Hong Kong (CNN) — For Sandeep Arora, home is the ancient city of Jalandhar in India’s Punjab region. His wife, son and parents live there, but he hasn’t seen them since March 2020.
Amy Stott hasn’t seen her parents — or eaten at her beloved local fish and chip shop — in Manchester, England since June 2019.
Sabi Gurung, meanwhile, longs for the breathtaking mountains of Nepal, where her mom, dad and beloved dog all await her first visit in almost two years.
But thanks to a new initiative from Hong Kong’s Black Sheep Restaurants group, they’ll all soon be heading home — all expenses, more or less, paid.In addition to money for flights and the battery of Covid tests needed, they’ll also receive extra weeks of unpaid leave to enable them to undergo Hong Kong’s notorious hotel quarantine, which the company is paying for, too. (According to the city’s famously strict entry restrictions, any returning residents spend either two or three weeks, at their own expense, quarantining in designated hotels.)
And while they’re staying there, Black Sheep Restaurants will even deliver them nightly meals from one of their 32 restaurants.
The only caveat? That staff complete one year of service upon their return.
‘It felt like the right thing to do’
Arora, Stott and Gurung are among the more than 250 staff to benefit from the move, which will allow employees at every level to head home from Hong Kong to countries as far-flung as Argentina, Nigeria, France, South Africa and Australia.
The program was dreamed up by Black Sheep Restaurant’s co-founders, Syed Asim Hussein and Christopher Mark. Hussein is the first to admit that the move — one which will cost them at least US$650,000 — is slightly crazy.
“It was a silly idea we had after one too many bottles of wine,” he tells CNN. “The next day we spoke with our business people — they were totally against it. They’re there to help us not make stupid decisions.”
Despite this counsel, Hussein and Mark went ahead with it.
“Our business people are amazing and help us understand the liability and risk, but it’s going to get in the way of doing the right thing,” says Hussein. “This always is a business in which margins are razor thin, but especially now. I understand it was kind of brazen — but it felt like the right thing to do.”
Clearly the staff who are set to benefit, as they take advantage and …….