Employment Contracts in Hong Kong

1. Minimum requirements

Under the Employment Ordinance, an employment contract can be made orally or in writing. Employees’ rights and benefits are protected under the Ordinance irrespective of whether the employment contract is made verbally or in writing. All employees covered by the Employment Ordinance, irrespective of their designated job titles or working hours, are entitled to statutory rights and protection such as wage payment, restriction on deductions from wages and granting of statutory holidays, etc. Any term of an employment contract, which purports to extinguish or reduce any right, benefit or protection conferred upon an employee by the Employment Ordinance shall be void.

2. Fixed -term/Open-ended Contracts

It is customary in Hong Kong to use letters of employment or employment contracts governing the duration of such employment. However, in the absence of a particular duration, the Employment Ordinance provides that every employment contract, which is a continuous contract i.e. where the employee has been employed under a contract of employment during the period of 4 or more weeks and for 18 or more hours each week immediately before the relevant date that the continuous contract arises, shall be deemed to have been in “continuous employment” during that period.

In the absence of express agreement to the contrary, every continuous contract of employment shall be deemed to be for one month renewable from month to month, unless the contract is evidenced in writing, signed by each of the parties thereto, and provides otherwise.

3. Trial period

There is no statutory limit on the length of a probationary period and this period can be set by contract between the employer and the employee.

4. Notice period

Either party to a contract of employment may at any time terminate the contract either orally or in writing, by giving the other party notice of his intention to do so. The length of notice required statutorily to terminate a contract of employment shall be as follows:

  • for a contract for one month renewable month to month which does not make provision for the length of notice required to terminate the contract – not less than one month;
  • for a contract for one month renewable month to month which makes provision for the length of notice required – the agreed period but not less than 7 days; and
  • in every other case, the agreed period but not less than 7 days.
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