Frontline APAC Employment Law Update June 2021

In this issue of Bird & Bird's APAC Frontline, we look back at the various changes and developments in the last quarter across Australia, Hong Kong, the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Singapore.

Legal Updates - Australia

Workplace behaviours continue to be a focus in 2021
(by Kristy Peacock-Smith and Leila Moddel)

Sexual harassment in the workplace is an ongoing issue for employers in Australia, despite almost four decades of legislation against it in Australia as well as the ‘Me Too’ movement which put the spotlight on sexual harassment across the globe. Most recently in Australia, significant attention has been on the Federal Parliament, where allegations of sexual harassment by senior members of the government and Members of Parliament have been reported.

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Legal Updates - Hong Kong

New breastfeeding discrimination and harassment laws in Hong Kong
(by Pattie Walsh and Diana Purdy)

With effect from 19 June 2021, women in Hong Kong are protected from discrimination and harassment on the ground of breastfeeding.
As reported in a previous issue of Frontline APAC, the Discrimination Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Ordinance 2020 ("Amendment Legislation") was enacted on 19 June 2020 and introduced certain changes to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (“SDO”). Part 2 of the Amendment Legislation makes it unlawful to directly or indirectly discriminate against breastfeeding women. The effective date of Part 2 was delayed for one year until 19 June 2021.

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Proposed increased penalties for unlawful employment under the Immigration Ordinance
(by Pattie Walsh, Diana Purdy and Jenny Kwan)

Employers will soon face stiffer penalties for employing overstayers as a result of changes made under the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2020 (“Immigration Bill”).

Expected to come into effect on 1 August 2021, the Immigration Bill was passed by the Legislative Council on 28 April 2021. Under the current Immigration Ordinance, a person who enters Hong Kong illegally or is subject to a removal or deportation order may be prosecuted under s.38AA of the Immigration Ordinance if he/she takes up employment in Hong Kong.

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Increase in statutory holidays on the Hong Kong horizon
(by Pattie Walsh and Diana Purdy)

The Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 (“Amendment Bill”), which was gazetted on 5 March 2021, proposes to progressively increase the number of statutory holidays from 12 days to 17 days to bring the holiday entitlements under the Employment Ordinance (“EO”) in line with the General Holidays Ordinance (“GHO”).

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Legal Updates - PRC

(by Ying Wang, Lorraine Sun)
Highlights regarding Labor Law in the Report on the Work of the Government in 2021

On 5 March 2021, Premier Li Keqiang delivered the Report on the Work of the Government (“Report”) on behalf of the State Council at the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress of the People’s Republic of China. Here are some of the highlights of the Report regarding labor law.

As stated in the Report, the main projected targets for development this year include:

  • GDP growth of over 6 percent;
  • over 11 million new urban jobs; and
  • a surveyed urban unemployment rate of around 5.5 percent.

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The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security - Studies on Specific Reform Proposals for Delaying Retirement

On 26 February 2021, the Vice Minister of Human Resources and Social Security, You Jun, stated at a press conference of the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China that the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is working with relevant departments to study specific reform plans for delaying retirement.

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Determination of the Standard of Work-related Death Allowance in 2021: RMB 876,680

Recently, the National Bureau of Statistics ("NBS") has issued the National Economic and Social Development Statistical Bulletin of the People's Republic of China 2020, in which the “per capita disposable income of urban residents” (RMB 43,834) in Part IX “Residents' Income Consumption and Social Security” is released.

According to the Article 39 of Regulations on Work-Related Injury Insurance, the rate for the lump sum work-related death allowance shall be twenty times of the average per capita disposable income of national urban residents for the previous year. Therefore, if the time of the employee's work-related death is between 1 January, 2021 and 31 December, 2021, the lump sum work-related death allowance shall be RMB 43,834 × 20 = RMB 876,680. This figure is fixed for every city of China.

Legal Updates - Singapore

(by Seow Hui Goh, Natasha Cheng, David Lee)
Changes to work immigration rules – Dependant’s Pass holders will require Work Pass in order to work in Singapore

With effect from 1 May 2021, any foreigner in Singapore on a dependant's pass (“DP Holder”) will need to have their own work pass in order to be employed in Singapore; the current Letter of Consent (“LOC”) method will no longer be effective.
Employers employing DP Holders will now be required to sponsor work passes for these individuals once their current LOC expires. Practically, when applying for a work pass for a DP Holder, an employer will need to consider:

  • whether the DP Holder meets the relevant minimum qualifying salary for that type of work pass;
  • whether employment of the DP Holder will cause the employer to exceed its dependency ratio; and
  • payment of the relevant foreign worker levy to the Ministry of Manpower.

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Changes to Employment Pass regulations for overseas intra-corporate transferees

Generally, an employer is exempt from the advertising requirement under the Fair Consideration Framework when making an Employment Pass application, if the role is to be filled by an overseas Intra-Corporate Transferee (ICT) as defined under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) General Agreement Trade in Services (GATS) or any applicable Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which Singapore is a part of.

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Changes to the Requirements for Safe Management Measures at the Workplace

The Ministry of Manpower has updated its’ advisory on Requirements for Safe Management Measures at the Workplace. Effective 8 May 2021 to 30 May 2021, employers must ensure that no more than 50% of its’ employees who are able to work from home return to the workplace at any time. This comes as a reduction of workplace capacity, where previously, up to 75% of employees who are able to work from home were allowed to return to the workplace at any time. However, there is no limit on the proportion of an individual employee’s working time that can be spent at the workplace. In addition, social gatherings at the workplace should be avoided. All social and recreational gatherings within or outside of the workplace must also adhere to a gathering size limit of 5 persons.

The above updates are produced by our Singapore office, Bird & Bird ATMD LLP, and does not constitute legal advice. It is intended to provide general information only. Please note that the information in the updates is accurate as at 5 May 2021. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on any changes as soon as these are communicated to us. Please contact our lawyers if you have any specific queries.


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