The primary piece of legislation, the Employment Ordinance (the "EO"), prescribes certain basic rights and protection for most employees. The EO applies to every employee engaged under a contract of employment in Hong Kong with only a few minor exceptions1 . The EO applies equally to locals and foreign nationals working in Hong Kong. Provided that the contractual terms of service are no less favourable than the basic protection afforded by the EO, the contract of employment will govern the relationship between employer and employee. Any term or condition of a contract of employment that seeks to reduce any right, benefit or protection conferred upon the employee by the EO will be void. So, to the extent that any contractual terms are less favourable, the EO will prevail.
The primary legislation governing trade unions in Hong Kong is the Trade Unions Ordinance (the "TUO"). A trade union registered under the TUO has certain rights. The majority of trade unions registered under the TUO are employee unions with a handful of employers' associations, mixed organisations of employers and employees and trade union federations. Employees have the freedom and right to become a member of a registered trade union and is protected when engaging in certain activities of the trade union at the appropriate time. There is no collective bargaining legislation in Hong Kong, e.g. a legislation that regulates the negotiation between an employer with a trade union or staff association in relation to employment issues. So, even if a deal is struck between the trade union and the employer, then the terms of that deal will not automatically be binding on the members of the trade union. Trade disputes (particularly strikes) are not common in Hong Kong.
In general, unless a person has the right of abode or right to land in the HKSAR, that person will require an appropriate visa to work in Hong Kong. The sponsor of an employment visa would typically be the employing company in Hong Kong, who is responsible for repatriation of the employee upon expiration of his or her permitted stay in Hong Kong. There is no statutory requirement that a percentage of employees must be local nationals or that a percentage of payroll be paid to local national employees. In applying for an employment visa, the Immigration Department requires an employer to confirm by way of a declaration on the relevant application form that genuine efforts have been made to recruit suitable local candidate but without success. If an employer is unable to confirm that genuine efforts have been made to recruit locally, the employer will have to provide reasons.
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