Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund
The government’s review of the Specialized Savings Account Scheme considered the amounts involved in the offset cases between 2019 and 2015, and suggested that many employers might not have sufficient cash to pay severance pay and long-term service payment to its employees. For the scheme to fulfil its function, the contribution level would need to be much higher than 1% but that might be too much of a burden for employers to tolerate. Realistically, it may not be appropriate to ask employers to make further contributions in the current economic environment when businesses are facing interest rate hikes, geopolitical pressures and the aftermath of the COVID-19.
Thus, the more practical solution lies with the existing Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund (PWIF). The Labour and Welfare Bureau concluded the PWIF can still help settling severance to employees as the PWIF with a surplus of HK$6.8 billion should be sufficient for making such payments in case the employers become insolvent.
The PWIF is mainly financed by a levy per annum on each business registration or branch registration under the Business Registration Ordinance. The levy is collected by the Inland Revenue Department when the business registration fee is paid. Under the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Ordinance, the Commissioner for Labour may make ex gratia payments from PWIF to employees who are owed wages, wages in lieu of notice, severance payment, pay for untaken annual leave and/or pay for untaken statutory holidays by their insolvent employers.