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LCQ5: Standard working hours
     Following is a question by the Hon Poon Siu-ping and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Stephen Sui, in the Legislative Council today (May 31):


     In November last year, the Members of this Council from the labour sector and all the six employee representatives in the Labour Advisory Board submitted to the Government a report on legislating for standard working hours (SWH). On the other hand, the Standard Working Hours Committee submitted its report on working hours policy to the Government in January this year. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the current-term Government will, before the end of its term, proceed to implement the recommendations in the two aforesaid reports; if so, of the specific measures; if not, whether measures are in place to ensure that the next-term Government will take forward the work of legislating for SWH; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(2) whether, in order to take the lead, promote family-friendly employment policies, take forward the work of legislating for SWH and protect the rights and interests of grass-roots workers, the Government will revise the "Standard Employment Contract" to be signed between government service contractors and their non-skilled workers to stipulate that the wage rate for overtime work must be higher than the hourly wage rate of the employees concerned, or to stipulate that the SWH for such employees should be 44 hours per week and that overtime work must be compensated at 1.5 times of the wage rate, as recommended in the aforesaid report submitted by the labour sector; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Having consulted the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau, I provide a consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Poon Siu-ping as follows:

(a) The Standard Working Hours Committee (SWHC) was set up in April 2013 to follow up on the Report of the Policy Study on Standard Working Hours released by the Government in November 2012, facilitate informed and in-depth discussions by the community, gather views and mapping out the way forward on working hours issues. SWHC has completed a number of important tasks during its term of office, including conducting two rounds of broad-based public consultation and Hong Kong's first ever territory-wide household survey to collect comprehensive working hours data, examining the social and economic factors relevant to working hours policy, and conducting impact assessments on the working hours policy directions explored by SWHC.

     In November 2016, the Chief Executive received the Consultation Report on Legislating for Standard Working Hours from the labour sector and passed it to SWHC for consideration.  After careful deliberation and balancing different considerations in light of the data and views collected, SWHC submitted its report to the Government on January 27, 2017 putting forth the following major recommendations on working hours policy direction for Hong Kong: 

(i) to adopt a legislative approach to mandate employers to enter into written employment contracts with the lower-income grassroots employees, which shall include terms on working hours and overtime compensation arrangements.  Having regard to the operational needs of different sectors and occupations, employers and employees may work out the agreed contents of these terms on the premise that the relevant legal requirements are satisfied;

(ii) to adopt a legislative approach to specify that the lower-income grassroots employees should be entitled to overtime compensation by way of overtime pay at a rate no less than the rate of the agreed wages or the equivalent time-off in lieu, so as to further protect these lower-income employees;

(iii) through the Labour Department's existing industry-based tripartite committees and setting up new ones for other sectors with relatively long working hours (such as cleaning services and elderly homes), to formulate and publish sector-specific guidelines setting out suggested working hours standards, overtime compensation methods and good working hours management measures for employers' reference and adoption so as to improve employees' working hours arrangements; and

(iv) to monitor the implementation of the above recommendations (e.g. collecting relevant information and statistics through enforcement action and statistical surveys) and review their effectiveness after two years of implementation, and continue to discuss and study through an appropriate tripartite platform whether there is a need for standard working hours legislation; and, if so, its contents and relevant arrangements.

     SWHC considers that Recommendations (i) and (ii) above should not cover persons to whom the Employment Ordinance and the Minimum Wage Ordinance do not apply, and recommends that the Government may conduct detailed examination and impact assessment with a view to determining the scope of lower-income employees requiring protection, as well as further collating views and making reference to relevant information for formulating the contents and detailed arrangements of these two recommendations.

     The Government is taking full account of the report of SWHC and the views of various sectors of the community carefully, and strives to map out within the current term the working hours policy direction that suits Hong Kong's socio-economic situation.

(b) Under the existing procurement system, the Government would as far as possible incorporate the statutory entitlements stipulated in the relevant labour legislation into government service contracts. Requiring contractors to provide employment benefits in addition to statutory requirements on a compulsory basis such as setting weekly working hours limits or offering higher wages including overtime pay involves the Government's overall policy considerations and needs to be considered carefully.
Ends/Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:08
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