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Three key issues HR in Hong Kong will face in 2017

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In a recent outlook media briefing held by DLA Piper in Hong Kong, the firm’s partners shared their views on key market trends and issues in 2017. During the briefing, Julia Gorham, partner and head of employment, Asia, tackled three key issues the Hong Kong labour market and HR professionals can expect to face in the upcoming year.

Cyber security

As companies get ever more technologically advanced, and global connectivity is connecting staff members around the world, cyber security is a growing concern. Offering an example, Gorham said: “Data privacy is a big issue. You think your employees are pretty smart when you hire them, but then it turns out they’re not so smart when they’re leaving and you find out they’ve used their personal email account to send sensitive or even classified information.”

Whether accidental or intentional, Hong Kong’s financial regulators have been increasingly focusing their efforts on combating such fraud, cyber security breaches, and other employee misconduct. It’s a trend Gorham expects will continue in 2017.

From a HR perspective, stricter compliance regulations could mean the use of referrals during recruitment is no longer an option. “Businesses are now aware that such practices common in previous decades are no longer tolerated in today’s culture of compliance,” Gorham explained.

She added that it doesn’t necessarily mean companies should blanket refuse anyone who made it through the recruitment process on merit, but happens to have ties to the company. “What you should do, is do your due diligence. Make sure they’re truly a good fit, and do not put them in a department in any way connected to their connection.”

Standard working hours

As the Hong Kong Government and labour groups are continuing their discussions on proposed legislation of standard working hours, Gorham said she did not expect the government to waiver on their preferred 48-hour week.

She said: “The government is likely to stick to its guns on this issue and provide for significant opt outs, to avoid the perceived potential economic impact of losing business and large employers to less regulated and more cost efficient Asian markets.”

According to Gorham, industries most likely to be impacted by standard working hours are retail, hospitality and leisure, and healthcare. Among the least impacted will be senior managerial employees, who Gorham doesn’t expect to see any discernible impact on their hours or pay due to opt outs.

She added that she didn’t think a full agreement will be reached any time soon. “It has been long running, and will continue into 2017.”

Restructuring

“I expect to see a rebalancing of workforces in Asia in 2017,” Gorham shared. “2016 already saw deeper cuts than usual, and that will continue into 2017.”

She referred to the economic and political uncertainty worldwide as one of the reasons for continued scrutiny over staffing numbers, locations, and future business strategy. Given the potentially high costs and different legal frameworks across Asia with regards to restructurings, she stressed the importance of forward planning for HR departments.

“HR departments are starting to map out the company headcount and its cost to see where they could create more profitability.”

She added that moving staff to different jurisdictions could be one way of achieving that, with a lot of companies already in the process of moving their expats to Singapore.

ALSO READ: The salary increments staff in 14 APAC countries can expect in 2017

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