Hong Kong starts accepting applications for Enhanced Supplementary Labour Scheme

Hong Kong starts accepting applications for Enhanced Supplementary Labour Scheme


The Labour Department will implement enhancement measures and strive to complete the processing of an application within three months after it passes the screening.

​To alleviate the manpower shortage across different sectors, the HKSAR government has earlier endorsed the enhancement of the coverage and operation of the Supplementary Labour Scheme (SLS), which has now been renamed as the Enhanced Supplementary Labour Scheme (ESLS), applications to the scheme will begin to be today, 4 September 2023.

Under the ESLS, the general exclusion of 26 job categories as well as unskilled/low-skilled posts from the SLS will be suspended for two years. This covers job categories including sales representative, sales assistant, waiter/waitress, receptionist, cashier, junior cook, clerical worker, teller, hair stylist, warehouse keeper, delivery worker, driver, mason, and more.

Employers carrying on business in Hong Kong with genuine difficulties in recruiting suitable staff locally may apply to import workers at the technician level or below to fill vacancies. Employers must undertake a four-week local recruitment exercise for each vacancy under application. Concurrently, the Labour Department (LD) will provide active job matching for the vacancies to identify suitable local job-seekers for referral to the employers for interviews.

Upon completion of the recruitment exercise, LD will invite members of the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) to give views on the recommendation of LD. After conducting a comprehensive review of all relevant factors, LD will determine whether to approve or refuse each application.

The LD will implement enhancement measures to enhance the dissemination of application information to employers, streamline the procedures for processing applications, and refine the workflow of consultation with the LAB, striving to complete the processing of an application within three months after it passes the screening under the ESLS.

Details about the ESLS:

  • The duration of the employment contract of a worker imported under ESLS shall not be longer than 24 months.
  • Imported workers must be paid no less than the median monthly wages of local workers in comparable positions.
  • Imported workers shall be engaged under a Standard Employment Contract (SEC) and be accorded the same protection of the labour laws in Hong Kong as local workers. They are only allowed to work for their employers and in the positions with job duties as specified in SEC.
  • Administrative sanctions in the form of withdrawal of approval for importation of labour will be imposed on an employer who is found to have breached relevant statutory provision(s) (including the Employment Ordinance, the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance, the Immigration Ordinance and the occupational safety and health legislation), relevant requirements of ESLS or SEC. The employer will also be debarred from participation in the relevant scheme for up to two years.
  • Imported workers must return to their place of origin on expiry of their contracts. An employer who wishes to continue employing imported workers upon the expiry of their contracts are required to submit an application afresh to LD in advance.
  • If the prospective imported workers are Mainland residents, employers under the ESLS must recruit the imported workers through the foreign labour service co-operation enterprises approved by the relevant Mainland authorities. Moreover, apart from providing accommodation in Hong Kong, employers are allowed under the ESLS to provide imported labour with accommodation on the Mainland; or let imported labour reside in their residential premises on the Mainland. The relevant arrangements are in line with those under the sector-specific labour importation schemes.
  • Successful employers are required to pay a levy that goes to the Employees Retraining Board to augment the provision of training and retaining for local workers. The levy payable in a lump sum in respect of each imported worker is HK$400 multiplied by the number of months covered by the SEC up to a maximum of 24 months. It will be collected after the approval for importing workers and before the issue of visa/entry permit by the Director of Immigration.
  • To protect imported workers' employment rights and benefits, employers must arrange and grant paid leave to each imported worker for attending a briefing on employment rights, on the basis of each SEC signed, organised by LD, within eight weeks upon his/her arrival in Hong Kong to ensure that they understand their rights and benefits of working in Hong Kong.

Interested employers can submit to the Supplementary Labour Division (SLD) of the LD the completed application forms together with the required documents from 4 September 2023. Applications submitted under the SLS before 4 September 2023 and still under processing will continue to be processed by the LD in accordance with the enhancement measures of the ESLS.

The ESLS does not accept applications for importation of labour of industries and job categories covered by the sector-specific labour importation schemes and the Special Scheme to Import Care Workers for Residential Care Homes.

Lead image / Shutterstock

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