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LCQ16: Substitution of holidays

     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (December 21):


     In reply to my earlier question, the authorities pointed out that the Labour Department had respectively conducted a survey in 2006 and 2010, and the survey findings revealed that the percentage of the surveyed organisations which adopted five-day work week had increased from 36.5% in 2006 to 61.5% in 2010, indicating that organisations which provide five-day work week for their employees are on the rise and five-day work week is becoming increasingly popular.  Moreover, the authorities have already introduced to this Council the General Holidays and Employment Legislation (Substitution of Holidays) (Amendment) Bill 2011, which was passed by this Council on December 14 this year.  The legislation seeks to alter the prevailing arrangement that in case the day following the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival and any day in the Lunar New Year Holiday fall on Sunday, the day immediately before the said holiday (ie Saturday) shall be designated as the holiday in substitution, so as to address the present situation that the prevailing arrangement has failed to provide holidays in substitution which are de facto holidays to employees who work five days a week from Monday to Friday.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows and understands the situation of employees currently working five days a week not being provided with a de facto holiday if a general holiday falls on Saturday; and how the situation compares with that before the adoption of five-day work week; and

(b) given that the authorities indicated at the meeting of the Panel on Manpower in March this year that they had to conduct a careful assessment of the full implications before considering the proposal of designating the day immediately preceding a general holiday which fell on Saturday or designating the Monday immediately following that general holiday as the holiday in substitution, and that the number of employees enjoying five-day work week continues to increase, of the timetable for extending progressively the scope of application of the aforesaid arrangement for holidays in substitution and whether the authorities have conducted any analysis on the feasibility as well as the financial and economic implications of the aforesaid arrangement?



     My reply to the Hon Frederick Fung's question is as follows:

(a) General holidays, as provided for by the General Holidays Ordinance, are days on which banks, educational establishments, public offices and government departments need not open, whereas statutory holidays are benefits accorded to employees under the Employment Ordinance (EO).  Employers are required to arrange for the granting of statutory holidays to eligible employees in accordance with the law.  At present, apart from statutory holidays, some employers (in both public and private sectors), having regard to their respective circumstances, do offer their employees benefits over and above the requirements of EO by allowing them day-off on general holidays.  As these additional holidays are not employees' benefits stipulated in EO but originate from the employment contract or agreement between the employers and employees, EO therefore has not provided for the arrangements in the event that such additional holidays fall on a certain day of a week.  Should such additional holidays not prescribed by EO fall on Saturday, the actual arrangements have to be determined in accordance with the employment contract or agreement between the employers and employees.

     In contemplating whether employees working from Monday to Friday should be granted a holiday in substitution if a general holiday falls on Saturday, we should, rather than focusing solely on the arrangement when a holiday falls on a Saturday, also give thorough consideration to whether the mode of work and leave pattern under a five-day work week mode of employment brings about an overall improvement to the well-being of employees.  

     As regards the circumstances where employees are not granted a holiday in substitution when a general holiday falls on Saturday, we do not have the relevant statistics.

(b) The suggestion of designating across-the-board the preceding or following day as a holiday in substitution when a general holiday falls on Saturday is in effect a transfer of the original holiday (which falls on Saturday) to another day (the preceding Friday or the following Monday) so that the holiday in question would not overlap with a Saturday.  Although this reshuffling would provide employees working from Monday to Friday with one additional day off, yet institutions which usually operate on Saturdays would then need to remain open on the day of the holiday (ie Saturday).  And a significant number of employees, who neither work on a five-day work week basis nor have Saturday-off, would have to work instead of enjoying a day-off on the day of the holiday (ie Saturday).
     For example, this year's National Day (October 1, 2011) fell on a Saturday.  Had the Government amended the relevant legislation to defer the holiday of National Day to the following Monday (ie October 3), the Saturday on which National Day (October 1) fell would not have been a general holiday.  Although employees working from Monday to Friday would as a result enjoy days off on three consecutive days, institutions which usually operate on Saturdays (such as some public offices, banks etc) would have to remain open on October 1, and their employees would be required to work on that day, thus not being able to participate in festive activities.

     As employees in different sectors are engaged under a wide variety of work patterns to cater for the operational needs of individual enterprises, we should give thorough consideration to the issue of holiday arrangements and avoid introducing any hasty change solely for employees engaged under a particular type of work pattern, for this could lead to unjust consequences for other employees.  We will closely monitor the change in the labour market to keep our labour legislation in line with the pace of Hong Kong's socio-economic development.

Ends/Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:18


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