The Equal Opportunities Commission (“EOC”) recently issued Guide Dogs: A Practical Guide  (“Guide”) with a view to better protect the rights of guide dog users in public settings.  

The Guide was issued following a study carried out by the EOC in October 2023 and in response to a series of complaints received by the EOC over the past five years from persons with visual impairment who have said that they had been subject to discrimination due to being accompanied by a guide dog. In particular, guide dog users reported that they faced discrimination during the job recruitment process. 

The law

Currently, protection for guide dog users in Hong Kong is limited. While there are laws specifically permitting guide dogs to board public transportation and enter food premises, there are no similar laws protecting the use of guide dogs in other public settings, such as the workplace. However, as guide dogs accompany persons with visual impairment, treating guide dog users unfavourably may constitute unlawful discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, which prohibits direct and indirect discrimination on the ground of one’s disability.

Therefore, employers are reminded of their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance not to discriminate against job candidates and employees who are guide dog users and to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to these job candidates and employees.

Practical tips

To this end, the Guide provides some examples of the types of arrangements which employers can consider putting in place, which include the following: 

  • Ensure that there is a barrier-free path of travel in the workplace. 
  • Seek the views of guide dog users in relation to the location of their work desks, for example, they may prefer somewhere that is located away from crowded areas and noise, with sufficient space for the guide dog to rest next to their users.
  • Allow guide dog users to take short breaks during the work day to take care of the guide dog’s basic needs, such as going out for a short walk. 

The EOC also recognises that employers can improve their corporate image and demonstrate corporate social responsibility through making accommodations for guide dog users.

Key takeaways

We encourage employers to refer to the Guide to obtain a better understanding of guide dogs in Hong Kong, the challenges guide dog users face, and how the needs of guide dog users in the workplace might be addressed, with a view to foster a more harmonious work environment and minimise the risk of disability discrimination in relation to guide dog users. 

Employers may also consider whether their anti-discrimination policies need to be updated to include references to the use of guide dogs.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.