With the spread of novel coronavirus, businesses are taking unprecedented measures in order to stay operational and to protect their employees. Wendy Wong and Fiona Loughrey explain the legal challenges posed by working in the shadow of an outbreak

With the number of confirmed COVID-19/novel coronavirus cases in Hong Kong and elsewhere still rising, many employers, often prompted by the government, have taken measures to prevent the spread of the virus. These include implementing work from home arrangements, substituting conference calls for face-to-face business meetings, discouraging use of public transport at peak times and restricting business travel.

In addition, as the outbreak will have an economic impact, steps may need to be taken by some businesses to reduce operational costs.

There are several issues that employers may be contemplating due to challenges posed by the outbreak, and certain related legal considerations. Although the authors address these matters as they pertain to Hong Kong law, there are similar concerns in jurisdictions around the region that are worth considering with respect to the laws in those jurisdictions.

Working from home

Where employers have adopted the Hong Kong government’s recommendation to allow their employees to work from home, in practice, employees appear generally to be happy to do so. In some cases, however, it may be necessary for employers to request certain employees to attend the workplace to perform duties that cannot be done remotely.

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Wendy Wong is a managing associate in and Fiona Loughrey is a partner in and the head of Simmons & Simmons’ Hong Kong labour and employment practice