Employment Spotlight: Can an Employer Vary the Terms of an Employee’s Employment Agreement Without the Employee’s Consent?

In light of COVID-19, many employers have been considering ways to reduce their overhead costs. Employees’ wages often account for a large share of the employer’s expenses, consequently, employees are increasingly being asked to vary their employment terms by agreeing to take no pay leave and/or a reduction to their wages. Often these requests are premised as an alternative to redundancy. This article examines the rights of both employers and employees in a relation to a variation of the employment contract.

Employment Spotlight: Confidentiality Clauses in Settlement Agreements

A settlement agreement (also known as a separation agreement) is a legally binding contractual document which sets out the employer’s and employee’s agreed terms of the termination of the employee’s employment. There is no statutory requirement to enter into a settlement agreement upon termination, however, where separation terms can be agreed, it is often helpful to confirm those terms in writing. Typically, a term of the settlement agreement will be to keep the terms and the fact of the agreement confidential. In this note, we consider the effect of a breach of a confidentiality clause in a settlement agreement and discuss factors that may be useful for drafting a confidentiality clause.

Employment Spotlight: What should an employee expect to see in a standard Separation Agreement

It is increasingly common for employers and employees in Hong Kong to agree cessation terms. In such cases, an employee may be asked to enter into a separation agreement. There are no statutory provisions which govern what should and should not be included in a separation agreement. Parties are generally free to agree terms of termination so long as those terms do not purport to contract out of the parties’ statutory rights. It should be remembered that although separation agreements are a particular type of contract, the ordinary rules of contract remain applicable. That is to say, there must be an offer, acceptance of that offer and consideration (i.e. something of benefit). Further, a separation agreement procured by a misrepresentation by either party may be rescinded under ordinary contractual principles.

Employment Update: Work Arrangements during Typhoons and Rainstorms

One of the changes brought about by Covid-19 is a shift in work practices particularly in relation to working from home. This has brought to the fore the question of whether employees have to work in the case of adverse weather conditions such as Black Rainstorm warnings, Typhoon signal 8 (or above) and/or “extreme conditions” caused by super typhoons (“Adverse Weather”). In this article, we consider arrangements that employers may consider putting in place during Adverse Weather conditions.

Insolvencies in Hong Kong in a post-COVID-19 World

COVID-19 has created unforeseen challenges to businesses all over the world, resulting in many companies being unable to survive the pandemic. Hong Kong has been no exception. In Hong Kong, according to data published by the Hong Kong Government’s Official Receiver’s Office, in the first seven months of the year, 5219 compulsory bankruptcy petitions and 247 compulsory winding-up petitions were presented, representing 13.7% and 5.1% year-on-year increase respectively. The effect of COVID-19 may yet be fully reflected by these figures.

Employment Update: Second tranche of the Employment Support Scheme set to open for applications

The Government has announced that the application for the second tranche of the Employment Support Scheme (“ESS”) is set to open on 31 August 2020 until 13 September 2020 (“Application Period”). Employers who wish to apply for ESS relief must submit a new application for the second tranche.Self-employed individuals who have already received a one-off lump sum subsidy in the first tranche will not be able to apply for the second tranche of the ESS.

Why having two weddings can have unintended consequences

Since early 2020, the world has been experiencing an unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic which is affecting many aspects of people’s lives, including travelling plans and plans to get married. Some have postponed or cancelled their wedding plans, whilst others have decided to go through a simple marriage ceremony in their place of residence, to be followed by a wedding celebration in the same location or in a foreign location when the situation later permits.