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Hong Kong

Employee Rights and Protections

Explore workers' rights and legal protections in Hong Kong


In Hong Kong, employment termination must adhere to specific lawful grounds.

Termination with Notice or Payment in Lieu of Notice Employers can terminate an employee's contract with due notice or a payment in lieu of notice. This applies unless the employee has engaged in serious misconduct.

Summary Dismissal (Termination without Notice) An employer may dismiss an employee without notice or payment in lieu if the employee, in relation to their employment, commits any of the following acts:

  • Willfully disobeys a lawful and reasonable order
  • Misconducts themselves in a manner inconsistent with their duties
  • Is guilty of fraud or dishonesty
  • Is habitually neglectful in their duties

Notice Requirements

When terminating an employment contract in Hong Kong, the following notice requirements apply:

Probationary Period During the probationary period, termination usually requires shorter notice or no notice, as established within the contract of employment.

Standard Notice Period Unless a longer period is specified in the employment contract, the following default notice periods apply:

  • Less than one month of service: 7 days of notice
  • One month of service or more: One month of notice

Payment in Lieu of Notice Instead of giving notice, either party can opt to make a payment in lieu of the notice period.

Severance Pay

An employee may be entitled to severance pay if the following conditions are met:

  • They have been employed under a continuous contract for at least two years.
  • They were dismissed for reasons of redundancy or business closure.

Calculation of Severance Pay

Severance pay is calculated as two-thirds of the employee's last monthly wage, multiplied by their years of service. The maximum statutory severance pay is currently HK$390,000.

Important Considerations

Constructive Dismissal If an employee resigns due to their employer's substantial breach of contract, it may be considered 'constructive dismissal', and the employee could potentially be entitled to severance pay or other remedies.

Unfair Dismissal Employers must have a valid reason to dismiss an employee. Dismissal based on reasons such as pregnancy, illness, or trade union membership would be considered unlawful.


Hong Kong has a robust legal framework in place to protect individuals from discrimination. This framework focuses on several key protected characteristics, and provides mechanisms for redress in case of discrimination. It also outlines specific responsibilities for employers to prevent and address discrimination in the workplace.

Protected Characteristics

In Hong Kong, the anti-discrimination ordinances cover the following key protected attributes:

  • Sex: This includes protection against discrimination based on a person's gender, marital status, and pregnancy.
  • Disability: This provides protection for individuals with physical, psychiatric, or intellectual disabilities and those with chronic illnesses.
  • Family Status: This offers protection against discrimination based on having responsibilities for the care of immediate family members.
  • Race: This ensures protection for individuals regardless of race, color, descent, or national/ethnic origin.

Mechanisms for Redress

If an individual faces discrimination, there are several avenues available for taking action:

  • Conciliation through the Equal Opportunities Commission: The EOC offers conciliation services to help the parties involved reach an amicable resolution.
  • Litigation: Individuals can take legal action through the District Court or in some cases the High Court. The EOC may provide legal assistance in eligible cases.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers in Hong Kong have a crucial role in preventing and addressing discrimination:

  • Develop Non-Discrimination Policies: Employers should implement clear policies in the workplace, outlining a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment based on the protected characteristics.
  • Train Employees: Employers should conduct training sessions to educate employees on the anti-discrimination ordinances and promote inclusivity.
  • Handle Complaints Seriously: Employers should establish a clear procedure for employees to report instances of discrimination. They should investigate complaints promptly and take appropriate action if discrimination has occurred.

Additional Considerations

  • Harassment and Vilification: Hong Kong's anti-discrimination ordinances also cover sexual harassment, disability-based harassment, racial harassment, and racial vilification.
  • Vicarious Liability: Employers can be held accountable for discriminatory acts of their employees in certain circumstances.

Working conditions

Hong Kong's economy is fast-paced, but this vibrancy comes with demanding working conditions, including long hours. Here, we'll explore the legalities and typical situations regarding work hours, rest periods, and ergonomic requirements in Hong Kong.

Work Hours

  • Statutory Limits: Interestingly, Hong Kong does not have a legal limit on working hours for adults. This means the length of the workday or workweek is determined by employment contracts and company culture.

  • Long Hours Culture: Despite the lack of legal restrictions, Hong Kong is known for its long working hours. A 2023 report even titled the city home to Asia's most stressed employees, with an average workweek exceeding 50 hours.

  • Overtime: There are also no legal mandates for overtime compensation. Overtime pay is entirely at the employer's discretion, as stipulated in the employment contract.

Rest Periods

  • Mandatory Breaks: Hong Kong law mandates rest periods for some workers. Specifically, children aged 15 to 18 cannot work for more than five hours continuously without a break of at least 30 minutes.

  • Lunch Break: While not mandated by law, a lunch break is customary in most workplaces. The duration can vary depending on the company, but typically ranges from one to two hours.

  • Days Off: Again, there are no legal requirements regarding days off for adult workers. Sunday is generally considered a rest day, but some companies might require working Saturdays or alternating rest days throughout the week.

Ergonomic Requirements

  • Limited Regulations: Hong Kong's regulations on workplace ergonomics are not as extensive as in other developed economies. There are no specific legal requirements for providing ergonomic furniture or workstation setups.

  • Employer Responsibility: The Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (OSHO) places a general duty on employers to ensure the safety and health of their workers in the workplace. This could be interpreted to include providing a reasonably ergonomic workspace to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.

  • Best Practices: While not mandated by law, following ergonomic best practices can minimize health risks and improve employee well-being. This can include providing adjustable chairs, proper desk heights, and promoting good posture.

Health and safety

Hong Kong places a high emphasis on worker well-being through a comprehensive occupational safety and health (OSH) framework. This framework includes employer obligations, employee rights, and enforcement agencies.

Employer Obligations

The Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap. 509) and the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (Cap. 59) form the basis of OSH legislation in Hong Kong. These ordinances, along with subsidiary regulations, outline employer obligations:

  • Providing a Safe Work Environment: Employers are required to ensure the safety and health of all individuals in the workplace by maintaining machinery, managing hazardous substances, and implementing risk assessments.
  • Fire Safety: Employers are responsible for adequate fire precautions, including clear exits, fire safety signage, and proper maintenance of fire equipment.
  • Workplace Hygiene: Employers must provide sufficient lighting, ventilation, and drainage. Additionally, clean and accessible toilets and washing facilities are mandatory.
  • Manual Handling: Employers need to assess manual handling risks and provide training to minimize potential injuries.
  • Display Screen Equipment: Employers must address ergonomic risks associated with prolonged computer use by providing workstation assessments and breaks.

Employee Rights

Employees also play a crucial role in workplace safety and have corresponding rights:

  • Right to a Safe Workplace: Employees have the right to work in a safe environment free from foreseeable risks.
  • Information and Training: Employees have the right to be informed about potential hazards and receive proper safety training.
  • Refusal of Unsafe Work: Employees can refuse work they believe is unsafe, provided they have reasonable justification.

Enforcement Agencies

The Labour Department is the primary agency responsible for enforcing OSH regulations. This is achieved through inspections, investigations, and issuing improvement notices or prosecution in case of non-compliance.

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