EOC warns firms against penalising unvaccinated staff

The equality watchdog on Thursday said companies should not remove or deny benefits for employees who refuse to get a Covid-19 vaccination – warning that the firms could be found to have broken the law.

The note of caution from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) comes as more and more companies start offering incentives, such as paid days off and bonuses, to staff to encourage them to get inoculated.

And, earlier this week, the Hong Kong Football Club went a step further by telling staff they would not be eligible for pay rises, bonuses or promotions if they refused to get the jab.

An executive director at the EOC, Ferrick Chu, said it’s reasonable for companies to offer rewards, but taking away benefits could lead to disputes.

Chu told an RTHK radio programme that employers should allow people, such as the disabled or pregnant women, to apply for exemptions, as differential treatment may constitute indirect discrimination.

He said the EOC’s role is to mediate disputes, and doesn’t have the power to act as an arbiter. If no solution can be found, he added, the matter will have to go to the courts, which will ultimately decide whether the companies are in the wrong.