Five things we learned at the Asia Employment Law Congress

Some key takeaways about changes and issues relating to employment law in Asia.

HRM Asia's 12th Annual Asia Employment Law Congress took place at the Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre on June 20 and 21.

The event brought together top legal employment experts and HR heads from across the region, giving delegates the opportunity to better understand and discuss the latest changes and issues related to employment law in Asia’s diverse range of markets.

Here are a few points that came up during the two-day session.


  1. Top trends to take note of

There were several recurring trends that popped up across multiple geographies, including:

  • GDPR, which impacts companies here in Asia that have customers or employees who are from the EU, or which are subsidiaries of EU companies.
  • The increasingly diversified workforce of gig workers, contingent workers, and so on.
  • The increasing demands of transparency towards businesses
  • Diversity and inclusion – specifically the gender pay gap and making the workplace friendlier to working mothers
  • Workplace harassment and the #MeToo movement


  1. India’s crèche provision and maternity leave policies

A significant recent development in workplace legislation in India relates to the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act. This law makes it mandatory for establishments employing 50 or more people to provide for crèche facilities. It was effective from 1st July 2017 and organisations need to be compliant, although additional guidelines and clarifications are still being worked out.


  1. Tightening regulations in the Philippines

In the Philippines, there has been movement towards drafting new laws relating to contractors. One proposed provision is an abolishment of fixed-term employment, except in certain cases, such as project employees, seasonal employees or relievers (up to six months). It is hoped that this provision would prevent employers from abusing temporary contracts – for instance, placing an employee on a one-year temporary contract for ten years straight, as has happened previously.


  1. Proposed amendments to Vietnam’s labour laws

Vietnam’s government continues to grapple with changes that were proposed to the countries labour code a few years ago. These were initially drawn up to meet the requirements of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that had been under discussion, but which is now virtually dead in the water. However, Vietnam’s government might still proceed with some of the proposed amendments, such as those impacting retirement age and overtime pay. It is also likely that there will be expansions to employers’ and employees’ rights to unilaterally terminate contracts. These changes are expected to be passed in 2019.


  1. Prudence wins the day

When it comes to legal matters, it might be prudent to stick to a “be safe, not sorry” approach – especially with legislation continuing to evolve in the region in various matters including discrimination and harassment. Organisations starting out in a new market will likely benefit from reaching out to employment lawyers and experts who are already there, and familiar with how things work.

“You don’t always know what you don’t know,” noted Stephen Ko, Legal Counsel at ZEISS. 


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