1. Employment Ordinance

The Employment Ordinance provides basic statutory protection to employees in respect of the payment of wages, sick leave, maternity leave, holidays, rest days, redundancy, lay-offs and termination of employment. The Employment Ordinance also regulates the operations of employment agencies. Under the Employment Ordinance all employees who are in continuous employment are granted rest days, statutory holidays, paid annual leave and other entitlements.

The Employment Ordinance provides a degree of protection for employees in respect of redundancy, but this protection is only available to employees who have been employed or who are deemed to have been employed for at least 24 months by the same employer. The maximum redundancy pay entitlement is one year's salary or HK$180,000, whichever is less.

Long term employees may be entitled to a long service payment (if they are not entitled to a redundancy payment) and the maximum payment is limited to one year's salary or HK$180,000 whichever is less. Any redundancy or long service payment entitlements are reduced by the amount of any gratuity or retirement scheme payment received by the employee.

A female employee who has been in continuous employment by the same employer for a period of at least 26 weeks is entitled to maternity leave and, subject to the provisions of the Employment Ordinance, if the employee has been in continuous employment for a period of 40 weeks, she is entitled to paid maternity leave.

2. Employees Compensation Ordinance

All employers, irrespective of size or industry, must insure against their full liabilities under the law as well as against civil damages. If an employee suffers injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, his employer is liable to pay compensation, even if the employee might have committed acts of fault or negligence when the accident occurred.

3. Labour Relations Ordinance

The Labour Relations Ordinance provides guidelines for settling trade disputes between management and labour. It also provides procedures for special conciliation, voluntary arbitration and boards of enquiry when ordinary conciliation fails.

4. Work Permits

British citizens holding valid British passports do not require visas for any purpose. In the case of a British citizen who can provide evidence of employment in Hong Kong, the normal practice of the Immigration Department is to grant permission to stay for an initial period of 12 months. Before expiry of the initial 12 month period, the person must apply for an extension of stay which, in normal circumstances, will be granted either for a specific number of years (often 3) or to the end of his period of employment.

Notwithstanding the lack of evidence of employment, a person will still normally be allowed an initial stay of 12 months if that person is a British citizen and 3 months in other cases provided he can satisfy the immigration officer that he has sufficient means of support for his stay and holds an onward/return ticket. If such a person subsequently intends to take up employment in Hong Kong, he must apply to the Immigration Department to change his status from visitor to resident.

Most foreign nationals other than British citizens who arrive in Hong Kong in order to take up employment must obtain, prior to arrival, a resident visa and a work permit, both of which are issued by the Hong Kong Immigration Department at its sole discretion.

NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

If you would like further advice please contact: David Ellis, Johnson Stokes & Master, 16th Floor, Princes Building, 10 Chater Road, Hong Kong; Tel 2843 4226; Fax no. : 2845 9121. Alternatively do a text search "Johnson Stokes and Master" and "Business Monitor"