Covid-19 may have caused countries all over the world to reevaluate certain aspects of their labour policies, as well as the transition into coverage and protection in this pandemic. However, this does not necessarily deter countries from making changes to their employment laws regardless of the covid-19 situation, and analysing them would help one understand the general trend and direction a country is heading towards. In this case, Hong Kong’s recent proposed changes to their labor laws is definitely noteworthy.
In effect: Extension of Maternity Leave
In an effort to support women and to add more incentives to have children, with effect from December 2020, paid maternity leave has been extended from 10 to 14 weeks, with the additional 4 weeks reimbursed from the government. Thus, employers should update their maternity leave policies accordingly.
In other related changes, further protection for breastfeeding women has been passed in the March 2021 Employment (Amendment) bill.
Proposed: Increase in Number of Statutory Holidays
Hong Kong is unique in its number of holidays and its differences — did you know that Hong Kong has separate statutory and public, or also known as, general holidays? Employees are entitled to paid day leaves on statutory holidays, while general holidays outnumber statutory holidays by 5 days, with overlaps. Which is to say, 12 out of 17 general holidays are statutory holidays, while employees are not entitled to paid day-offs for the remaining 5.
In March 2021, the Hong Kong government had gazetted the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 to increase the number of statutory days to match the number of general holidays, by increments of one day every two years, until the year of 2030, when the change would be completed.
In the event that this change is executed, employers will have to be aware that their employees are now entitled to more paid leaves than before, and plan the company’s work schedules accordingly. The workforce would have been given time to adjust to these changes throughout the 8 years, and so the changes shouldn’t take anyone too much by surprise.
Proposed: Strengthening of Data Protection Laws
Personal data has become an increasingly valuable asset in the age of modern technology, while also easily abused for nefarious purposes. Employers should pay special attention to the proposal to strengthen data protection laws, as the handling of employee data would most certainly be affected. To stay fully compliant and save costs on hefty legal fees resulting from mishandling of personal data, it is important to always keep an eye on such changes.
Once a British colony, and now part of China, Hong Kong’s laws have been observed to be shifting to resemble more of China’s. These changes however are progressive changes, putting increased importance on the welfare of the workforce, as seen for the added protection of (pregnant, and breastfeeding) women, tightened security for personal data, and the increase in paid leaves in the form of additional statutory holidays. Perhaps welfare would continue to be in the spotlight of labor laws, with the increased importance on mental health taking place in developed countries too. Adding more welfare for employees would surely be a popular choice among employees, while keeping in line with the general direction these recent changes seem to be set in. For advice on HR policies as well as changes one should make in regards to employment laws, do keep our compliance advisory services in mind.