In order for information to be classified as a trade secret, it must be easily isolated from other information which an employee is free to use, so that anyone of average intelligence and honesty would think it was improper to put the information at the disposal of a new employer. This issue was at the heart of a recent action brought by a Hong Kong company against an ex-employee and his new employer.
The second and final phase of the salaries tax increase which began last year was introduced on April 1 2004, the start of the new tax year. The increase – unpopular with Hong Kong employees - is being achieved by reducing the basic allowance and tax bands, increasing the tax rates for the respective tax bands, and increasing the standard rate of tax.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCO) has issued a report on its public consultation in relation to the Draft Code of Practice on Monitoring and Personal Data Privacy at Work. One of the more significant developments is that the PCO has decided to issue a set of best practice guidelines, rather than a legally binding code as it had originally proposed.
On October 1 2003 the caps for statutory severance and long service payments reached the maximum level and will be held at these levels for the foreseeable future. The maximum number of reckonable years of service is now 43 years, and the maximum amount of statutory severance or long service payable is HK$390,000.
One of the measures introduced by the financial secretary earlier this year to increase government revenue was the removal of the salaries tax exemption for holiday warrants and passage. The abolition was intended to make the tax system more equitable. As a result, all holiday benefits, whether in the form of reimbursements or non-convertible benefits, are now taxable.
In its proposals to enhance corporate governance in Hong Kong, the Standing Committee on Company Law Reform has suggested that the regulation of director-level employees be tightened up. Among other things, it proposes that listed companies be required to disclose the arrangements made to train their directors, as well as the remuneration packages of individual directors.
In this year's Budget the Hong Kong government announced certain changes affecting the tax treatment of employees. However, since the Budget was announced Hong Kong's economy has been severely affected by the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). A package of measures was recently pushed through to alleviate the impact of SARS on employers and employees.
A number of recent judgments have helped to develop Hong Kong employment law. Among other things, the decisions have focused on the existence and potential consequences of an implied term of mutual trust and confidence in employment contracts, as well as on the payment of damages following dismissal.
The question of transfer of pension rights has become more complex following the introduction of the new mandatory provident fund system. However, technical flaws in the relevant legislation have been removed, and steps have been taken to ensure that employees do not lose privileges merely because of a technical problem under the previous regime.
Many employers seek to protect their business from competition from former employees by restricting post-employment activities. The attractions of such clauses are obvious, but as a recent case shows, great care must be taken if the employer is to be able to rely on them.
Following a recent court decision, employers who are considering dismissing an employee should ensure that they take into account all relevant circumstances in relation to that employee; otherwise they render themselves potentially vulnerable to a claim of unreasonable dismissal.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data has issued a consultation document and draft Code of Practice on Monitoring and Personal Data Privacy at Work, which is intended to give practical guidance on the application of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance to employee-monitoring involving personal data.
The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited has announced changes to Chapter 17 of the Listing Rules which sets out the requirements for share option schemes operated by Main Board listed companies. The new rules introduce flexibility for share option schemes of these companies and new controls as safeguards for investors.
In February 2001 the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department (IRD) issued its long-awaited practice note on employee share options. The practice note outlines how the IRD will assess benefits provided to employees under share option schemes. This update examines the implications.
Changes to the Employment Ordinance introduced in April concern an employee's right to receive on constructive dismissal a proportionate part of any guaranteed annual payment, and the employer's ability to dismiss summarily (in legally permitted circumstances) an employee who is pregnant or on a paid sickness day.
The Code of Practice on Human Resource Management has now taken effect. While it is not legally binding, the privacy commissioner is entitled to take failure to adhere to the code into account when determining whether an employer has complied with the requirements of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.
The court recently considered whether the Fire Services and Customs and Excise Departments had discriminated unlawfully against the children of people with schizophrenia. In view of the low statistical likelihood of their developing the condition, the court found that discrimination was not justified in these cases.
On December 12 2000 the government released a consultation paper, which proposes the introduction of a scheme that would require residents to pay for their own post-retirement healthcare. The impact this will have on employers is discussed in this update.
The Code of Practice on Human Resources Management is a comprehensive guide on the collection, use and retention of personal data of employees by an employer. The code makes clear the importance of telling employees when collecting personal the purposes to which it will be put and to whom it may be transferred, and informing them of their right to see and correct the data.
A definitive Code of Practice on Human Resources Management is being issued by the privacy commissioner this Autumn. This update outlines the legislation currently in place to safeguard data privacy as it affects personnel management.