in the future The Government has reserved its right to revise the ESS T&C at any time and the ESS T&C states that the Government shall not be liable to the application or any third party for any loss whatsoever as a result of any such revision.  Any revision to the ESS T&C will take immediate effect and applicants are instructed to review the ESS T&C periodically to review the latest version (see Clause 10.3 of ESS T&C). 

To contact the Tanner De Witt Employment Practice, please reach out to Kim or Russell at:

Earlier announcements

19 May 2020 – Hong Kong Wage Subsidy Update 4 –Employment Support Scheme (ESS) Application details announced

14 May 2020 – Hong Kong Wage Subsidy Update 3 – HK Government releases further details on application process for Employment Support Scheme (ESS)

20 April 2020 – Hong Kong Wage Subsidy Update – Further details on Employment Support Scheme (ESS) provided in Finance Committee Discussion Paper

9 April 2020 – Wage subsidy and employment relief announced in second round of Anti-epidemic fund

Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.