Almost one fifth of employees in Hong Kong say they have faced discrimination in the workplace, yet most affected staff have never taken action over it to avoid being labelled as “trouble-makers”.
According to the Study on Discrimination in the Hong Kong Workplace conducted by Equal Opportunities Commission, 18% of employees in the country have been discriminated against.
The study, which polled more than 2,000 employees, found the most common type of discrimination encountered was age discrimination (64%).
Other types of discrimination and harassment encountered were related to gender (21%), sexual harassment (17%), family status (14%), pregnancy (10%), marital status (9%) and the status of being new immigrants (11%).
“The high rate of discrimination in the workplace is alarming and unacceptable,” Dr John Tse Wing-ling, convenor of the EOC’s policy and research committee, said.
“That is why our city has put into place four anti-discrimination ordinances to protect employees from job discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, marital status, disability, race, and family status, as well as different forms of harassment.”
The report highlighted 57% of workplace discrimination occurred in small and medium-sized enterprises, and 14% in companies with more than 500 employees.
Almost one in five (19%) of employees in wholesale and import/export trade had encountered discrimination.
Alarmingly, the study also found victims had no intention of lodging complaints to the company management, as they considered they would be unable to address the problem. Many also wanted to avoid being labelled as trouble-makers.
In total, 94% of those who had encountered discrimination did not take any action for the reason that they “will not take it seriously as it is common in the workplace” and such actions “could not help”.
“Discrimination in the workplace can affect staff morale, which directly impacts work performance,” Wing-ling said.
“Consequently, preventing discriminatory practices that impact the workplace is to the advantage of a business. It will mean higher profits in the long run by increasing productivity, as well as avoiding the expenses due to staff turnover and retraining, and bad publicity.”
Tse also noted enhancing public education is vital to ensure a more positive attitude is encouraged for lodging complaints. Additionally, business leaders must provide relevant training for management and HR to be better equipped to deal with discrimination cases.