Statutory holiday plan 'too slow'

Local | Mandy Zheng 14 Jan 2021

Buddha's birthday should become a statutory holiday starting next year in a move that will benefit more than a million blue collar workers, the Labour and Welfare Bureau has proposed.

It will mark the beginning of an eight-year-long plan to extend the number of statutory holidays from 12 to 17 by 2030, according to a document submitted to the Legislative Council yesterday.

Labor groups have long called for statutory holidays, which all employees legally enjoy, to be aligned with the 17-day general holidays - usually applicable to white-collar workers only.

The document laid out the timeline, with the number of statutory holidays to be increased one day every two years.

The first to be added will be Buddha's birthday on May 19, followed by the first weekday after Christmas Day, Easter Monday, Good Friday and then the day following Good Friday.

"As Buddha's birthday will be around the middle of 2022, it would facilitate employers by giving them enough time to make the necessary adjustments in view of the potential economic impact of the pandemic," the bureau said. It is estimated that some 1.2 million workers, or nearly 40 percent of the city's employees, would benefit.

But for businesses, every additional statutory holiday would mean a cost of about 0.07 percent of their total wage bill, as employers need to hire substitute workers.

The ratio would rise to 0.17 percent for low-paying industries such as retail, food and beverage and estate management, among others.

Considering the pressure on employers, authorities proposed the number of statutory holidays be increased in a "progressive and orderly manner" instead of adding all five days in one go.

It added that both the Labour Advisory Board's employee and employer representatives "did not have much disagreement" on the gradual extension.

But all six employee representatives on the board issued a joint statement objecting to the eight-year plan, saying the board had not reach a consensus.

"We absolutely do not accept that the statutory holidays can be extended to 17 days only by 2030," it said.

The Legco panel will meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

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