Following the increase in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong government has announced a series of tightening measures on 8 February 2022. This alert provides an overview of the latest employer-related measures which have been proposed.
Vaccine pass soon to be launched extended to six additional categories of premises
From mid-February 2022 entry to certain regulated premises will require a vaccine pass showing proof of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination. The government has announced plans to gradually tighten the requirements of the vaccine pass such that proof of two, and ultimately three, doses for adults will be required.
The regulated premises to which the vaccine pass will apply will include:
- Catering premises, clubs or nightclubs;
- Schools (except for students);
- Amusement game centres, places of amusement and places of public entertainment;
- Karaoke establishments;
- Mahjong tin-kau premises;
- Bathhouses, fitness centres, beauty parlours and massage establishments;
- Party rooms;
- Sports premises and swimming pools;
- Cruise ships (i.e. suspension of “cruise-to-nowhere” itineraries);
- Certain public facilities (including public libraries);
- Event premises, club houses and hotels or guesthouse;
- Religious premises (except for funerals);
- Barber shops or hair salons;
- Shopping malls and department stores; and
- Wet markets and supermarkets.
Catering premises operating under Type D Mode of Operation will first implement the vaccine pass arrangement on 10 February 2022, followed by other regulated premises on 24 February 2022. The vaccine pass can be uploaded to and accessed in the LeaveHomeSafe app and shown upon entry to the regulated premises as needed.
Certain exemptions will apply to the vaccine pass requirement, including:
a) children under the age of 12;
b) persons holding a specified medical exemption certificate;
c) persons entering the regulated premises only to:
i) purchase or collect a takeaway order;
ii) deliver or collect an article; or
iii) perform necessary repairs;
d) persons entering or passing through the premises in order to receive vaccination, medical tests or treatment, or essential government service;
e) persons appearing in Court, statutory tribunal or statutory board proceedings;
f) persons entering the premises to avoid physical harm to persons inside the premises;
g) persons required by a public officer to enter the premises; and
h) persons having lawful authority or reasonable excuse to enter the premises.
All persons falling within the exempted categories will be required to provide personal particulars, address and means of contact to the person in charge of the premises upon request.
Dismissal of unvaccinated employees will not be treated as unreasonable dismissal
The government announced plans to amend employment laws to the effect that a dismissal of an employee who refuses to receive vaccinations or adhere to the vaccine pass regulations will not be considered to be an unreasonable dismissal. In other words, an employee’s refusal to receive COVID-19 vaccinations or follow vaccine pass regulations will become a valid reason for employers to terminate the employment. The government has indicated that this amendment will likely apply to all employees, not just those working at regulated premises.
Employees subject to lockdown or quarantine orders to be entitled to sick leave
The government also announced plans to amend the statutory sick leave provisions to entitle employees who are subject to lockdowns and mandatory quarantine orders to statutory sick leave. The scope of employees and applicable lockdown or quarantine orders has yet to be clarified. For instance, it is currently unclear whether it will extend to mandatory quarantine requirements for inbound travellers who ordinarily work in Hong Kong. We await further details to be announced by the government in due course.
Our team will monitor developments and provide a comprehensive update when the government announces further details.