Year in review 2015: A round-up of key employment law developments across Asia

Employment Update

China

  • Several local High Courts, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Zhejiang, etc, have gradually issued judicial opinions on employment disputes adjudication in 2015 to clarify various long-time disputable issues such as double salary, labor dispatch, employer liability and penalty. Those judicial opinions are not local legislations but have been significantly helpful for local entities to assess legal risks arising from human resource mismanagement in respective areas. 

Hong Kong

  • On 14 December 2015, the Competition Ordinance will come into effect. The Ordinance will have certain employment implications as it will likely give rise to concerns for the Competition Commission on: employers sharing information on wages and bonuses; competitors agree to fix wages for a particular type of staff; and collective bargaining of wages or remuneration through federation of trade unions. Penalties for non-compliance can be significant including fines (up to 10% of total gross revenue), director disqualification and prohibition damages and other orders. 
  • Since February 2015, Hong Kong has introduced paid statutory paternity leave. Male employees who are expecting a child after 27 February 2015 are entitled to 3 days' paternity leave if they fulfill the statutory requirements. The employee may take paternity leave at any time during the period from 4 weeks before the expected delivery date to 10 weeks beginning of the actual delivery date of the child. 
  • The Privacy Commissioner Office has released a revised guide on "Privacy Guidelines: Monitoring and Personal Data Privacy at Work". There are no material changes to the guidelines however, the new version is a much more user-friendly version. 

India

  • The Social Security Agreements with Austria, Canada and Norway have come into effect. The Social Security Agreements will provide certain benefits to Indian nationals working in Austria, Canada and Norway as well as foreign nationals from these countries who work in India. Benefits can include exemption of social security contributions in the host country in certain circumstances. 

Japan

  • In 2015, the most significant development in Japan was the drastic reforms to The Worker Dispatch Act. The amendments addressed a variety of matters. The amendments resulted in the elimination of the so-called "26 specialized areas of work" for which there was an unlimited amount of time a company could use dispatched workers. Instead, the law now focuses on the individual dispatched employees and there is a limitation on how long an employer may use a specific individual as a dispatched worker in the same business unit in their workplace. In most cases, the time limit is up to three (3) years. 

Taiwan

  • 14 new sectors must now meet the general requirements of the Labor Standards Act which enforces maximum working hours. Employees in these sectors now work a maximum of eight hours a day with one day off every seven days, or follow the government-mandated flex-time rules which provide for specific two, four, and eight week flex-time structures. The additional sectors now include senior staff at securities firms and banks, film executives, and management consecutives.
  • The Taiwanese government has tripled the fines imposed upon employers who discriminate against current employees or candidates based on gender or sexual orientation. 

Singapore

  • Section 45 of the Employment Act was amended such that employees who fall within the purview of the Employment Act (Cap. 91) are able to request for retrenchment benefits if they have been employed for at least 2 years with an employer. The prior position only entitled employees who fall within the purview of the Employment Act to make such request if they have been employed for at least 3 years.
  • Paternity leave was extended from 1 week to 2 weeks in 2015. 
  • The Protection from Harassment Act (PHA) also came into force in 2015. This Act, while not strictly speaking limited only to employment matters, will also be applicable to the workplace and employers and employees should be aware of this possibility.

South Korea

  • In September 2015, the supreme court ruled that email termination notice can be effective and valid written notice under Article 27 of the Labor Standards Act. It was held that if the email clearly states the employer's intention to terminate, specifically states the reasons for, timeline of termination, and the employee can properly respond to the email, it is considered valid written notice.