Am I entitled to the HK$9,000 subsidy provided by the Hong Kong Government’s “Anti-epidemic Fund Employment Support Scheme”
The Hong Kong Government has launched the “Employment Support Scheme” (“ESS”) to provide wage subsidies up to HK$9,000 per employee per month for a maximum period of 6 months. As many employers would want to apply for such subsidy, we have prepared a FAQ to answer questions commonly raised.
Q: Who is eligible to apply?
A: Employers in private sectors that have contributed to an employee’s Mandatory Provident Fund (“MPF”) or Occupational Retirement Schemes Ordinance scheme (“ORSO”) on or before 31 March 2020, and self-employed persons are eligible to apply. If you have employees whose wages are fully funded by the government, you may not be eligible to apply for a subsidy in respect of these employees, but you can continue to apply for a subsidy for your other employees. Note that this subsidy is given to employers and not directly to employees.
Q: How much are the subsidies?
A: The subsidies are equivalent to 50% of the actual wages paid in a specified month for a maximum period of 6 months, capped at HK$9,000 per employee per month.
For self-employed persons, this scheme provides a one-off lump-sum subsidy of HK$7,500.
Q: When can I apply?
A: The government will provide subsidies to employers for a 6 months period in two tranches. The first tranche of subsidies will cover the period from June to August 2020, while the second tranche will cover the period from September to November 2020. For the first tranche of subsidies, online applications will open from 25 May to 14 June 2020. For the second tranche of subsidies, the government will announce the application details in due course.
Q: When will I get the subsidies?
A: For the first tranche, the subsidies will be disbursed 3-4 weeks after the submission of the application (assuming it is duly approved). For the second tranche, the subsidies will be disbursed in September 2020.
Q: What are my obligations if I apply for subsidies under this scheme?
A: To participate in this scheme, employers will be required to provide an undertaking:
- not to make employees redundant during the period of the financial support (the number of employees on the payroll in any one month of the subsidy period (from June to August 2020) should not be less than the number of both paid and unpaid staff in March 2020). However, employers are still free to hire and fire employees as required provided that the mentioned condition is met, and
- to spend all the subsidies on paying wages to the employees.
Q: What happen if I fail to fulfil the obligations?
A: If employers who have received the subsidies fail to fulfil the undertaking, the government will claw back the unspent balance of the subsidies. Also, if redundancies are made, monetary penalties will be imposed, which will be proportionate to how many redundancies are made and the total number of employees.
Q: What if employees depart during the subsidy period?
A: If employers received the first tranche of wage subsidies, they must fill the vacancies to maintain the total number of employees as of March 2020, regardless of whether the employees depart on their own accord.
In other words, the employers must ensure that any one month of the subsidy period (from June to August 2020) should not be less than the number of both paid and unpaid staff in March 2020, to avoid paying any penalty.
Q: How to apply?
A: Applications should be made by completing the application form online (the link will be available at: https://www.ess.gov.hk/en/).
As the global COVID-19 outbreak is still greatly affecting local businesses, it is anticipated that the government will announce more policies to help the businesses in Hong Kong. ELLALAN will continue to follow the latest developments in order to provide the most commercial and practical solutions for clients.
Please contact our Partner, Mr. Charles To (email: [email protected]) or our Trainee Solicitor, Mr. Vincent Lai (email: [email protected]), if you wish to know more about this topic. Please also follow ELLALAN’s LinkedIn page for further news and updates: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ella-cheong-&-alan-chiu-solicitors-&-notaries.
Charles To / Vincent Lai
Partner / Trainee Solicitor
21 May 2020