New law ensures employees cannot be dismissed for missing work due to COVID-19, but the unvaxxed are not included

Photo for illustration purpose only. Photo: Mufid Majnun/Unsplash
Photo for illustration purpose only. Photo: Mufid Majnun/Unsplash

Starting today, employers in Hong Kong are legally not allowed to dismiss an employee who misses work due to a COVID-19 isolation or quarantine order.

This comes after two employers were taken to court for sacking an employee or rescinding an offer from an applicant infected with the virus.

According to a government statement, the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2022 takes effect upon gazettal today.

The ordinance stipulates that employees’ absence from work due to their compliance with an isolation order, a quarantine order or a requirement under restriction-testing declaration, which imposes a restriction on movement, will be deemed as sickness day(s). 

Employees who have fulfilled the relevant criteria under the Employment Ordinance will be entitled to sickness allowance, the statement read.

Besides, the dismissal of an employee by reason of his or her absence due to compliance with the above-mentioned anti-epidemic requirements will be considered an unreasonable dismissal, authorities added.

However, if the employer has made a COVID-19 vaccination request to his or her employee and the employee is dismissed due to non-compliance with such request, the dismissal will not be considered an unreasonable dismissal. 

“The legislative amendments seek to reflect the policy intent so as to clarify the rights and obligations between employers and employees under the epidemic, and to strike an appropriate balance between protecting public health and preserving employees’ rights and benefits,” said a spokesman for the Labour Department.

For details and inquiries, please visit the Labour Department’s homepage at www.labour.gov.hk or call its 24-hour hotline at 2717 1771.

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