LCQ18: Continuous contract

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau Wai-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (November 10):


     Under the Employment Ordinance (EO) (Cap. 57), an employee shall be entitled to certain employee rights and benefits under the Ordinance only if he or she is employed under a continuous contract, i.e. he or she has worked for the same employer continuously for four or more weeks and for 18 hours or more in each week.  Besides, the authorities have indicated earlier that a review will be carried out on the provisions concerning continuous contract under EO.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) when they will commence the review on the provisions concerning continuous contract under EO and when the review is expected to complete;

(b) whether they know that many part-time employees and "casual workers" are not afforded protection due to loopholes in the provisions concerning continuous contract under EO; and what counter-measures the authorities have to address such situation;

(c) whether they had collected data in the past three years on employees who were not employed under a continuous contract; if they had, of the percentage of female employees among them; if not, whether they will start collecting such information; and

(d) given that the authorities have advised that regardless of whether employees are employed under a continuous contract, as long as they have sustained work-related injuries, they may obtain work injury compensation, whether the Government had collected data in the past three years on work injury compensation received by employees who were not employed under a continuous contract; if so, of the details?



     The Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57) (EO) accords protection to all employees, irrespective of their duration of employment and hours of work per week, in areas such as payment of wages, restriction on deductions from wages, granting of statutory holidays and protection against anti-union discrimination, etc.  Employees engaged under a "continuous contract", subject to fulfilment of the respective qualifying requirements as specified in EO, are further entitled to other employment benefits such as rest days, paid statutory holidays and annual leave, sickness allowance, severance payment and long service payment, etc.

(a) The Government reviews from time to time employees' rights and benefits and other requirements under EO, including the definition of continuous employment.  According to EO, an employee engaged under a "continuous contract" is defined as one who has been employed under a contract of employment by the same employer for four weeks or more and has worked for 18 hours or more each week.

     In 2009, the Labour Department (LD) commissioned the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) to collect further statistical data of employees who are not engaged under a "continuous contract", including their distribution and proportion in the labour market, as well as their occupational characteristics, etc.  The survey commenced in the fourth quarter of 2009.  Given the complexity of the subject and the wide variety of industries and occupations involved, the survey is expected to be completed by the end of this year.  LD will, in its review, draw upon the findings of the survey.

(b) As mentioned in part (a) of this reply, our review on continuous employment is well underway.  As any amendment to the definition of "continuous contract" will have far-reaching implications for the labour market and the community as a whole, the Government must have to conduct in-depth and thorough studies in the first place.  We will consult relevant stakeholders in the process.

(c) According to the findings of a special enquiry on "Benefits of employees under the Employment Ordinance" published by C&SD in December 2007, it was estimated that some 2,732,700 employees worked in the non-government sector in the first quarter of 2006.  Among them, around 141,200 employees were not engaged under a "continuous contract" (as non-"4-18" employees), representing 5% of the total number of employees in the non-government sector.  Of the 141,200 non-"4-18" employees, 66,300 were female, constituting 47% of the overall number of non-"4-18" employees.

(d) Under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (Cap. 282), if an employee sustains an injury or dies as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, his employer is in general liable for compensation under the Ordinance.  The Ordinance applies to all employees, irrespective of their duration of employment and hours of work per week.  Hence, when an employer submits a notification of work accident to LD in accordance with the Ordinance, he is not required to specify whether the employee was engaged under a "continuous contract" at the time of the accident.  For the above reason, LD does not have statistics regarding non-"4-18" employees who were paid compensation for work injury.

Ends/Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:00