In 2018, several amendments were made to the Hong Kong Employment Ordinance, which gave staff better employment protection and benefits. Nevertheless, given the number of labour disputes handled by the Labour Department in recent years, it seems that Hong Kong employees are still at risk of inadequate protection.
According to the Labour Department, they handled 13,781 labour dispute claims in 2018 (the number of claims from 2014 to 2018 is shown in Table 1). Over 70% of these claims were settled through conciliation services provided by the Labour Department’s Labour Relations Division, without the need for a Labour Tribunal or a decision from the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board.
Statistics from the Labour Department show that in over 80% of the cases in 2018, the dispute was about the termination of a contract, wages, or statutory entitlements (such as holiday pay, annual leave pay, rest day pay or sickness allowance). Labour disputes can be time-consuming and costly for a company. It can also damage the company’s reputation, especially in the era of social media, when information is spread quickly and widely. Given that amendments to the Hong Kong Employment Ordinance are ongoing, it’s worth reminding employers that in order to avoid or minimise labour disputes, they should keep abreast of these changes and comply with the employer’s obligations – particularly in unexpected situations or in times of potential economic downturn.