Labour and employment in Hong Kong
Benefiting from a 'deep understanding of Hong Kong labour market practices', Baker McKenzie provides 'responsive and pragmatic advice' to global financial institutions, large multinational corporates and regional entities, on both their local and pan-Asian employment concerns. Led by the 'very practical' Rowan McKenzie , the team handles a mix of non-contentious and contentious matters, ranging from advice on employee benefits, the implementation of downsizing and redundancy programs, through to discrimination and sexual harassment claims. Jonathan Isaacs is the principal point of contact for clients seeking advice on China-related employment law matters, including on issues related to unions and collective bargaining. The highly recommended Catherine Leung joined Lewis Silkin Hong Kong as of counsel in January 2019.
‘Rowan McKenzie has a deep understanding of the Hong Kong market and gives good practical advice.’
- Assisted a global asset manager to develop a comprehensive register of the business’ statutory obligations in relation to its workforce in eight jurisdictions across the APAC region.
- Assisted a global insurance provider to implement a project to outsource its information technology services requirements in ten jurisdictions across the APAC region.
- Assisted a global financial services group on the employment due diligence associated with its acquisition of a global asset manager.
- Assisted a leading insurance provider in Hong Kong in conducting the employment due diligence and advising on secondment arrangements in relation to its strategic investment in an InsureTech start up in Hong Kong.
Co-headed by 'the very commercial' Duncan Abate and Hong Tran, Mayer Brown's six-strong team has the strength-in-depth to handle a broad array of contentious and non-contentious matters impacting local and international employers based in Hong Kong, including as it relates to employee benefits/remuneration, sexual discrimination and large regional redundancy programmes. The team is at the vanguard of changes in the market and frequently provides training for clients on new or proposed legislation/trends, including as it relates to data privacy, LGBT+ rights and implications of the gig economy. Jennifer Tam, who was made partner in November 2019, has an excellent reputation for handling employment litigation and regularly teams up with Tran on many of the most complex disputes handled by the team.
- Defending an airline in a remuneration dispute brought against it by numerous pilots.
- Advising a multinational retailer on the employment considerations of a large restructuring (involving operations in most jurisdictions across Asia).
- Defending a Hong Kong-based airline in claims made by employees in the District Court.
- Acting for an online food delivery company on employment-related issues in Hong Kong, including structuring the arrangement with riders, managing strikes, termination of employment, data privacy issues, employees’ compensation matters and post termination restrictions.
Led by the 'responsive and commercial' Fiona Loughrey, Simmons & Simmons' eight-strong team provides wide-ranging employment expertise to many local and multinational employers, both in relation to day-to-day advisory work, contentious advice (including in relation to sexual harassment claims), internal investigations, and board level advice. Aided by a strong presence in Shanghai and Singapore, the firm also excels at representing multinational clients on their composite advice throughout Asia Pacific and is well-placed to advise on big-ticket workplace reorganisations and redundancy programmes. The 'outstanding' Sarah Berkeley is particularly noted for the 'strong and practical' advice she provides to financial institutions based in Hong Kong across the gamut of employment issues affecting their businesses, including structuring and operating incentive schemes, negotiated terminations, and the employment aspects of investigations/employment disputes. Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking senior associate Wendy Wong also has an excellent reputation among financial services clients which she advises on contentious and non-contentious domestic and PRC-related employment matters.
‘Understand well client’s needs. Good knowledge of the industry. Give credible and practical advice.’
‘Sarah Berkeley, Partner – good knowledge of the industry. Very patient, listen well and react quickly, super reliable. Not only an advisor but a good partner to us. Wendy Wong, managing associate – articulate clearly on different situations and react quickly.’
Well-versed across purely local Hong Kong employment law matters and also excelling in multi-jurisdictional projects, Bird & Bird provides a 'responsive and client-focused service' across the spectrum of employment issues impacting local and multinational employers. Implementing a multi-disciplinary approach which frequently draws upon practitioners from across the firm's commercial, IP and litigation teams, the practice has developed a particularly high level of expertise assisting technology-rich companies on risk management and disputes associated with the theft of trade secrets and confidential information by departing employees. The team also excels in providing the employment-related advice relevant to big-ticket multi-jurisdictional M&A mandates/reorganisations and is praised for its 'expertise in relation to the delicate work of knitting two workforces together'. Team head Pattie Walsh is 'absolutely brilliant as a strategist and coordinator', and is regularly the lynchpin of complex employment projects involving multiple offices throughout Asia Pacific. Senior managing associate Jeannette Tam has an excellent reputation among clients for her 'understanding of the human issues involved in communicating effectively with employees, changing bad behaviours, or handling tough terminations'.
‘Pattie Walsh brings a wonderful perspective to her work and is a joy to work with.’
‘Jeannette Tam has a very solid understanding of client needs.’
‘Sarah Blennerhassett is wonderful at the important intersection of employee relations and data protection and other regulatory requirements.’
‘Jenny Kwan has a sharp mind.’
Benefiting from deeply embedded ties with private and public sector domestic entities, nurtured during the firm's long history in the country, independent Hong Kong-based firm Deacons is recognised for its ability to provide 'very effective legal advisory work for Hong Kong organisations with subsidiaries and operations in the Mainland'. Team head Cynthia Chung provides 'solid and sound advice' across a myriad of employment matters, including on pensions-related matters. On the contentious front, Chung has been very active defending employers in discrimination claims as well as in whistle-blower investigations. She has also provided ongoing counselling to various employers concerned about the potential employment ramifications related to the recent pro-democracy protests.
‘The firm has outstanding experience across Hong Kong-specific employment matters.’
‘Cynthia Chung is very quick to understand the culture and needs of clients.’
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Hang Lung Properties Limited
The University of Hong Kong
Bank J. Safra Sarasin
- Defending Bank J. Safra Sarasin against a pregnancy discrimination claim by a former employee.
- Advised The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in respect of the substantial change to its salary and benefits structure.
- Advised a university in Hong Kong in relation to teaching professional assessment issues.
- Advised a school in relation to a senior staff member’s misconduct.
- Advised a Chinese state-owned telecommunication corporation on employment matters covering approximately 30 countries.
Led out of Hong Kong by the 'brilliant' Helen Colquhoun and benefiting from a regional footprint across Asia Pacific, DLA Piper 's three-strong team is able to provide a one-stop shop service to international and local corporates on their employment needs throughout the region. Praised for its 'responsive and cost-effective approach', the team handles the full spectrum of contentious and non-contentious matters for clients in the financial services, retail and transport sectors, in particular. Hong Kong, UK and New York-qualified Colquhoun has an excellent perspective of international trends in the employment market and is appreciated for her 'excellence at handling multi-jurisdictional mandates', where clients appreciate her ability to 'see matters in context as opposed to in a vacuum'. As well as handling a steady stream of advisory work – including as it relates to incentive schemes, and drafting contracts and handbooks – the team has been particularly active of late in relation to director-level and sensitive terminations and investigations.
‘The entire team works well together to provide a consistently high level of services.’
‘Helen Colquhoun is a standout legal partner who provides exceptional and practical legal advice and guidance on difficult labour matters.’
‘Helen Colquhoun and David Smail are extremely hands-on, responsive and helpful. They go above and beyond to help clients!’
‘Wundy Lee is excellent.’
- Advising Moet Hennessy on the relevant tax and employment issues in the relocation of a senior executive, a French national, from China to Hong Kong.
- Advising Meltwater on visas (business/work/student) that executives or employees should apply for based on various factual scenarios, drew up plans best tailored for each employee, guided the entire process which is very complex and variable based on the authorities’ requirements.
- Advising a luxury British fashion brand on an internal investigation into allegations of repeated and widespread bullying, intimidation and victimisation allegedly carried out by a senior manager.
- Advising the fintech arm of an insurance firm in relation to the employment law aspects of their expansion into Hong Kong.
- Advising a UK technology firm on the strategy, risks, step plans and process for moving IT and finance functions offshore to a third party, and in managing the departures of affected employees who were regionally located.
Headed by Patricia Yeung, Howse Williams 何韋律師行's six-strong employment team has a very strong reputation among local and international entities in the financial services, asset management and healthcare sectors across a range of employment mandates relating to immigration, remuneration and terminations. Although Yeung herself has a very broad-ranging employment law offering, the team remains best-known for its 'very effective and commercial' representation of employees seeking recourse against former employers, for inter-alia, unpaid bonuses and discrimination/harassment.
Fitch (Hong Kong) Limited
Mr. Chad Holm
Mr. Tang Yi
BGC Securities Hong Kong
Sunrise Brokers (Hong Kong)
Cantor Fitzgerald Capital Markets (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong Council For Accreditation Of Academic And Vocational Qualifications
China Everbright Securities (HK) Limited / Everbright Sun Hung Kai Company Limited
Neo Derm (HK) Ltd
L’Oreal Travel Retail Asia Pacific
Ernst & Young
HK Bellawings.Jet Limited
Hong Kong Airlines Limited
- Advising a former employee of a company in a claim made against it for substantial payments due to him for wrongful termination as well as equity share.
- Acting for a fund manager in a claim against the defendants for unpaid performance fees earned during his employment.
- Representing Hong Kong Airlines Limited on the defence of a claim by a former employee for constructive dismissal.
- Defending Cantor Fitzgerald Capital Markets (Hong Kong) against a claim by a former employee in relation to the grant of stock under a partnership agreement, as well as outstanding commission payments.
- Representing Sunrise Brokers (Hong Kong) in an action against former employees for breach of their respective employment contracts for failing to repay bonuses paid to them in the last six months of their employment.
Tanner De Witt has a 'fantastic reputation' representing senior executives and high-profile employees within the financial services sector, in cases related to non-compete clauses, discrimination, breaches of fiduciary duties, unpaid wages and severance payments. The 'practical and pragmatic' Kim Boreham provides 'no-nonsense' advice to employers and employees across a wide spread of advisory and contentious advice and is a key member of the team.
Allen & Overy
Led from Hong Kong by Susana Ng, Allen & Overy provides a 'responsive and pragmatic service' to multinationals and local clients (particularly from within the TMT and financial services sectors) across a wide spectrum of employment matters, including on benefits and remuneration, pensions, restructurings, data privacy, employment litigation and internal employee investigations. Benefiting from a huge international footprint, including a strong presence in mainland China, the team is frequently engaged as part of a coordinated firmwide effort for major multinationals seeking strategic global employment advice. This most frequently manifests itself on mandates where the Hong Kong office acts as a hub from which to service clients' Asia Pacific employment needs. Fluent in both spoken and written Chinese and English, the 'pragmatic and very responsive' Ng is well-placed to handle work for clients in mainland China and is well-versed in the cultural differences attached to employers in the region. She has been particularly active of late advising on data privacy issues.
‘Susana Ng provides clear and straightforward answers without trying to sell further information (which in most cases is nice to know but not necessarily needed).’
Feld Entertainment Inc.
- Advised Thomson Reuters on employment issues relating to the $17bn multi-jurisdictional sale of its Global Financial and Risk business to a consortium led by the Blackstone Group.
- Advising China Unicom across a wide variety of employment matters including on employment contract and internal HR policy review; anti-bribery related matters and investigations; employee investigations; employee monitoring; HR data privacy matters; and the restrictive covenants work arrangements of freelancers.
- Advised Ferrero across a wide range of employment aspects in China relating to its headquarter in Shanghai and its manufacturing plant in Hangzhou.
- Advising European e-commerce listed company Zalando on various employment issues including contract reviews, secondment of expatriates and related immigration issues, termination and redundancies.
- Handling a range of work for Google including the provision of training to its HR team in relation to the laws in Hong Kong and China.
Despite lacking the critical mass of some of its higher-ranked peers in the market, Clifford Chance's one-partner team excels at handling multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary mandates by virtue of its wide-ranging international network and full-service capabilities. This manifests itself most visibly in relation to the employment work associated with M&A and corporate reorganisations handled by the firm. On the contentious front, 'extremely smart, pragmatic and responsive' team head Anita Lam has 'in-depth market knowledge' and has been particularly active of late representing major corporates and financial services clients in relation to sexual harassment (#MeToo) and victimisation disputes/investigations. Brian Gilchrist has joined Gibson Dunn.
Other key lawyers:
‘What distinguishes Clifford Chance from other law firms, is its absolute understanding of the needs of in-house counsel when dealing with multiple internal and external stakeholders in sensitive matters and the consistency of the advice throughout the network.’
‘Anita Lam is always available when needed and is ready to answer the tough questions.’
- Assisted a global bank to summarily dismiss a team of traders for gross misconduct in relation to facilitation trading.
- Representing a financial services multinational in fending off a high-profile court case brought by its former senior executive for unpaid incentives.
- Assisted a global bank with a complex employment and regulatory-related investigation involving some very senior executives.
- Representing the French and Hong Kong entity of an international independent financial group in High Court proceedings brought by a former senior executive for incentives.
- Representing a Pan-Asian equity hedge fund in a case involving an employee’s misuse of confidential information and her counterclaim against the hedge fund for deferred incentives.
Although it also handles some advisory work (including in relation to restrictive covenants and drafting separation agreements), unsurprisingly, given the firm's pedigree as a leading independent litigation boutique, Gall's employment team is primarily focused on handling contentious employment work on behalf of employers and employees. Led by the 'attentive and knowledgeable' Andrea Randall, the team is particularly accomplished at handling litigation within the financial services sector, including as it relates to discrimination, whistle-blowing and bonus disputes.
- Defending TFS Derivatives against a claim brought by its former employee for wrongful and unreasonable termination, unpaid wages and bonus.
- Representing a senior executive in respect of his claims against his former employer Nomura for, inter alia, breach of contract, non-payment of bonus and unreasonable dismissal.
- Defending numerous individuals against allegations that they breached their employment contracts by resigning on masse to join a competitor and allegedly taking and using their former employer’s confidential information.
- Acted for a large multinational company and conducted an investigation into a suspected large-scale employees’ misconduct.
- Representing a global alternative investment firm across all employment matters and assisting its HR function in its day-to-day queries.
Herbert Smith Freehills
Able 'to combine legal and practical advice to formulate suitable solutions for clients', Herbert Smith Freehills' Hong Kong-based team is particularly accomplished at handling multi-jurisdictional mandates by dint of its ability to leverage the firm's broad-ranging international network, including a strong presence in Shanghai and Beijing. Able to call upon regulatory expertise should the need arise, the firm is best-known for its representation of major financial services clients in their employment disputes and internal investigations. Team head Gareth Thomas has a strong pedigree representing financial services entities across a range of high-profile disputes, including as it relates to claw-back provisions and workplace harassment. Dual qualified in Australia and Hong Kong, senior associate Tess Lumsdaine has a core focus on employment law and is noted for her ability to 'provide comparative advice for clients which is highly attuned to employment legislation and treatment across different jurisdictions'.
‘Tess Lumsdaine is very experienced in the practice of employment law.’
Anglo Chinese Corporate Finance
Commonwealth Bank of Australia
- Instructed by the board of a financial services company to conduct an investigation into workplace harassment and bullying.
- Represented a global bank in relation to the recovery of incentives paid to several former employees under the claw-back provisions of the bonus scheme plan.
- Represented a financial services client in two proceedings before the High Court to recover sign on compensation and bonus awards paid to a number of former employees under their contract of employment and the claw-back provisions of the award agreements.
- Advising a global bank in employment proceedings brought by former employees who were dismissed following adverse findings in relation to their involvement in the bank’s referral hiring practices in Asia.
- Advised a US global investment bank on the employment law issues in relation to a sales trader, including advising on termination of employment following an SFC investigation into suspicious trading activities at its Hong Kong branch.
Hugill & Ip
Since its establishment in September 2018, boutique independent law firm Hugill & Ip has quickly gained traction in the market for existing clients of lead employment partner Adam Hugill , many of whom followed him to his new firm. Praised for his 'no-nonsense attitude and helpful, realistic way of giving advice', Hugill is particularly accomplished at handling employment litigation for individuals in the financial services sector, including on disputes involving payment and clawback of bonuses, and vested and unvested remuneration rights. On the non-contentious front, Christopher Hooley excels at handling the employment aspects of M&A mandates and reorganisations.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team provides direct advice within a practical framework.’
‘Adam Hugill clearly knows his stuff, but manages to exude a casual and relaxed air during meetings.’
SMRU (Hong Kong), arm of St. Andrew’s University
Cognatio Law / Elevate
Charles Taylor B.V.
Paccaya Resources Limited
Doctors Beck & Stone
- Acting for former managing director in connection with High Court proceedings (and assisting in Labour Tribunal proceedings) for a wide range of issues, including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, negligence and breach of shareholders’ agreement.
- Defending Nicklaus Design LLC (an international golf course design company founded by the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus) against claims brought by former senior executive for Greater China and Asia valued at over HK$22m.
- Representing the claimant in a case before the Labour Tribunal for unpaid commissions arising from a profit share agreement entered into with a company.
- Providing ongoing HR support to multinational construction company, Hargreaves, including advice on policies, work-place injuries, disciplinary actions, discrimination and terminations.
- Representing a private individual as claimant in litigation brought against her former employer in proceedings concerning sex discrimination – termination while pregnant / following miscarriage and disability discrimination.
As well as continuing to handle employment work for institutional insurance clients of the firm, Kennedys also continues to grow the number of mandates it handles for employers and employees across other sectors including financial services – where work includes advice in relation to the theft of confidential information, wrongful termination cases and constructive dismissal claims. Australian, UK and Hong Kong-qualified practitioner Emily Duncan is the lead counsel of the employment team.
Other key lawyers:
Prudential Hong Kong
The Hospital Authority
Co-headed by Samantha Cornelius and Emma Pugh , who were both recently promoted to counsel, Linklaters provides an 'efficient and responsive service' to standalone and institutional firmwide clients, across a broad scope of contentious and non-contentious matters, including in relation to data protection, separation agreements and restrictive covenants. Acting as a hub for regional Asia Pacific matters, the Hong Kong office regularly takes the lead on work requiring significant input from Singapore and mainland China, and excels at assisting employers within the insurance, financial services and technology sectors. The recent arrival of managing associate Juliette Graham from the firm's London office strengthens the team's employee incentives offering.
The team has a very strong customer focus. They are professional, proactive, flexible in meeting our demanding time line.
The proactive and knowledgeable Samantha Cornelius is a great business partner, she understands our tight timeline and the sensitive nature of the work we had engaged her.
City Mental Health Alliance Hong Kong
- Working with Liberty Shared on multiple employment matters in the Philippines and Thailand, including advising on the development and implementation of a mediation-based alternative dispute resolution mechanism for employee disputes in Thailand.
- Working with the City Mental Health Alliance to provide a seminar to Hong Kong employers on their obligations vis-a-vis employees who suffer mental ill-health.
- Advising the Out in Hong Kong team on a number of employment and immigration matters in preparation for the Gay Games to be held in Hong Kong in 2022.
Reed Smith Richards Butler
Housed within its commercial litigation group, Reed Smith Richards Butler's employment team handles a significant range of labour matters for employers and employees within certain core industry sectors, including financial services, food and beverages. This contentious backdrop ensures that clients receive robust contract drafting at the front end of matters, thereby minimising the risk of any potential litigation occurring further down the line. Of course, the team is also well-placed to handle employment litigation, with team head Asha Sharma regularly advising on matters relating to the enforcement of restrictive covenants, bringing and defending claims of discrimination to the Equal Opportunities Commission and matters relating to the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.
‘The team provides helpful and responsive advice.’
Led by the 'very responsive' Jezamine Fewins, Stephenson Harwood provides 'practical and highly tailored advice' to local businesses and multinational corporates with operations in Hong Kong across a range of employment matters, including on trade secrets issues, employment contract drafting, and restrictive covenants. Fewins is well-versed at handling contentious employment mandates for both employers and employees, particularly as it relates to claims/defences of disability/sex discrimination, and in relation to advice (for former employees) on the enforceability of restrictive covenants.
‘Yeeling Wan provides responsive and practical advice and is an expert in her field.’
‘The exceptionally talented Ian Childs provides highly tailored advice which is relevant to your business needs.’
China Singkong Investment Holdings
China Singkong Mentougou Cement Inv’t Limited
Jet Aviation Business Jets (Hong Kong) Limited
Phillips Fine Watches Limited
s. Oliver Asia Limited
Alcohol Countermeasures Systems (HK) Limited
Emirates Shipping (Hong Kong) Ltd
Formia Airline Supplies Limited
FlightSafety International Limited
Formia Airline Supplies Limited
- Assisting FlightSafety with all its Hong Kong HR matters, including the redrafting of its employment contracts and Rules of Engagement/Staff Handbook.
- Advising St John Knits on the employment issues associated with the sale of its retail business in Hong Kong and China.
- Advising Formia Airline Supplies about confidentiality and restrictive covenants of staff working on Hong Kong law governed contracts all over the world.
- Advising Equinix Hong Kong Limited on employment issues including the review of its Hong Kong staff handbook, amending and updating of the same.
- Representing Alcohol Countermeasures Systems (HK) Limited in litigation with a former employee who after being sacked for making false expense claims, brought a wrongful dismissal claim before the Labour Tribunal.
Clyde & Co LLP
Benefiting from deep-rooted sectoral knowledge across the transport, financial services and retail industries, Clyde & Co LLP provides a 'very pragmatic service' for local and multinational corporates across the spectrum of their employment needs, from day-to-day human resources requirements to critical global business change projects. Following the recent promulgation of the PRC Cybersecurity Law, the team has been increasingly active advising on risk management procedures to minimise relevant risks as well as providing advice to employers on data breach matters by employees. Leveraging his overarching commercial disputes expertise, team head Simon McConnell is particularly well suited to guiding clients through their contentious employment scenarios, including as it relates to breaches of duty, confidentiality and restrictive covenant enforcement.
Although Hogan Lovells lacks a discrete standalone employment offering, it has significant experience across a range of work (including advice on employment contracts, transfer of employees and restrictive covenants), primarily for existing clients of the firm. The team is led by commercial litigator Mark Lin on the contentious front and on the non-contentious side by corporate partner Tim Fletcher.
Led by Kathryn Weaver, UK-headquartered employment boutique Lewis Silkin Hong Kong's five-strong team serves as a very effective resource to the firm's impressive roster of multinational institutional clients on their Asia Pacific employment requirements. The office's conversion at the beginning of 2019 to a Hong Kong partnership enables the firm to advise on local law, and with the recent recruitment of Hong Kong- and UK-qualified legal director Catherine Leung from Baker McKenzie, it has increased knowledge of the local market. Leung has expertise across a wide spectrum of employment matters, from advice on complex discrimination and sexual harassment cases, through to team moves and senior terminations.
Other key lawyers:
‘The lawyers are not only jurisdiction experts but also industry insiders who provide a valuable perspective on current legal issues.’
Willis Towers Watson
Oxford University Press
- Advising a luxury international fashion brand on the exit of a senior employee due to poor performance and the related complaint to the Equal Opportunities Commission.
- Advising a fintech company on a threatened breach of contract and defamation claim by a former employees and assisting with responding to a related data access request.
- Assisting a bank to respond to threats of litigation by an employee for breach of contract and supporting with an investigation into allegations made of the employee.
- Assisting an aircraft leasing company with successfully obtaining a high volume of Hong Kong employment visas for their inbound staff.
- Conducting a review of legacy employment contracts and policies and creating new documentation for a recently merged professional services firm.
Now headed by newly promoted partner Jade Tang , following the departure in September 2018 of senior practitioner Adam Hugill to Hugill & IP, Oldham, Li & Nie's employment team maintains a significant offering across both contentious and non-contentious matters for employees and employers from a range of industry sectors, including financial services and banking. Leveraging her corporate and commercial background, Tang has particular expertise advising on non-contentious matters, including on the employment issues associated with corporate reorganisations and M&A transactions.
Olympus Corporation of Asia Pacific Limited and Olympus HK & China Limited
AEON Credit Service (Asia) Co.
TamJai Sam Gor Yunnan Noodles Group
Mykita Asia Pacific
- Assisted Olympus Corporation of Asia Pacific Limited and Olympus HK & China to review its Employee Handbook and associated policies in the light of changing employment laws.
- Assisted AEON Credit Service in relation to a formal complaint from a former senior manager through Equal Opportunities Commission for the reason of disability discrimination.
- Represented Mykita Asia Pacific with regard to an investigation by the Inland Revenue Department in relation to the client’s malpractice of hiring PRC employee without obtaining a work visa in Hong Kong.
- Advising Toridoll Holding on the employment law issues associated with its acquisition of TamJai Yunnan MiXian and TamJai SamGor MiXian in Hong Kong.