Legal update: Recent amendments to Hong Kong employment laws (sexual harassment / paternity leave / minimum wage & employee compensation)


Employment Law Update Q1 2015

There has been a wave of employment related legislation enacted in Hong Kong over the last few months, most of which directly benefits employees. This legislation has repercussions for employers, who need to be aware of the changes and consider what adjustments they may need to make within their businesses as a result.

Sexual harassment laws extended

Effective from 12 December 2014, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance has been amended making it unlawful for customers to sexually harass someone in the course of either seeking to be provided with goods, facilities or services by that person or being provided with goods, facilities or services by that person. This applies to people working within Hong Kong as well as to people working on local ships or aircraft outside Hong Kong. The need for such protection was highlighted by the findings of the Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in Employment – Questionnaire Survey for Workers of Service Industries announced by the Equal Opportunities Commission in May 2014, which revealed that almost one-fifth or 19% of the responding service industry workers alleged they had been sexually harassed at work in the last twelve months.

Employers should take note of this amendment and:

– be aware that an employer may be vicariously liable for the actions of one of its employees if the employee sexually harasses a service provider whilst engaged on company business unless the employer can prove that it took such steps as are reasonably practicable to prevent their employee or agent from engaging in sexual harassment. Such steps would include having an anti-harassment policy in place, providing appropriate anti-harassment training and taking immediate steps to investigate and address any allegation of potential sexual harassment by one of its employees;
– update their anti-harassment policies to include reference to the amendments; and
– if they have employees who deal with customers, make them aware that they are entitled to protection against sexual harassment from customers and ask employees to inform management of any incidents of potential sexual harassment so the employer can take steps to address this as soon as possible.

Minimum Wage Increase

On 16 January 2015, the Chief Executive in Council adopted the recommendation of the Minimum Wage Commission to raise the Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW) rate to $32.5 per hour. Subject to the approval of the Legislative Council, the SMW will increase from HK$30 to HK$32.50 per hour as of 1 May 2015.

Statutory Paternity Leave

Effective from 27 February 2015, eligible male employees employed in the private sector in Hong Kong will be entitled to take up to 3 days’ statutory paternity leave. A brief summary of the Hong Kong statutory paternity leave entitlement is set out here.

Increased compensation under the Employees Compensation Ordinance and Occupational Deafness (Compensation) Ordinance

On 4 February 2015, the Legislative Council passed resolutions to increase the amounts of a total of 13 compensation items under both Ordinances, including a HK$35,910 increase in the minimum compensation for death under the ECO. The changes take effect on 5 March 2015 and are summarised at this link.

Kim Boreham / Rowan Varty

For further information, please contact:
Kim Boreham
Partner | Email

Russell Bennett
Partner | Email

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.