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Labor chief calls for passing of law granting sick leave to quarantined workers

13 March 2022


Legislative Council (Google Maps photo)

Secretary for Labor Dr Law Chi-kwong has urged legislators to pass an amendment to the Employment Ordinance that includes allowing workers to claim sickness pay for the entire time they were in compulsory quarantine.

In turn, the new law allows employers to fire workers who cannot go to work because they refuse to be vaccinated.

Law said in his blog Sunday that he will present the proposed legislation, the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2022, in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Mar 16, during which the bill will be presented for its second and final reading.


The amendments were approved on Feb. 25 by the Executive Council. Among the major provisions are:

• To regard a day on which an employee (affected employee) placed under compulsory quarantine under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance as a sickness day.


• To provide for sickness allowance to be paid to such employee under certain circumstances.

• To provide that it is not a valid reason to dismiss an employee or vary the terms of the employee’s contract of employment on the ground of being quarantined.


• To provide that it is a valid reason to dismiss an employee or vary the terms of the employee’s contract of employment if he or she refuses to produce proof of vaccination after a request is made by the employer.

Law said that he realized there was a need for amendments when disagreements first arose about sick leave during quarantine.

“During the SARS period in 2003,” he said in his blog, “I made a lot of comments to the then Government in the Legislative Council, including the arrangement of sick leave during quarantine. At that time, the government's health authority would issue sick leave certificates to employees during the compulsory quarantine period. Therefore, in the guidelines of the Labour Department at that time, the period of compulsory quarantine was also regarded as sick leave. I have always held this understanding.”

But during the Covid-19 pandemic that started in 2020, he said, “the health authorities stated that compulsory quarantine is not a disease, so the relevant certificates issued by the health authorities for compulsory quarantine may not necessarily be regarded as proof of sick leave.”

Press for details

Law said the Labour Department consulted the Department of Health to adjust the guidelines provided to employers and employees, while the Government looked at the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance, Chapter 599, to specify the compulsory quarantine certificate as proof that employees needed to receive sickness allowance.

“However, the legal opinion considers that the proposal does not meet the coverage of Cap 599 and that amendments to the Employment Ordinance are required,” he added.


As the proposed law worked its way through the Legislative Council, the fifth wave of the epidemic arose and the "vaccine passport" became imperative.

It also required new provisions that allowed to employers to fire workers who could not present proof that they were vaccinated within the specified period.
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