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The Rights of the Individual

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Family Status Discrimination Ordinance

What does the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance do?

The Family Status Discrimination Ordinance (the Ordinance) was enacted on 26 June 1997. Under the Ordinance, it would be unlawful to discriminate against a person who has family status. This ground of complaint applies to specified areas of activity and covers both direct and indirect discrimination.

It is also unlawful to treat a person unfavourably because that person has made or intends to make a complaint under the Ordinance. This also applies to a person who gives evidence regarding a complaint.

What is Family Status?

Family status means the status of having responsibility for the care of an immediate family member.

Immediate family member, in relation to a person, means someone who is related to the person concerned by blood, marriage, adoption or affinity. This definition covers a wide range of relationships recognised in law. For example, father, mother, brothers, sisters, husband, wife, sons, daughters, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, father-in law, mother-in-law and the spouse's brothers and sisters. This list is not exhaustive.

What is Direct Discrimination?

This occurs when a person who has family status or a particular family status is treated less favourably than a person who does not have family status or the same family status, in the same or not materially different circumstances. Discrimination against a job applicant who assumes the responsibility for care of an aged parent would be an example of "direct discrimination".

What is Indirect Discrimination?

This occurs when a requirement or condition exists, which on the face of it appears neutral, but in fact has an unfair effect on persons with family status or a particular family status. For example, if a company only recruits staff who can work irregular hours, it is likely that many people having the responsibility for the care of young children are unable to satisfy this job requirement. This kind of requirement or condition would constitute "indirect discrimination" if there is no reasonable justification for the requirement or condition.

What areas of activity does the Ordinance cover?

The Ordinance makes it unlawful to discriminate a person in specified areas of activity. These include :

  • employment

  • education

  • provision of goods, facilities, or services

  • disposal or management of premises

  • eligibility to vote for and to be elected or appointed to advisory bodies

  • activities of clubs

  • activities of Government

Making a complaint

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is charged with the responsibility to oversee the implementation of the Ordinance. If you experience treatment that you think may be unlawful under the Ordinance, you may seek assistance from the Commission.

A person may lodge a complaint in writing to the EOC who will then investigate the complaint and encourage conciliation between the parties in dispute. If the complaint cannot be resolved, the EOC may also provide assistance in court proceedings should the victim decide to take the complaint to court. Complaints and enquiries are handled confidentially by the EOC.

Alternatively, you may also bring proceedings in court by yourself.


The Family Status Discrimination Ordinance had come into full operation on 21 November 1997.

Contact of the EOC

16/F., 41 Heung Yip Road
Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong

Tel. No. : (852) 2511 8211

Fax No. : (852) 2511 8142

Online enquiry and complaint form:Please click here

Email: eoc@eoc.org.hk [Please note that this email address is not designated for enquiry and complaint handling services relating to the anti-discrimination ordinances.]

(This article only provides general information on the Ordinance. The information is by no means exhaustive or definitive. Please refer to the provisions of the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance for a complete and definitive statement of the law.)