Employing workers in Hong Kong
Although Hong Kong’s employment laws are relatively straight forward and consistent with international norms, there are a number of unique provisions which companies employing workers in Hong Kong should be aware of.
In Hong Kong, a worker may be employed to perform work for a business either as an:
employee under a contract of employment, or
independent contractor under a consultancy agreement or a contract for services.
Where a worker is hired as an independent contractor, the employer is only bound by contractual terms of the consultancy agreement or contract for services. Parties are, by and large, free to agree terms of the working relationship and, generally speaking, parties will only be bound by the terms expressly agreed.
On the other hand, where a worker is hired as an employee, the worker is entitled to further and additional basic protections and rights under legislation and common law. The primary legislation governing the employment of employees in Hong Kong is the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57) (EO). Employers and employees cannot contract out of the EO (any attempt is void). Breach of the EO can have serious consequences, and depending on the type of breach, may result in civil liability and/or criminal prosecution for employers and/or directors and officers of the employer.
This article will focus on some key aspects of Hong Kong’s employment laws which are binding on employers and may differ from international practices.