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Severance Payment in Hong Kong: Employee Rights and Employer Obligations

Author Gabi Bellairs-LombardGabi Bellairs-Lombard

5 min read
Better Business

Discover the ins and outs of Severance Payment in Hong Kong. This comprehensive guide sheds light on employee rights, eligibility criteria, payment calculations, and alternatives.

Severance Payment in Hong Kong: Employee Rights and Employer Obligations

A severance payment in Hong Kong is compensation for employees when terminated due to reasons beyond their control.

​​In the ever-evolving landscape of employment practices, employees and employers must understand their rights and obligations regarding severance payment in Hong Kong. Severance payment is financial compensation for dismissed employees due to redundancy or restructuring. In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of severance payment, including its definition, calculation, eligibility, and impact on other employee entitlements.

Definition and Purpose of Severance Payment

Severance payment, also known as redundancy payment, is a financial package aimed at providing support to employees who face termination due to unforeseen circumstances related to their employment. The primary purpose of severance payment is to assist employees in transitioning to new employment or to serve as temporary financial assistance until they find a new job.

Employers are responsible for offering employees a fair and reasonable severance payment, ensuring they leave the organisation on a positive note. Employers acknowledge employees' contributions and demonstrate their commitment to facilitating a smooth transition by providing this financial cushion.

When determining the amount of severance payment, various factors come into play. These factors include the length of service, salary, and the circumstances surrounding the termination. In some cases, employers may offer additional benefits such as extended healthcare coverage or career counselling services to support the affected employees further.

Severance payment is a safety net for employees who suddenly find themselves without a job. It provides them with a financial buffer, allowing them to cover their essential expenses while they search for new employment opportunities. This period of financial stability can significantly reduce the stress and anxiety associated with job loss.

Moreover, severance payments can also help employees maintain their standard of living during the transition period. It allows them to continue meeting their financial obligations, such as rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, and other essential expenses. This stability enables individuals to focus on their job search and explore new career options without the added pressure of immediate financial strain.

Additionally, severance payment can positively impact an employee's morale and well-being. It demonstrates that the employer values their contributions and recognises their dedication to the organisation. This recognition can boost the employee's confidence and motivation as they embark on a new career journey.

Furthermore, severance payment can also contribute to the overall reputation of the employer. Organisations that prioritise the well-being of their employees and provide fair severance packages are often seen as socially responsible and compassionate. This positive perception can attract talented individuals to the company and enhance its employer brand.

Severance Payment and Long Severance Payment

In Hong Kong, the Employment Ordinance governs the provision of severance payments. Under this ordinance, employees employed under a continuous contract for at least 24 months are entitled to severance payment upon dismissal. The duration of continuous employment significantly impacts the amount of severance payment to be received.

It is important to note that separate provisions exist for long-service payment, which is granted to employees who have been employed under a continuous contract for at least five years. Long-service payment operates as an additional safeguard, distinct from severance payment, ensuring further compensation for employees who have dedicated a substantial amount of time to an organisation.

Calculation of Severance Payment

Calculating the amount of severance payment can be a complex task, as it depends on various factors such as the length of service, the employee's average wage, and the maximum payment cap set by the ordinance. To help employees, the Labor Department of Hong Kong provides an online severance payment calculator on its website, simplifying the calculation process and ensuring fair compensation. Additionally, seeking professional accounting services can also aid employers in accurately determining the appropriate severance payment for their employees.

Statutory minimum payment

Hong Kong's Employment Ordinance mandates a statutory minimum severance payment for eligible employees. This payment is calculated based on the individual's length of service and wages and serves as a baseline protection for employees facing termination.

Calculation method based on length of service and wages

Beyond the statutory minimum, severance payment can be determined using a formula that considers the employee's service length and average wages. This calculation method ensures that employees receive compensation proportionate to their years of service and their salary.

Eligibility for Severance Payment

Employees are eligible for severance payment if they meet the below criteria. Employers must also ensure compliance with statutory procedures for dismissal, which include providing written notice to employees, conducting consultation sessions, and allowing a reasonable period for employees to consider alternative employment options. Failure to fulfil these obligations may result in legal consequences for employers.

Length of service requirement

​​To be eligible for a severance payment, employees must have served their employer continuously for at least two years. If an employee meets this length of service requirement and is later terminated, they are entitled to receive severance payment in accordance with the applicable rules.

Exclusions and exceptions

Despite meeting the length of service requirement, certain situations may exempt employees from receiving severance payment. Exclusions can include termination due to serious misconduct or if the employer can provide valid reasons under the Employment Ordinance that justify the employee's termination without severance pay.

Payment Procedures and Timelines

Employers are encouraged to establish transparent payment procedures and communicate them effectively to employees. This includes providing the necessary documentation, such as pay slips and bank transfer receipts, to ensure a smooth and hassle-free payment process and accurately facilitate the employees' tax return filing.

Employer's responsibility for severance payment

Once an employee becomes eligible for a severance payment, it is the employer's responsibility to make the payment within seven days after the termination of employment. The payment should be made in full, without any deductions or conditions imposed by the employer.

Timeline for payment after termination

According to the Employment Ordinance, employers must make severance payments within two months of the employee's termination. Prompt payment is crucial to avoid any disputes or penalties for late payment.

Alternatives to Severance Payment

While severance payment is the most common form of compensation for employees facing redundancy, it is worth noting that employers may offer alternative packages based on negotiations and mutual agreement. These alternative packages could include benefits like extended healthcare coverage, outplacement services, or other arrangements facilitated through online payment gateways for a smoother and more convenient process.

Voluntary retirement schemes

Sometimes, employers may offer voluntary retirement schemes as an alternative to severance payment. These schemes are typically mutually agreed upon and can provide additional benefits or incentives to employees opting for early retirement.

Termination with notice and payment in lieu

Instead of severance payment, employers may choose to terminate an employee with advance notice or payment in lieu of notice. This option gives employees time to seek new employment while providing them with financial support during the transition period.

Impact of Severance Payment on Other Employee Entitlements

Receiving severance payment does not affect an employee's entitlement to other statutory benefits, such as long-service payment, annual leave, or sick leave. These entitlements remain intact and should not be compromised or withheld by the employer.

Impact on long service payment

Severance payment can affect an employee's entitlement to long-service payment, another form of compensation for long-serving employees. Depending on the circumstances of termination, an employee may receive either severance or long service payment, but not both.

Effect on other benefits and gratuity

Severance payment may affect other employee benefits and gratuities, such as end-of-year bonuses or retirement packages. Employers and employees must understand how severance pay interacts with other entitlements to ensure fair and compliant compensation.

Conclusion

In summary, severance payment plays a vital role in safeguarding the welfare of employees in Hong Kong. It provides financial assistance during times of uncertainty and serves as a bridge to new opportunities. By understanding the definition, calculation, eligibility, payment procedures, and impact of severance payment, employees and employers can navigate this aspect of employment with confidence and mutual respect.

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