Guide To Discrimination Law In Hong Kong

Published date11 March 2024
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Discrimination, Disability & Sexual Harassment
Law FirmMayer Brown
AuthorMayer Brown

Introduction

GENERAL OVERVIEW

Hong Kong employers and employees have become increasingly aware of their rights and obligations under the anti-discrimination legislation since the passing of the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) and Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) in 1995, the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance (FSDO) in 1997 and the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) in 2008.

In the relatively short period since their coming into force, the anti-discrimination ordinances have seen companies in Hong Kong revise their human resources policies, provide internal grievance mechanisms and recognise the legal rights of their employees to work in an environment free of discrimination and harassment. This has required expenditure of resources on developing policies and practices to ensure compliance with the requirements of the ordinances and to reduce the risk of legal liability.

However, a large proportion of Hong Kong employers still do not have a written anti-discrimination policy. Bearing in mind the potential liability of employers for acts of their employees (see below) as well as the increasing number of claims being brought under the anti-discrimination ordinances this is a situation which we anticipate will rapidly change over the coming years.

This Guide considers the application of the various anti-discrimination ordinances in the employment relationship, the Guide is only meant to provide a general understanding of discrimination law in Hong Kong and is not intended to be formal legal advice. The area of discrimination law is constantly moving forward in new and novel ways. The first step in minimising the risk of breaching the anti-discrimination laws is to be aware of it so that issues can be identified and dealt with in a timely manner

An Outline of Discrimination Generally

THE ELEMENTS OF UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION

Not all acts of discrimination are unlawful. For example, there is no protection against discrimination on the basis of age, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Nor is there any equal pay legislation.

Only discrimination based on one of the protected attributes under the anti-discrimination ordinances will be unlawful. The protected attributes are sex, marital status, pregnancy, breastfeeding, disability, race and family status.

Each of the anti-discrimination ordinances has certain concepts in common. In order to determine whether or not an act constitutes unlawful discrimination it is necessary to ask:

  • Has there been...

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