Mandatory vaccination policies have been a thorny issue over the world, but new rules in Hong Kong have clarified the basis on which an employer can implement such a policy.
- Amendments have been made to the Employment Ordinance (EO).
- The EO aims to encourage employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and strengthen employees’ rights and benefits when they are absent from work due to compliance with COVID-19 anti-epidemic measures.
What are the amendments to the EO?
- Employees subject to an isolation order, a quarantine order or those required not to leave a restricted premises will be entitled to a sickness allowance provided certain other criteria under the EO are met;
- Employees being absent from work due to the above restrictions will not be a valid reason for dismissal or variation of employment terms; and
- If an employee fails to comply with an employer’s “legitimate vaccination request”, this will be considered a valid reason for dismissal. The request must meet certain requirements (including that at the time of the request, the employer must reasonably believe that if the employee was to contract COVID-19, others would be at risk of infection).
When did the changes come into effect?
17 June 2022. The changes will not have a retrospective effect.
So, what should employers do now?
- Review and update internal sick leave/pay policies and COVID-19-related policies (including vaccinations) to reflect the changes.
- Remain sensitive to employees’ genuine health conditions and consider each case individually. Consider what, if any, reasonable accommodations can be made in light of an employee’s particular circumstances.
Get in touch if you have any questions or require any APAC employment support.