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Among over 300,000 employers in Hong Kong who took part in the Employment Support Scheme (ESS) last year, one in five of them violated the conditions, namely not to lay off any employee during the subsidy period, Sky Post reported.

Of these 60,000 employers, 75% of them axed one to two employees, and the rest had lied about their headcount. The actual number of their workforce is seven people less than what they reported to the government. For the first case, employers have to return the wage subsidies and pay a penalty of HK$7,000. As for the latter one, in addition to paying back the subsidies, they have to pay a HK$97,000 fine on average.

In addition, about 900 employers were caught using the subsidy for purposes other than salary. They are obliged to return HK$10,000 to the government. 

On a separate note, the government revealed this week that as of 9 March, the ESS Secretariat had received 1,105 complaint cases, and more than half of those involve unreasonable reduction in the number of employees or redundancy. The secretariat had completed investigations of 1,069 complaint cases so far, and over half of the employers (56%) admitted not complying with the terms and conditions of the ESS.

The Lam administration launched the ESS under the second round of the anti-epidemic fund last year in a bid to cushion the blow and encourage employers to retain employees. The wage subsidies were distributed in two tranches. Employers who participated in the scheme were required not to fire any employees and to spend the entire wage subsidy solely on paying wages to their employees during the subsidy period. 

Photo/ The Standard