Work-hour guidelines for 11 sectors to be drawn up

Top News | Riley Chan 24 May 2018

Working-hour guidelines will be issued for 11 industries by 2020, but there will be no legislation to cover contract work hours because of lack of support in society.

This is the latest result of a Labour Advisory Board meeting yesterday.

Commissioner for Labour Carlson Chan Ka-shun told committee members that the government will draw up the guidelines for 11 sectors by 2020, and their effectiveness will be reviewed in 2023.

This means there will be no talks on legislation for standard working hours in the next five years.

Last year the government said it was studying two proposals on working hours suggested by the Standard Working Hours Committee.

One option that requires legislation calls for employers to draft contracts for workers earning HK$11,000 a month or less, spelling out working hours and compensation for overtime.

Overtime pay will be calculated according to the rate of the agreed wages, or employees must be given equivalent time off in lieu of pay. Some 550,000 workers stand to benefit from this.

But the plan has been criticized by unionists for having too little coverage - limited to those earning HK$11,000 a month.

They prefer legislation for standard working hours. Employers also rejected the proposal, arguing that working hours should be based on professions instead of salaries.

The other option is to draw up guidelines on working hours for 11 industries.

The government said that on top of the existing committees for nine industries - covering catering, construction, theater, warehouse and cargo transport, property management, printing, hotels and tourism, cement and concrete and retail - the government would also set up committees for cleaning services and elderly homes.

The guidelines will suggest working hours and overtime compensation methods for each sector. A monitoring mechanism will be put in place to ensure that workers need to work overtime only when necessary, and the frequency of overtime should be reasonable.

The matter will be discussed in the Legislative Council manpower panel meeting next month.

Speaking after the meeting, labor representative Bill Tang Ka-piu said unionists agreed with dropping discussions on contracted working hours. But he slammed the government for not responding to calls for standard working hours legislation.

"As we all know, guidelines have no legal effect. It does nothing to push legislation for standard working hours," he said.

Tang said the government did not say if it would look into the feasibility of enacting standardized working hours when reviewing the policy in the future.

Tang also questioned Chan on how the government plans to shorten working hours, but Chan did not directly respond.

"Working-hour guidelines on 11 sectors is far from comprehensive. Many white-collar jobs were not included," he said.

The labor representative again urged the government to set the standard working hours at 44 hours and an overtime rate of 1.5 times regular wages.

Employers' representative on the board, Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah, said drawing up guidelines for 11 sectors is just the first step. Its success may encourage the use of guidelines in other sectors.

Another employers' representative, Irons Sze Wing-wai, said the guidelines could protect workers with weak bargaining power, especially those in low-income jobs. He urged unionists to support the proposal.

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