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What we know (and don’t yet know) about the Employment Support Scheme 2022

  • Hong Kong
  • Employee benefits - Practical help guide

29-03-2022

On 18 March 2022, the Hong Kong government announced its plans for another Employment Support Scheme (“ESS 2022”), as part of its Anti-epidemic Fund. The ESS 2022 will financially support employees by providing their employers with three months of wage subsidies. The ESS 2022 aims to help employers to retain employees who may otherwise have been made redundant.

Under the scheme, each eligible worker will receive a fixed subsidy of HK$24,000 for the period from May to July 2022, which is equivalent to HK$8,000 per month. The Chief Executive stated that this scheme is intended to focus more on helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with distinctions to be drawn based on the industry of the business.

We set out below the main features of the ESS 2022 as currently outlined by the government:

Eligibility

In contrast with the first round of the ESS from June to November 2020 (“first ESS”), which provided financial subsidies to businesses of all sizes and industries, the focus of the ESS 2022 is on SMEs who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Accordingly businesses which have not been negatively impacted will be ineligible.

The government currently intends to exclude employers with 50 employees or more and which are in the following categories from ESS 2022:

• government and statutory bodies and those who have been excluded from the first ESS;

• supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience stores and online shopping platforms;

• property management, cleaning and security companies;

• banks, insurers and financial institutions;

• delivery firms;

• utilities;

• theme parks and hotels rented by the government as isolation or quarantine facilities;

• private hospitals, clinics and laboratories;

• builders, property developers and property agencies; and

• telecommunications companies.

In addition, employees with a monthly income of $30,000 or above will not be eligible for ESS 2022. Unlike the first ESS, this time workers aged 65 and above with no MPF account will also be eligible under the scheme.

The government will allow the employer to choose the number of employees to receive the subsidy under ESS 2022, which will provide much more flexibility for employers to structure their business. The government is also considering to set a cap on the number of eligible employees as ESS beneficiaries per employer, although further details are yet to be confirmed.

Undertaking from the employer

Employers who wish to participate in the ESS 2022 must undertake and warrant that they will maintain their employee number at or above the approved level for which ESS 2022 subsidies have been paid during the three-month subsidy period, and that they will spend all of the wage subsidies on paying wages to the particular employee for which ESS 2022 subsidy was designated.

Application process

The government intends to begin accepting applications for ESS 2022 in April 2022.

More to come

ESS 2022 is expected to benefit over one million employees in Hong Kong. ESS 2022 is currently a work in process and the government is still consulting relevant stakeholders on the details of the scheme. We expect the government to announce more details shortly before the opening of the ESS 2022 application platform. We will be able to provide details on the application process and the documentary requirements once the government makes them available.

For more details on the ESS 2022, please refer to the English transcript of the government’s press release remarks on the ESS scheme here, and the original press release (in Chinese only) here.