The Hong Kong Employment Ordinance that Everyone Should Know About 2020

Busy People

To avoid being exploited or “duped” by an employer, everyone should learn about their basic rights and entitlements under law. We are talking about holidays, resignation terms, and “Li’s force field” (tropical typhoon cyclones).
For this reason, everyone should take the time to learn what is set out in the Hong Kong's governments official ordinance!


Q: Can your wages be reduced if you are on sick leave with a registered doctor’s certificate?

A: Yes.

The paid sick leave entitlement under the Employment Ordinance applies only to sick leave of at least four consecutive days where a registered doctor’s certificate is presented, and provided that the employee has sufficient accumulated “paid sickness days” under a continuous employment contract. Under the Employment Ordinance, paid sickness days are accumulated under the following conditions:

  • You have been continuously employed by the same employer for 4 weeks or more, with at least 18 hours worked per week (i.e., "418"); and

  • Paid sickness days accumulate at 2 days per month for the first year of employment, and subsequently 4 days per month, but not to exceed 120 days total at any one time.

Where you are entitled with paid sick leave (that is, for a leave period of no less than four consecutive days, with a registered doctor’s certificate presented, and sufficient accumulated paid sickness days), you are only entitled to receive four-fifths your average daily wage.

Apart from the above-mentioned four-day paid sick leave covered by employment protection, single paid sick leave should be “better than the benefits entitled under the Employment Ordinance".

Therefore, it is legal to deduct the wages in connection with paid sick leave.

Q: Is paid maternity leave a must for women?

A: It depends.

To be entitled to paid maternity leave - An employee must have been employed for the 40 weeks immediately prior to her scheduled maternity leave under a continuous contract (think “418” above);

She must give notice of the pregnancy and intention to take the maternity leave to her employer; and She must produce a medical certificate specifying the leave date, as required for her employer.

In such case, the employee will be entitled to 10 weeks of paid maternity leave, but only at the rate of four-fifths of the average daily wage. However, should the length of an employee’s employment under a continuous contract be less than 40 weeks immediately before her scheduled maternity leave, the employee is still eligible for 10 weeks maternity leave, provided the employee has given notice of pregnancy and the intention to take maternity leave to her employer. However such leave will be without pay. Q: Do you get "Public Holidays" or only "Statutory Holidays"?

A: Best to check! The Employment Ordinance does not require an employer to grant leave on public holidays. Generally, there are 17 days of public holidays; however, only 12 are statutory holidays. The difference comes from 3 days for Easter Holiday, 1 day for Buddha's birthday and December 26 (Boxing Day). According to the 2011 survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department, only 49.5% of the employees in Hong Kong get to enjoy public holidays. Hopefully you will be one of the luckier employees.


Q: How much notice is necessary to terminate an employment contract?

A: It depends on the situation. Employment may be terminated either by the employer or employee -- During the first month of probation: no notice required. After the first month of the probationary period: at least 7 days notice. After the probation period: at least 7 days notice (where specified term under contract) or at least 1 month notice (where no specific provision under contract). Longer periods are permissible, so effectively this leaves it subject to the contract.

Q: How much does it cost for the wage in lieu of notice?

A: Payment can be made in lieu of employment termination notice per the following formula -

Average monthly salary/daily wages within 12 months before the date of contract termination*
× Number of months/days of the notice period = Payment made in lieu of notice

For example, Summer's monthly salary for the first year is $15,000, and she failed to provide a one-month notice in advance for her contract termination, as required. Therefore, she must pay wages in lieu of notice of HKD$15,000 ($15,000 per month × 1 month advanced notice period).


Q: Can I refuse to work in times of typhoon signal no. 8?

A: It depends on the contract. The Labour Department's guideline states that employers should “only request those staff who are absolutely essential to report for duty under adverse weather conditions".

If you are unfortunately selected, you are entitled to go. However, by the time of suspension of the bad weather signal, the first 4 hours and the last 4 hours, if you encounter accidents on the way to and from work, it is classified as a work injury. You may persuade your boss to let you stay at home with this reason!

Q: Part-time / intern = no paid sickness allowance?

A: The key is also "418". If you work for the same company for 4 weeks in a row and work 18 hours or more per week, you can enjoy paid sickness allowance, rest days, paid annual leave, etc. In order to minimize the welfare, some immoral companies may play tricks such as reducing working hours on the third week deliberately, They claim to provide you with more rest time and keep the working hours less than 18 hours. Therefore, in the first month of your new job, you are advised to pay more attention to the working schedule and record your daily working hours.

Q: How much do I have to pay if I damage my company’s computer?

A: You are required to pay only up to $300 for an employer's goods, equipment, or property damaged or lost due to neglect or default. This rule applies no matter if the item is a computer, projector, photocopying machine, or camera. In return for the daylight robbery from your boss, perhaps you can directly put a copy of the "Employment Ordinance" on his/her desk.

Hopefully you are now better informed of your rights under the HK employment ordinance. Please remember this discussion is provided for your reference only and it is not a legal document or otherwise legal advice. The Ordinance remains the sole authority for the provisions of the law explained.

Naomi Chan

Career Coach and professional career hacker at Team Vanna

4 min read

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