LCQ2: Implementation of statutory minimum wage rate

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (March 9):


     While the statutory minimum wage ("SMW") rate will be implemented with effect from May 1 this year, some employers have relayed to me that quite a number of them are still unclear about the method for calculating wages and they did not obtain clear answers when they made enquiries to the Labour Department. They are thus worried that they might breach the law inadvertently. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) how many enquiries the authorities have received in total in respect of the legislation on minimum wage since its passage; to which major aspects were the problems related; of the staffing arrangements for answering such enquiries; given that it has been reported that the authorities have failed to provide concrete answers to the enquiries concerned, whether they have looked into the reasons for that;

(b) what publicity activities on SMW have been carried out by the authorities, and list in detail the activities concerned; whether assessment has been made on the adequacy of the publicity efforts; if so, of the results; whether the authorities will consider stepping up the publicity efforts on enhancing the awareness of SMW; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the authorities will consider consolidating the relevant enquiries and conducting a detailed study for the purpose of providing reference cases for people in need of such information, thereby assisting employers to avoid breaching the law inadvertently?



     The Labour Department (LD) is working at full steam to prepare for the implementation of statutory minimum wage (SMW). We will continue to launch extensive publicity and promotional activities to familiarise the community with the SMW legislation and facilitate employers and employees in understanding their respective obligations and entitlements under the SMW regime for smooth implementation.

     My reply to the three parts of the question raised by Hon Wong Ting-kwong is set out below:

(a) Since the passage of the Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO) by the Legislative Council in July 2010 and up to end-February 2011, the 24-hour enquiry hotline of LD (ie 2717 1771) handled about 7,000 enquiries concerning SMW. The enquiries mainly concerned the coverage of the MWO, definition of wages and hours worked and relevant provisions concerning the computation of minimum wage. The enquiry hotline of LD is handled by "1823 Call Centre". There are currently some 50 staff in "1823 Call Centre" dedicated to answering enquiries on labour legislation including the MWO. LD has provided training and support to the staff of "1823 Call Centre" and will handle more complicated enquiries where necessary.

(b) LD is conducting various promotional activities to enhance employers' and employees' understanding of the MWO. Since the passage of the MWO and up to end-February 2011, about 8,000 participants attended 49 briefings on the Ordinance conducted by LD officers. These briefings included large-scale seminars for employers, employees and the public at large as well as talks targeted at various groups such as Incorporated Owners, Owners Committees, Mutual Aid Committees, property management companies and human resources practitioners, etc. LD has also published leaflets and posters on SMW for wide distribution and display. Advertisements through electronic information panels, cabin banners, seat-backs and cabin bodies on various public transports have been placed. New television and radio announcements of public interest have also been broadcast.

     In parallel, LD has launched targeted publicity and promotional activities to apprise persons with disabilities and their employers of their rights and obligations under the relevant provisions of the MWO as well as details of the productivity assessment provided for persons with disabilities. These include mailing leaflets directly to about 150,000 persons with disabilities; inserting promotional message in electricity and water bills; conducting seminars on the MWO for persons with disabilities, rehabilitation organisations, parent groups, employers of persons with disabilities, etc.; putting up posters and relevant messages as well as distributing leaflets through the offices and websites of rehabilitation organisations and relevant government departments; broadcasting radio announcements of public interest; and placing advertisements and feature articles in publications of trade unions, employers' associations and non-government organisations, etc.

     Notwithstanding our endeavours in widely publicising the MWO through various channels, LD will continue to step up promotional efforts to enhance public understanding of SMW. The department will broadcast promotional messages and carry out other publicity activities on various public transports, placing newspaper supplements, conducting talks and roving exhibitions, and displaying banners for outdoor publicity, etc.

(c) LD has drawn up a set of draft general reference guidelines on SMW for employers and employees to illustrate the provisions and application of the MWO. We have consulted the Legislative Council Panel on Manpower and the Labour Advisory Board on the draft guidelines and issued these to over 300 stakeholder groups for comment. LD is working expeditiously to finalise the general reference guidelines so that these can be ready for wide distribution within this month (March). Given the great varieties in the mode of employment, the draft reference guidelines have included some common examples to illustrate the application of the MWO. In addition, given the particular circumstances of individual sectors, LD is working with industry-based Tripartite Committees, related employers' associations, trade unions and stakeholder groups to discuss and formulate industry-specific guidelines on SMW. LD will also include a "Question and Answer" section on more frequently asked questions at its website for public reference in due course.

Ends/Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Issued at HKT 13:10