TAFEP Hero 2023 Oct
Hong Kong PR firms exploited ‘loophole’ in ESS scheme to lay off staff

Hong Kong PR firms exploited ‘loophole’ in ESS scheme to lay off staff


Most sectors in Hong Kong have been battered by the ongoing impact of the pandemic for the past 12–15 months, and the public relations industry – and those working in it – is no exception.

In the most recent Hong Kong Public Relations & Communications Industry Salary & Benefit Survey, one-quarter of respondents (25%) said that they had experienced a pay freeze, while one-fifth were subject to a pay cut of up to 30% or unpaid leave up to 14 days per month.

There has also been concerning reports of some firms flouting the conditions of the Employment Support Scheme (ESS).

“Some members reported that a number of employers had sacked higher-paid employees after receiving subsidies through the ESS from the government. After that, the employers hired new employees at a lower cost to satisfy the committed headcount of paid employees criterion,” a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Public Relations and Communications Professional Union (HKPRU) was reported as saying on the Marketing Interactive website.

“The scheme failed to protect employees from unemployment, while allowing employers to benefit from the exploitation of their employees through a loophole in the policy,” the spokesperson added.

At the time of writing, Human Resources was not able to ascertain if the companies involved have faced penalties for this clear breach of the terms and conditions of the ESS.

The salary & benefits survey offered data on remuneration packages across the PR sector. Junior professionals working for the government or public organisations had the highest salaries, while multinational public relations agencies offered higher wages than local agencies.

In terms of the median monthly salary, the survey has found that PR professionals with one year of experience or less earned HK$15,000 a month. 

But industry professionals with up to five years of experience, 10 to 15 years of experience and over 16 years of experience, the median monthly salaries were HK$28,000, HK$48,000 and over HK$53,000 respectively.

The survey also found that the PR industry’s average weekly working hours were 47 hours – three hours more than the Hong Kong median.

However 6% of industry professionals’ worked up to 60 hours per week, while 96% of the respondents said they had received no compensation for working overtime.

The HKPRU surveyed 387 members and other industry professionals in December 2020 via an online questionnaire.

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