The Employment Ordinance is the legislation governing the fundamental matters of employment in Hong Kong including payment of wages, restrictions on wages deductions, provision of statutory holidays, the hours of work, etc.
Hours & Pay Regulations
There are no statutory provisions which prescribe the maximum working hours. It is based on an agreement between the employer and the employee.
There is no law in Hong Kong establishing a standard workday or workweek, setting a maximum number of work hours or requiring payment of overtime. Such matters may be negotiated between the employer and the employee.
The law does not define a period. Usually, a 1-hour meal break is available for full-time employees.
A rest day is defined as a continuous period of not less than 24 hours during which an employee is entitled to abstain from working for his employer.
Eligibility for Rest Day
An employee employed under a continuous contract is entitled to not less than 1 rest day in every period of 7 days. Rest days shall be appointed by the employer. They may be granted on a regular or irregular basis:
- Regular rest days-the employer should inform his employees of the arrangement.
- Irregular rest days-before the beginning of each month, the employer must inform his employees orally or in writing of the appointed rest days or by displaying a roster showing the dates of the appointed rest days for each employee.
- Whether a rest day is paid or not is to be agreed upon by employers and employees.
Compulsory Work on Rest Day
An employer must not compel an employee to work on a rest day except in the event of a breakdown of machinery or plant or in any other unforeseen emergency. For any rest day on which the employee is required to work, the employer should substitute some other rest day within 30 days after the original rest day. The employer should notify the employee of the arrangement within 48 hours after the employee is required to work.
Voluntary Work on Rest Days
An employee, except young persons under the age of 18 employed in industrial undertakings, may work voluntarily on a rest day. Any condition in a contract of employment which makes payment of any type of annual bonus or end of year payment conditional on an employee agreeing to work on rest days is void. Sec 17 – 20, Employment Ordinance.
An employee, irrespective of his length of service, is entitled to the following statutory holidays:
- First day of January;
- Lunar New Year’s Day;
- The second day of Lunar New Year;
- The third day of Lunar New Year;
- Ching Ming Festival;
- Labour Day;
- Tuen Ng Festival;
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day;
- The day following the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival;
- Chung Yeung Festival;
- National Day; and
- Chinese Winter Solstice Festival or Christmas Day (at the option of the employer).
- The Birthday of Buddha, being the eighth day of the fourth lunar month.
In addition to the statutory holidays, Hong Kong has 5 additional general holidays which must be kept as holidays by all banks, educational establishments, public offices and Government departments namely:-
- Good Friday;
- The day following Good Friday;
- Easter Monday;
- Christmas Day and
- The first weekday after Christmas.
These General Holidays do not require an employer to make payment of holiday pay on these general holidays. General Holiday Ordinance (Cap 149).
An employee having been employed under a continuous contract for not less than 3 months is entitled to the holiday pay which is equivalent to the daily average wages earned by the employee in the 12-month period preceding the holiday.
Work on Holiday
An alternative holiday should be arranged within 60 days before the statutory holiday or within 60 days after the statutory holiday, Prior Notice to Employee on the Date of Alternative Holiday should be given 48 hrs prior. An employer must not make any form of payment to the employee in lieu of granting a holiday.
If a statutory holiday falls on a rest day, the employee should be granted a holiday on the next day which is not a statutory holiday or an alternative holiday or a substituted holiday or a rest day. Sec 39-41, Employment Ordinance.
Under the EO, employees are entitled to a minimum of 7 to 14 days statutory annual leave for each period of 12 months’ employment, calculated on the basis of length of service as follows:
- At least 1 year but less than 3 years – 7 leaves
- At least 3 years but less than 4 years – 8 leaves
- At least 4 years but less than 5 years – 9 leaves
- At least 5 years but less than 6 years – 10 leaves
- At least 6 years but less than 7 years – 11 leaves
- At least 7 years but less than 8 years – 12 leaves
- At least 8 years but less than 9 years – 13 leaves
- At least 9 years – 14 leaves.
Employers are entitled to determine when annual leave is to be taken and must give 14 days’ notice in writing to the employee of the time that they have selected.
Annual leave must, however, be granted within 12 months of the end of the leave year, although in practice, most employers allow annual leave to be taken as it accrues.
A “leave year” may either be the anniversary of the employee’s commencement of employment or such other date as the employer may elect so as to use a common leave year for all employees, such as a calendar year. Sec 41AA – 41G, Employment Ordinance.
Effective 1 May 2019, the minimum wage rate in Hong Kong increased to HK$37.50 per hour.
The above information on minimum wages might not be up to date & subject to change. Kindly access the link for the current rates.
An employee employed under a continuous contract is entitled to sickness allowance if the sick leave taken is not less than four consecutive days (unless for any day off taken by a female employee for her pregnancy check-ups, post confinement medical treatment or miscarriage, any such day on which she is absent shall be counted as a sickness day and, should be supported by an appropriate medical certificate. The employee is required to have accumulated a sufficient number of paid sick days in order to be eligible.
An employee shall not be entitled to sickness allowance under the following circumstances:
- The employee, without reasonable excuse, refuses treatment by a company doctor of a medical scheme recognized by the Director of Health or disregards the advice of the doctor.;
- The sickness day falls on a statutory holiday on which the employee is entitled to holiday pay; or
- Compensation is payable under the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance.
The daily rate of sickness allowance is a sum equivalent to 4/5th of the average daily wages earned by an employee in the 12-month period preceding the following specified dates. If an employee is employed for less than 12 months, the calculation shall be based on a shorter period. Sickness allowance should be paid to the employee not later than the normal payday.
Accumulation of Paid Sickness Days
An employee can accumulate paid sickness days after having been employed under a continuous contract. Paid sickness days are accumulated at the rate of 2 paid sickness days for each completed month of the employee’s employment during the first 12 months, and four paid sickness days for each completed month of employment thereafter.
Paid sickness days can be accumulated throughout the whole employment period, but shall not exceed 120 days at any one time.
Paid sickness days are divided into two categories-
- Category One – 36 Days – supported by a medical certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner, a registered Chinese medicine practitioner or a registered dentist.
- Category Two – 84 Days – The sickness days taken exceeds the number of paid sickness days remaining in Category One. If required by the employer, a medical certificate* issued by a registered medical practitioner, registered Chinese medicine practitioner or registered dentist attending the employee as an out-patient or in-patient in a hospital should be produced. The medical certificate should specify the number of days on which, and the nature of the sickness or injury on account of which, the employee is unfit for work.
Sec 33 – 37, Employment Ordinance.
Special Leave with pay may be granted in certain circumstances, such as the birth of a child (2 days), marriage (10 days), death of a relative (3 days), and to attend an examination in secondary or university education (2 days for each examination, with a ceiling of 10 days per year).
An employee is entitled to take a continuous period of 10 weeks as maternity leave from the date of commencement of maternity leave or the actual date of confinement if earlier. An additional period of leave for not more than 4 weeks on the grounds of illness or disability due to the pregnancy or confinement.
Effective 11 December 2020, all-female employees shall become eligible for 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, if the actual date of confinement is on or after such date.
Pay – An employee is eligible for maternity leave pay if she has been employed under a continuous contract for not less than 40 weeks immediately before the commencement of scheduled maternity leave.
The daily rate of maternity leave pay is a sum equivalent to 4/5th of the average daily wages earned by an employee in the 12-month period preceding the first day of maternity leave. If an employee is employed for less than 12 months, the calculation shall be based on a shorter period. No payment of maternity leave pay or another sum may be made in lieu of the grant of maternity leave.
Effective December 11, 2020 – As per the amendment, the daily rate of the additional four weeks’ maternity will remain four-fifths of the employee’s average daily wages, but the additional pay will be capped at HK$80,000 (about US$10,322). This will be paid by the Hong Kong government on a reimbursement basis by way of an administrative scheme.
With the agreement of her employer, a pregnant employee may decide on the date of commencement of her maternity leave provided that such date is not less than 2 weeks before, and not more than four weeks before the expected date of confinement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the maternity leave period will commence four weeks before the expected date of confinement. Sec 12A – 15C, Employment Ordinance.
Effective December 11, 2020 – The Miscarriage period is being modified from 28 weeks to 24 weeks. A female employee who suffers miscarriage at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy will be entitled to maternity leave subject to other conditions.
A male employee is entitled to 5 days’ paternity leave for each confinement of his spouse/partner if he–
- Is the father of a newborn child or a father-to-be;
- Has been employed under a continuous contract; and
- Has given the required notification to the employee.
An eligible male employee may take paternity leave at any time during the period from 4 weeks before the expected date of delivery of his child to 14 weeks beginning on the actual date of delivery of his child. He may take all 5 days of paternity leave in one go or on separate days.
Note – If the child is born before 11 December 2020, the time period during which a male employee can take leave is up to 10 weeks beginning on the actual date of delivery of the child.
Pay – A male employee is entitled to paternity leave pay if he has been employed under a continuous contract for not less than 40 weeks immediately before the day of paternity leave, and has provided the required documentation to the employer. The daily rate of paternity leave pay is a sum equivalent to four-fifths of the average daily wages earned by an employee in the 12-month period preceding the day of paternity leave. Sec 15E – 15L, Employment Ordinance.
Rate of paternity leave pay
The daily rate of paternity leave pay is a sum equivalent to four-fifths of the average daily wages earned by an employee in the 12-month period preceding the day of paternity leave. If an employee takes more than one day of paternity leave consecutively, the daily rate of paternity leave pay is a sum equivalent to four-fifths of the average daily wages earned by the employee in the 12-month period preceding the first day of paternity leave.
If the child is born dead or dies after birth and no birth certificate has been issued in respect of the child:
In this case, an employee is entitled to paternity leave pay if he can produce a medical certificate certifying the delivery of the child. If required by the employer, the employee must also provide a written statement signed by him stating that-
- He is the father of the child delivered by the woman named in the medical certificate; and
- The child is born dead or dies after birth, whichever is appropriate
Last updated on: January 7th, 2022