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While many companies in Hong Kong are looking forward to receiving the government’s Employment Support Scheme (EES) to financially support staff during the ongoing pandemic, at least two sectors are not committing to the payments.

Many banks and airlines – notably HSBC, Hang Seng Bank and Cathay Pacific – have declined the government’s ESS offer, it was reported in the Sing Tao Daily.

Many of the larger banks have reported that they have been largely unaffected  by the COVID-19  pandemic, while airlines have reported that they prefer keeping flexibility in how they handle their manpower rather than rather than being tied to the no-sacking rule.

The no-sacking rule states that employers’ overall headcount from June to August should be no fewer than that of March, otherwise penalties will apply.

Under the ESS, the government will pay employers half of the salaries of their employees for six months – capped at HK$9000 per month. While the self-employed will receive a one-off lump sum of HK$7500 on the proviso that they had activated their MPF accounts by the end of March.

“Although the business environment of banks in the past few months has been affected by the pandemic, their losses are not as serious as other industries, so most banks would like to leave the resources to other enterprises,” said finance sector legislator Chan Chun-ying.

The Jockey Club, MTR Corp and CLP Group are also opting out of the scheme, but many hotel owners – the sector has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic – have expressed an interest in applying and will embrace the scheme.

Since applications opened on 25 May, approximately 140,000 out of 270,000 eligible employers – and another 170,000 self-employed – have applied for the scheme. Applications will end on Sunday 14 June. First payments are expected to be made to eligible companies later this month.

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