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Standard Working Hours Committee holds 14th meeting

The following is issued on behalf of the Standard Working Hours Committee:

     The Standard Working Hours Committee (SWHC) held its 14th meeting today (August 26).

     The Chairperson of the SWHC, Dr Leong Che-hung, said after the meeting, "On the basis of the previous discussions of the SWHC, and with reference to the findings of the dedicated working hours survey as well as the public engagement and consultation on working hours, the SWHC has agreed in principle to recommend a legislative approach to implement a policy relating to working hours of employees. Having regard to the varied circumstances of different trades and occupations, the SWHC considers that a working hours policy should provide the necessary flexibility and hence an 'across-the-board' legislative approach would be inappropriate. The SWHC has agreed in principle to recommend a legislative approach to mandatorily require employers and employees in general to enter into written employment contracts specifying clearly such terms relating to working hours, e.g. the number of working hours, overtime work arrangements and methods of overtime compensation (i.e. the 'big frame').

     "At the meeting today, in respect of the 'big frame', the SWHC members have further deliberated proposed working hours employment terms including contractual working hours, meal and rest breaks, rest day arrangements, wage rates, overtime work arrangements and methods of overtime compensation, etc, which must be specified in written employment contracts, and other relevant issues such as scope of application and exemption, definition of working hours and consequences of non-compliance. With reference to the suggestions of the SWHC members, the secretariat will work on the detailed design and content of the 'big frame'.

     "In addition, on the premise of the 'big frame', the SWHC is preliminarily exploring the possibility of considering other suitable measure(s) to further protect grass-roots employees with lower income, lower skills and less bargaining power (i.e. the 'small frame'). The SWHC has received a briefing by the secretariat on the impact assessment results of various combinations of parameters on employees and enterprises (particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)). As for the impacts on employees, while some of them may enjoy a pay rise as a result of the standard working hours and possibly a higher overtime pay rate, other employees may bear some risks of pay cuts should their hours of work be reduced. At the enterprise level, impacts on different sectors vary. The impacts would fall more heavily on the relatively long-working-hours sectors, with their potential increases in wage bills larger and affordability possibly lower as compared to other sectors. The increases in wage bills are mainly found in SMEs in some sectors, while those enterprises possibly turning from profit to loss due to the rise in wage bills are also mainly SMEs." (Key findings are in the Appendix.)

     "At the macro level, employers may need to hire more staff to meet manpower needs if their employees' hours of work are reduced to standard working hours. This may in turn exacerbate the prevailing manpower shortage and cause a wage-inflation upward spiral.

     "At the next meeting, the SWHC will further discuss the feasibility of the 'big frame' and focus on exploring the impacts of the 'small frame' on the medium- and long-term macroeconomic situation, such as inflation, labour market flexibility, manpower requirements and Hong Kong's longer-term competitiveness."

     Dr Leong added, "In contemplating a working hours policy, the SWHC will carefully consider various factors including employees' overtime work situation, as well as the possible impacts of the SWHC's recommendations on employees, employers, enterprises (particularly SMEs), trades, the overall economy and the labour market with a view to building community consensus and formulating appropriate and feasible working hours policy options.

     "The SWHC also plans to further consult major employer associations, major labour organisations, relevant trades and professional bodies, etc, on preliminary recommendations on working hours policy directions to be suggested later, so as to collect views for the SWHC's reference in preparing its report.

     "The secretariat has also uploaded the two consultancy reports on the public consultation on working hours and the dedicated working hours survey undertaken by the SWHC last year to the SWHC website ( Members of the public are welcome to browse the reports."

     Chaired by Dr Leong, the SWHC comprises members drawn from the labour and business sectors, academia, the community and the Government. For details, please refer to the SWHC website (

Ends/Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Issued at HKT 18:36


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