Legal update

08 July 2016
Legal update: Sarah Lawrence, senior legal consultant at DLA Piper in Dubai, gives an overview of legislation and case law HR professionals should be aware of

An overview of the latest legislation and precedents affecting HR professionals, from across Asia. Get regular legal news online at www.cipd.asia/pm

Push to reform HK discrimination legislation
 
Anti-discrimination laws in Hong Kong could be beefed up – including a boost to maternity rights – if reforms proposed by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) are accepted.
 
A review of the country’s discrimination laws has included a four-month public consultation. A total of 73 recommendations were made to the government, 27 of which were identified as high priority.
 
“It has become clear that there are multiple groups in society, including women, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities, who still cannot participate equally in everyday life and opportunities in this city. This is why it is time for Hong Kong to take our anti-discrimination ordinances to the next level,” said Dr York Chow, chair of the EOC.
 
Priority areas identified by the EOC included the right of women to return to a work position after maternity leave; prohibiting race discrimination in government posts; and more protection from discrimination for people with disabilities who are accompanied by assistance animals.
 
The review also stated that there should be more effective application of the anti-discrimination ordinances, including making the definitions and protection against discrimination and harassment clearer and more consistent.
 
Re-employment age set to hit 67
 
Employers in Singapore will be legally obliged to offer re-employment up to the age of 67 from July 2017, in a major shake-up of retirement legislation in the country.
 
The raise goes two years beyond the current re-employment age of 65 for eligible workers, and is seen as a move to manage Singapore’s ageing workforce.
 
“The proportion of residents in the labour force aged 50 and above is about one-third now, up from about one-quarter a decade ago,” said Sam Tan, minister of state for manpower. “This trend will continue over the next two decades, and we must be prepared to accept and embrace this new reality, and turn it into opportunity.”
 
Rules allowing wage cuts of up to 10 per cent for employees over 60 – to make them ‘more competitive’ – will also be removed from law. But ministry of manpower statistics say 98 per cent of organisations have already made the choice not to reduce salaries after 60. To smooth the transition to the new re-employment age, the government’s wage offset of 3 per cent for employers that re-employ workers above 65 will be extended to 1 July 2017.
 
Controversy over new union law in Cambodia
 
A new trade union law in Cambodia is causing widespread protests across the country, but the government is so far staying resolute in the face of calls to repeal or amend it.
 
The controversial legislation includes rules for creating and running trade unions, increasing unions’ reporting requirements. Workers’ groups and Cambodia’s opposition party have criticised the bill for curbing workers’ rights and their ability to stage strikes. It is expected to receive royal assent soon, which will see it fully enacted into law.
 
“This law is total nonsense. It does not benefit workers or the Cambodian people,” Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers, told Associated Press. “Once the law is officially implemented, workers will not be able to freely protest to demand their rights or benefits.”
 
There were scuffles in Phnom Penh on the day the law was announced. It had first been discussed in parliament in 2015 but was amended after earlier criticisms.
 
The events come against the backdrop of a series of ongoing strikes among textile workers across the country.