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How employers can prepare for a potential lockdown in HK

As Hong Kong struggles to contain its worst COVID-19 outbreak to date, there are talks about a potential lockdown in March. Even though local officials have yet to make any firm decisions, residents are preparing by stocking up on food, supplies, and medicines. Time will tell if another HK lockdown will happen, but one thing that is likely to go ahead is universal testing.

Just last month, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the compulsory universal testing (CUT) scheme would be implemented in March. Under the scheme, all citizens must undergo compulsory testing in HK consisting of three rounds of COVID-19 tests. Lam also recently said that there will not be a “wholesale” city lockdown.

The inconsistent timeline for universal testing has become a growing concern for business owners, as prolonged closures can affect everything from recruitment to logistics. This Pacific Prime Hong Kong article explores how employers can prepare for a potential lockdown in HK.

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Things employers need to start thinking about

Following the Government’s announcement that universal testing will be launched as early as the middle of this month (March 2022) and the anticipation of a potential lockdown, it’s time for employers to prepare as best they can. According to law firm Deacon’s Cynthia Chung, there are a few ways employers in HK can prepare for it.

Figure out leave

If a lockdown happens, most employees may not be able to travel to the workplace (except for those from exempted categories). Fortunately, modern technology makes it possible for some employees to work from home. But there are plenty of job duties that cannot be done remotely.

Since employers may not be able to keep the workplace open if a lockdown occurs, they may consequently not be able to provide a workplace, which is a legal duty. Employment contracts usually don’t have specific provisions for situations such as these, where both parties are unable to fulfill their duties. It’s therefore advisable for employers to plan for the future and settle on an arrangement with employees to prepare for a potential lockdown.

Some things to consider include:

  • Will employees be required to take annual leave or no pay leave?
  • Will the employer pay the normal salary or a different rate?

It’s important to note that, under the Employment Ordinance, a minimum of 14 days advance notice is required if an employer chooses to ask employees to take annual leave. Employers should communicate with their staff as soon as possible to avoid disputes down the line.

Protocol for employees testing positive

Once the universal testing commences, some employees may end up testing positive. As proposed in the Employment Ordinance amendments, employees who have caught the coronavirus or must undergo mandatory quarantine are entitled to paid sick leave. It’s crucial for employers to start thinking about emergency work plans in the event that there are not enough working employees following the universal testing.

Even though all businesses will be affected differently, one thing that remains the same is the importance of speaking with employees sooner rather than later.

Staff morale

While employee morale is something employers should always think about, now is especially important to support employees and show them they are cared for. With fears about contracting the virus, strict social measures, inconsistent news, and workforce shortages, employers must do what they can to boost employee morale so that both the workforce and business can thrive as much as possible.

Employers should keep communication open with employees and let them know that they can come to them with their concerns and requests. Employees should feel confident discussing their needs with their employer. Not only does it give employers a better idea of how they can assist them, but it also helps employees feel like their employer is working with them during these trying times.

Boost morale and more through employee wellness programs

Potential lockdown aside, employees in the SAR had been struggling with mental health problems before the pandemic even started. One way employers can help enhance the health and wellbeing of employees is through an employee wellness program. From improving employee morale to reducing overall health costs, focusing on wellness initiatives has many benefits for employers and employees alike.

Additionally, companies with robust employee wellness programs in HK stand out amongst competitors, which is essential for attracting and retaining top talent in the SAR. Even though employee benefits such as these won’t solve all problems employers face, they do help build a culture of health. By playing a part in improving employees’ lives and helping achieve business goals, employee wellness programs are something everyone can benefit from.

Looking for employee benefit solutions? Get in touch with Pacific Prime Hong Kong

If you want to design a corporate wellness program or reevaluate your existing employee benefits offering, Pacific Prime Hong Kong is here to help. As a leading global health insurance broker and employee benefits specialist, we have more than two decades of experience helping corporates of all industries and sizes understand and navigate the changing landscape in Hong Kong.

Through our unique broker approach, we offer tailored packages to meet your needs and budget, whether you’re looking for employee benefits solutions like employee wellness programs, individual health insurance, hospital insurance in Hong Kong, and more.

Get in touch with our corporate team to learn more about what we can do for you today!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
​​Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical workday, she writes and edits articles, guides, and anything else word-related. She loves creating content that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

In her free time, she’s likely to be writing poetry and prose, geeking out on her latest interests, reading, or practicing yoga.
Jantra