1. Are children allowed to work in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong, youth are a special category of people who are specifically protected under the law.  The term youth includes both “children” and “young persons”. In relation to employment, a “children” are defined as persons under the age of 15 whereas “young persons” are defined as persons above the age of 15 but under the age of 18.

Children aged below 13 are generally not allowed to work in all economic sectors in Hong Kong. Children aged between 13 and 15 are not allowed to work in factories or to take employment that is industrial in nature; but they can be employed in non-industrial establishments. The law further differentiates between those who have completed Form 3 education and those who have not. If children aged between 13 and 15 are employed, the employer has to adhere to certain work conditions, for example, there are limitations on the total number of hours of work a day, and break must be given to the child employee. Children workers shall not be employed in any premises which are deemed dangerous or morally bad for them.

For more details, please visit Child and Youth Affairs > Rights of youth as employee > Laws protecting young workers.

2. My 4 year old son was invited to perform in a TV commercial. What things should I be aware of?

Employers in the entertainment, advertising or related filed may employ child entertainers of different ages. There are procedural safeguards to protect child entertainers.

First, employers who wish to employ child entertainers should apply to the Commissioner of Labour. Second, the employment of the children should not “interfere with their well-being, including that of safety, health and morals”. Then, on application, the Commissioner of Labour will impose specific conditions and restrictions on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, children below the age of 13 are not allowed to work for profit purposes, even as entertainers.

There are certain limitations on employment conditions. Special treatment is given to children under the age of six. Free transport should be provided to take each child employee home if he/she is required to work after 7 p.m. Furthermore, it is prohibited to involve a child in acts that are dangerous to his/her life, health or morals.

For further information, you may go to Child and Youth Affairs > Rights of youth as employee > Entertainers.

3. How does the law protect apprentices?

According to the Apprenticeship Ordinance, apprentices have special work hours, special contract terms, and a Director of Apprenticeship can be appointed to investigate claims and any infringement of the ordinancearising from the employment. Currently, there are 45 recognized apprenticeship trades.

The law requires every contract of apprenticeship to be in writing, and contain the prescribed terms and conditions. Apprentices are required by law to be medically examined with respect to his/her fitness to be employed in the trade. The employer should arrange and pay for the medical examination of the apprentice before the registration of the contract of apprenticeship.

The law permits apprentices to work overtime, but subject to certain limitations. If the Commissioner for Labour finds that overtime employment adversely affects the health of an apprentice, the Commissioner may prohibit the overtime employment.

For more details, please refer to Child and Youth Affairs > Rights of youth as employee > Apprenticeship.

4. Can verbal agreements be treated as employment contracts?

In Hong Kong, both written and verbal employment contracts are enforceable. But it is preferable that any employment contract is made in writing and signed, as signed written contracts have many more benefits over verbal employment contracts.

Written employment contracts that are signed have a multitude of benefits as they specify the employment terms and conditions. This has an effect of clearly delineating the obligations of both employers and employees and thus, would better protect the interests of the employees. If there is a dispute regarding work conditions, a clear, signed, written contract will have the effect of clarifying the issues. A signed, written contract can act as a reference point for both the employers and employees to discuss or arbitrate any of their contractual duties.

There are numerous things you have to be aware of before signing an employment contract. You may go to Child and Youth Affairs > Rights of youth as employee > Things to be aware of before signing employment contracts to learn more about this.

5. I am working as an intern in a hotel. Am I entitled to be paid by statutory minimum wage?

Normally, the Minimum Wage Ordinance applies to every employee, his or her employer and the contract of employment under which he or she is engaged. However, it does not apply to student interns and work experience students during a period of exempt student employment.

There are specific definitions for student interns and work experience students in law. For more details, please go to Child and Youth Affairs > Rights of youth as employee > Internship.