The Chief Executive has announced further details on the newly implemented Employment Support Scheme.
Applications for the scheme are set to be released on the 25th of May, with payments expected to be received by employers within 3 to 4 weeks from the date of application. The application period will last 3 weeks, until the 14 of June, and will be applicable to the first tranche of the scheme which will cover wages from June to August. The application will be based on an employer’s MPF account or any other pension scheme account that they hold for their employees, and will be used as the foundation for the calculation of the subsidy they receive. If there is more than one scheme the process may take a little longer.
Applications will be online and will require employers to choose any one month from December 2019 to March 2020 as the “specified month”. The subsidies will be calculated based on the number of employees and their respective wages in that “specified month”. Any employers with MPF accounts that have been set up after the 31st of March will not be eligible for the first tranche of the subsidy.
For the administration of the scheme, the Government has appointed ESS processing agents. Employers applying for ESS are required to authorise the ESS processing agent to receive MPF Record certificates directly from the MPF trustees in order to confirm the information related to MPF Contributions. Employers are not required to submit such information at the time of application and MPF Trustees will not charge employers any fees on the issue of the certificates.
Employers will also be required to provide an undertaking not to make redundancies during the subsidy period. The Government have specified that the employer’s headcount during the subsidy period i.e. June, July and August, may not be less than it was in March 2020. If the headcount is reduced, the Government may “claw-back” the relevant amount of subsidy for the former employee. More details are to be released by the Government on the implementation of these penalties next week.
The ESS also does not forbid employers from reducing employees’ wages during the subsidy period but expects 100% of the subsidy given to them to go to the employee.
More details on the scheme are set to be released next week. There is currently a dedicated hotline for ESS enquiries which you may contact within Hong Kong at 183 6122, alternatively, you may contact them by email on email@example.com.