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LCQ6: Five-day week in the Government

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Pan Pey-chyou and a reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Miss Denise Yue, in the Legislative Council today (February 8):


     The Government has implemented five-day work week in phases since 2006 to reduce the work pressure of staff and to improve the quality of their family life, and it has also promoted the message of a five-day work week in the community since then.  Yet some frontline civil servants and those who have to work shifts have reflected to me that while the five-day work week has been implemented for more than five years, the departments they serve still do not have any plan to arrange them to follow a five-day week work mode.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of government employees (including civil servants, non-civil service contract staff, those employed under outsourced service contracts and agency workers) who are not on a five-day week work mode at present, and the percentage of such number in the total number of government employees, together with a breakdown of the staff number and percentage by upper, middle and lower salary band on the Master Pay Scale or equivalent salary band;

(b) in various government departments, of the number of grades of which the employees are still not on a five-day week work mode at present; whether the Civil Service Bureau and the departments to which such employees belong had conducted any study or consulted the staff in the past to explore possible ways (e.g. a rotational duty roster) to enable all government employees to ultimately follow a five-day week work mode; if they had, of the progress and outcome of the study and consultation; if not, whether the authorities will comprehensively conduct study and consultation as soon as possible; and

(c) whether the authorities have since 2007 conducted any survey and study on the implementation of a five-day work week in government-funded public organisations; if they have, of the findings of the survey; if not, the reasons for that; whether the authorities will consider afresh the introduction of policies on implementing a five-day work week in government-funded public organisations in the future, to assist more employees in maintaining a balance between work and family responsibilities; if they will, of the details; if not, what specific measures the Government has in place to encourage public organisations to respond to its appeal and arrange a five-day work week for their employees on their own initiative?



     The Administration decided to implement the five-day week initiative in the Government in 2006 with the objective of improving the quality of civil servants' family life but without affecting the overall level and efficiency of public services or incurring additional costs to the taxpayer.  Under this parameter, bureaux and departments (B/Ds) have to abide by four basic principles in the implementation of this initiative: namely no additional staffing resources, no reduction in staff's conditioned hours of service, no reduction in emergency services, and continued provision of essential counter services on Saturdays/Sundays.  Five-day week work pattern includes working on a "Monday-to-Friday basis", or a "five days on, two days off roster in every seven days", or "fewer than five days/shifts in every seven days".

     With respect to parts (a) and (b) of the question, the Civil Service Bureau conducted a survey on the implementation of five-day week in B/Ds last year.  As at December 31, 2010, around 104,500 civil servants (i.e. around 70% of the civil service strength) were working on five-day week.  This figure did not include civil servants working in government schools, the Judiciary, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Hospital Authority, the Vocational Training Council, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, etc.  There were around 44,500 civil servants who could not work on a five-day week work pattern, mainly because of the need to maintain the overall level and efficiency of public services, e.g. services provided by the Police Force; or other services that were provided on Saturdays/Sundays such as social welfare services, some immigration counter services, cultural services, postal services, environmental hygiene services, law enforcement, passenger/cargo clearance, and management of penal institutions, etc.

     The working hours of non-civil service contract (NCSC) staff are determined by the relevant heads of B/Ds and according to operational needs.  As clearly set out in the guidelines issued by the Civil Service Bureau, B/Ds should extend the five-day week initiative to NCSC staff wherever practicable and appropriate.  According to the above-mentioned survey, as at December 31, 2010, about 9,300 full-time NCSC staff (around 70% of the total number of full-time NCSC staff) were working on a five-day week work pattern.

     Whether or not five-day week may be implemented is based on the operational needs of different departments, the job nature of different posts, and occupational safety consideration etc., and not on the basis of pay or civil service grade.  Accordingly, the above-mentioned survey did not include a breakdown by pay scale or grade of the number of civil servants and NCSC staff on five-day week and non-five-day week work pattern.  We are therefore unable to provide such information.  We understand that a few departments, such as the Immigration Department, the Hong Kong Police Force, the Customs and Excise Department, the Correctional Services Department, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, and the Post Office etc., have a higher number of civil servants who are not working on a five-day week work pattern.

     We will continue to encourage B/Ds to explore possible ways to migrate more staff to five-day week, subject to the four basic principles stated above and after conducting staff consultation.  We will also continue to encourage them to arrange staff to work in five-day week posts by rotation, where operational and other circumstances permit.  In fact, individual departments have continued to implement five-day week pilot schemes by, for example, adjusting roster arrangements or offering other modes of service provision, etc., to enable more staff to migrate to five-day week.  For example, around 190 civil servants of the Employment and Visit Visas Section, the Certificate of Entitlement Section and the Right of Abode Section of the Immigration Department formally adopted a five-day week work pattern last year after completing a trial scheme.  

     We do not have data on the implementation of five-day week for staff employed by contractors or employment agencies providing services to the Government.

     As regards part (c) of the question, the Government has not conducted any survey or study specifically on the implementation of a five-day week work pattern in government-funded public organisations.  Nonetheless, a special topic enquiry on "Patterns of hours of work of employees" was conducted by the Census and Statistics Department between January and June 2008 which covered, among other things, the extent of five-day week work pattern by employees working in the non-government sector (including private sector entities, subvented organisations and statutory bodies).  According to the findings, of the 2,558,800 persons working in the non-government sector who were contractually required to work a fixed number of days per week for their employers, some 849,100 (around 33 %) were required to work five days or less.

     Subvented organisations operate independently according to their respective service nature, management structure and established protocol.  We welcome their implementation of five-day week having regard to their respective operational arrangements, clients' needs and staff views, etc.  As one of the facilitators of family-friendly employment practices, the Labour Department will continue to publicise such practices, including a five-day week work pattern to employers (including subvented organisations), human resources personnel and the general public through various publicity channels and promotional activities.  Employers are encouraged to adopt work arrangements that can meet both operational and employees' needs, while having due regard to relevant trade characteristics.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:08


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