Equal Opportunities Commission


E-news Issue 245


Government warns employers against dismissing foreign domestic workers with COVID-19

The Labour Department issued a press release on 3 November 2020, reminding employers that they should not dismiss foreign domestic workers (FDWs) who have contracted COVID-19, and should continue to comply with requirements under the Employment Ordinance (EO) and the relevant Standard Employment Contract amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the EO, an employer is prohibited from terminating the contract of employment of an employee on his or her paid sickness day, except in cases of summary dismissal due to the latter's serious misconduct. An employer who contravenes relevant provisions of the EO commits an offence and is liable to prosecution and, upon conviction, to a maximum fine of $100,000. Employers may also contravene the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) by treating FDWs less favourably (e.g. by dismissing them) because they have been infected with COVID-19.

Although the DDO provides an exception for discrimination based on an infectious disease listed under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (e.g. COVID-19), it applies only where the discriminatory act is “reasonably necessary” to protect public health. In relation to situations involving COVID-19, employees diagnosed with the disease are likely to take sick leave to which they are entitled under the EO. They would not be able to return home or resume employment until they have tested negative for the virus and have physically recovered. In such circumstances, it is unlikely that it would be “reasonably necessary” to dismiss an employee with the virus or after he or she has recovered.

The EOC has published an FAQ explaining the DDO and the rights it extends to FDWs in situations related to COVID-19. To learn more, please click the link below.