Can Employers Require Employees to Get Vaccinated in Hong Kong?

Do Vaccines Mean the End of My Business Troubles?

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the global community for over a year now. Business disruptions have been rife and everyone has had to acclimatise to the changes. However, the development of vaccines has given hope that normality can return soon.

Most governments around the world are encouraging their citizens to get inoculated to reach a better level of immunity. Hong Kong has been one of the most successful places in controlling the pandemic and is rolling out its free vaccination programme. However, the number of people taking vaccinations has been relatively low as the population remains cautious. At the time of writing, according to Our World in Data, around 13.4% of the population in HK have been fully vaccinated, significantly lower than the 28.3% seen in Singapore.

With new rules and regulations for HK businesses being introduced in regards to vaccination of employees and their operations, it has led many business leaders to question “can I require my employees to get vaccinated?

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Is it Legal to Make Vaccination Mandatory for My Employees?

In Hong Kong there is actually no law that prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to be vaccinated, making the situation a bit obscure. However, employers are legally required to take reasonable care of their employees but whether vaccination is considered “reasonable” is dependent on different situations.

Consideration for both the macro and micro environment is important from a legal perspective. The macro environment takes into account the situation in Hong Kong. It will look at whether vaccination has been mandated by the government or the social distancing measures implemented.

On the micro level, the employee’s work environment would be one of the determining factors. Whether the individual’s work can result in a heightened risk to people whom they come into contact with or if there has been an outbreak at the workplace will be of significance.

It also important to consider the health of the employee and whether they have underlying medical issues which can affect the person’s suitability for the vaccine.

In certain situations, it may be “reasonable” for employees to take vaccinations. For example, if the member of staff is required to travel frequently and can come into contact with passengers, then vaccination could be considered reasonable. However, employees that are working remotely and have limited close contact with other people, should not be required to be vaccinated by their employer if vaccination is on a voluntary basis.

There are other legal issues employers must take into account. For example, if an employer is targeting only a select part of its workforce to get vaccinated, they could be creating a risk under Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination ordinances. For this reason, it is best to seek legal advice to ensure you are not caught out.

(Source: Mayer Brown)

Employee Health & Safety Should be Your Number One Priority

For every company, employee wellness should always be the top priority! As the phrase goes “what goes around comes around”. If you treat your employees well, you’ll reap the benefits but if you don’t your business will suffer. Increased productivity, loyalty, and engagement are just a few benefits you can expect from treating employees better.

As the world goes through a pandemic, employee care has been pushed to the forefront as businesses battle to keep operations running while balancing the wellbeing of staff. Many successful companies have been taken concrete steps like introducing work from home policies, offering vaccine leave, and implementing employee assistance programmes (EAP).

A report by SCMP stated that 87 percent of Hong Kong employees are suffering from work stress during the Covid-19 pandemic. An EAP helps employees relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and solves general issues affecting their daily lives.

If you are an employer that truly cares about employee wellbeing then you should look to tailor an EAP for your business! If you don’t know where to start, you can contact our professional team to learn more about our flexible Asia-centric EAPs that can be customised for your company’s culture!  

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