This year’s remote working frenzy triggered by the pandemic has also opened a veritable can of worms when it comes to the legal duty of care towards employees.
According to Hong Tran – a partner at law firm Mayer Brown – while “the jury is still out on work from home” in terms of its long-term viability for most employees, it’s nonetheless incumbent upon employers to be in compliance with Hong Kong’s Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance to ensure they fulfill their legal responsibilities.
Fines of up to HK$200,000 and six months’ imprisonment are the maximum penalties for those who flout the ordinance.
Tran point out that “advice on a safe work-from-home environment should be given” by employers and that “asking staff to complete a WFH safety checklist” is recommended to help make both employers and employees aware of the potential dangers of a home office.
To illustrate one of the hazards, he referred to the example of a WFH employee who slipped and was injured while rushing out of the shower to answer his work phone, as the sort of scenario that could occur.
Ensuring WFH employees have an ergonomic workstation is also an essential consideration to minimise the risk of health issues such as “RSI, back, neck and shoulder injuries”.
Tran then elaborated on the situation when employees are not only working remotely, but in fact working overseas – possibly in their home country. He pointed out that unforeseen circumstances such as “inadvertent tax issues” could prove be costly, adding that other issues also need to be considered, such as “will overseas employment law apply?” and does the employee's “medical plan extend to overseas".
He added that it was important for employers to “know what they are getting into” when allowing their staff to be stationed at a remote jurisdiction.
Tran was speaking on day one at this year’s Talent Management & Innovation Asia (TMIA) – held virtually from 24-25 November at the Hong Kong Productivity Council. It was a part of a two half-day conference for HR pros.
Other highlights on day one included the sessions ‘Navigating transitional waters into the year ahead’ with John Antos from ADP and ‘Upskilling and matching your employees to the right opportunities’ with Max Seto from Workday.
While day two featured a number of lively and insightful panel discussions with HR leaders – ably moderated by Renee Conklin from RC HR Consulting – as well as a session on ‘Digital transformation through automation’ with Nora Cheung from Automation Anywhere.
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For full coverage of all of the Talent Management & Innovation Asia sessions – including Hong Tran’s – check out the videos below.