LCQ16: Welfare and work arrangements for staff members of the disciplined services
It is learnt that the disciplined services have been faced with problems such as increasing wastage rates and recruitment difficulties in recent years. There are views that enhancing their welfare and work arrangements not only can retain and attract talents, but also can boost morale. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the staff wastage situation (including wastage rates, number of vacancies and causes of wastage, etc.) in the disciplined services in the past three years, with a tabulated breakdown by disciplined service;
(2) of the implementation of the five-day work week arrangement in the disciplined services in the past three years (including the number and percentage of the staff members who might work under the five-day work week mode), together with a tabulated breakdown by disciplined service; whether the Government will study the extension of the five-day work week arrangement to cover all staff members of the disciplined services; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) of the numbers of departmental quarters ("DQs") units and staff members waiting to be allocated quarters in respect of the disciplined services, with a tabulated breakdown by disciplined service; as some staff members of the disciplined services have pointed out that the arrangement of requiring staff members at the rank of inspector/officer who reach Disciplined Services (Officer) Pay Scale Point 20 or above to return their DQs units is improper, whether the Government will allocate land for the construction of new quarters and raise the pay points at which the staff members at the rank of inspector/officer are eligible for residing in DQs; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) whether it will consider allowing all staff members of the disciplined services appointed before June 1, 2000 to opt for extending their retirement age to 60; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(5) as some staff members of the disciplined services have relayed that currently the waiting time for the medical services (particularly dental and specialist services) for civil servants is long, whether the Government has plans to step up public-private healthcare partnership and subsidize, on an accountable basis, staff members of the disciplined services for using private healthcare services, so as to shorten the waiting time concerned;
(6) as the staff members of the disciplined services appointed on or after June 1, 2000 will become ineligible for the medical benefits provided by the Government upon retirement, whether the Government will consider allowing such staff members, upon retirement, to continue to enjoy the same medical benefits (including dental services) as pensionable civil servants; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(7) as some staff members of the disciplined services have relayed that the quotas available for booking for the Civil Service Chinese Medicine Clinics ("CSCMCs") are often fully taken up, of the respective numbers of annual consultation quotas reserved for civil servants in various CSCMCs at present; whether it has plans to set up CSCMCs in more districts, and whether it will consider increasing the consultation quotas for staff members of the disciplined services; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The replies to the respective parts of the question are as follows:
(1) According to the information of the disciplined services departments (DSDs), the wastage situation and vacancies of disciplined services staff in the past three years from 2019-20 to 2021-22 are detailed at Annex.
(2) The Government has implemented the five-day week (FDW) initiative by phases starting from 2006. The policy objective is to improve the quality of civil servants' family life without compromising the level and efficiency of public services or incurring additional costs to taxpayers. To achieve this policy objective, bureaux and departments (B/Ds) are encouraged to migrate staff to FDW following the four basic principles below:
(a) no additional staffing resources;
(b) no reduction in the conditioned hours of work of individual staff;
(c) no reduction in emergency services; and
(d) continued provision of essential counter services on Saturdays/Sundays.
The Government conducts biennial surveys to keep in view the implementation of FDW for staff in B/Ds. According to the results of the last two surveys, the number and percentage of staff of disciplined services grades working on a FDW work pattern are set out below:
|Number of staff of disciplined services grades on FDW
(percentage of staff of disciplined services grades in the departments) (Note 1)
|As at September 30, 2020||As at September 30, 2022|
|Staff of disciplined services grades||36 564
Note 1: Staff of disciplined services grades deployed to other non-disciplined services B/Ds were excluded.
Given the wide variety of public services provided and the different needs of the users of individual services, it is inevitable that some posts or jobs, especially for those providing emergency and essential services, have remained to be in a non-FDW work pattern at this stage. The Civil Service Bureau (CSB) will continue to encourage those departments which have not fully implemented FDW to explore the feasibility of migrating more staff to FDW in a pragmatic manner.
Besides, since 2015, a number of departments have implemented revised leave deduction arrangements (LDA) for their non-FDW civil servants on a pilot basis in order to allow them to enjoy an LDA similar to that for FDW civil servants. The Government has announced in the 2022 Policy Address to review and update the Civil Service Regulations, repeal, amend and simplify outdated rules and procedures. Following this, in early November 2022, CSB has requested all departments which have not fully migrated to FDW to implement revised LDA for their non-FDW civil servants such that only five days of vacation leave will be deducted for every period of continuous absence of seven calendar days with effect from May 2, 2023.
(3) According to the information provided by the Security Bureau (SB), the numbers of departmental quarters (DQs) units and staff members waiting to be allocated quarters as of March 1, 2023 are tabulated as follows –
|Department||Number of DQ units||Number of staff members waiting to be allocated quarters (Note 2)|
|Correctional Services Department||2 532||274|
|Customs and Excise Department||2 115||627|
|Fire Services Department||4 833||1 126|
|Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF)||13 494||2 857|
|Immigration Department||1 979||607|
|Government Flying Service||73||2|
Note 2: Number of eligible staff members not living in DQs currently.
The SB has been working with the management of various disciplined services proactively in taking forward DQ development projects. At present, three DQ projects are under construction and three have commenced preliminary work, which are expected to be completed progressively between 2024 and 2029, depending on the works progress. Apart from these six projects, studies have been initiated on 20 long-term quarters construction projects with land preliminarily reserved. The requirement stipulates that disciplined services staff, upon reaching specific pay points, are no longer eligible for DQs and have to vacate their quarters was originated from the Director of Audit. Director of Audit's Report No. 27 published in 1996 recommended that upon reaching specific pay points, all civil servants (including disciplined services staff) should be, in accordance with their terms of appointment, provided with the Home Financing Scheme as the only type of civil service housing benefit (the benefit has been changed to the Non-accountable Cash Allowance Scheme at present).
(4) To meet the operational needs and long-term manpower challenges, the HKPF launched a scheme on April 1, 2021 for all serving police officers at non-directorate level who joined the Government before June 1, 2000 to apply for extending their service beyond the retirement age (i.e. 55) up to the age of 60.
As regards the other DSDs, their situation is not exactly the same as that of the HKPF. After thorough consideration, the management of the DSDs concerned concluded that introducing a similar scheme is not the best way out to meet the actual operational needs of the DSDs. On the contrary, it may cause complicated management and implementation issues, which will not be conducive to the healthy development of the DSDs in the long run. Specifically, the manpower situation of the DSDs varies from one another, with different vacancy situation and circumstances in respect of promotion or recruitment. If a similar scheme is implemented, it will inevitably affect the promotion prospect of serving officers, departmental quarters benefits as well as manpower planning and personnel turnover, etc. The DSDs' intake of new blood will also be hindered. In addition, having regard to factors such as the number of retirees and manpower situation of the DSDs in the future, the number of quotas available to staff reaching the retirement age will be very small even if a similar scheme is implemented.
Therefore, the management of the DSDs concerned decided that it is not appropriate to implement the scheme in question at this stage. Taking into account their respective requirements and the overall benefits, they will continue to flexibly deploy the existing measures for extending the service of civil servants (including the Post-retirement Service Contract Scheme, final extension of service and the adjusted further employment mechanism) when necessary to meet their genuine operational and manpower needs.
The CSB will continue to render necessary assistance to departments, including DSDs, in making effective use of the various measures for extending the service of civil servants with a view to meeting the manpower demand and operational needs.
(5) The Government has been providing civil service medical benefits to civil service eligible persons (CSEPs) through the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA). Besides, CSEPs may apply to DH for reimbursement of medical expenses for drugs, equipment and services prescribed by attending HA/DH doctors according to the patients' medical conditions but are not available in HA/DH.
Various measures have been implemented to shorten the waiting time of CSEPs for medical services. For example, in the aspect of specialist services, the Government has allocated additional resources to HA since 2009-10 to provide dedicated specialist out-patient services and imaging services to CSEPs in three HA hospitals for the purpose of shortening their waiting time for relevant services in HA hospitals.
The Government keeps on allocating resources to increase the service capacity of dental services in recent years, such as setting up additional specialised dental surgeries to shorten the waiting time of CSEPs for specialised dental services. DH also plans to set up additional dental clinics and dental surgeries in the proposed Water Supplies Department Headquarters with Hong Kong and Islands Regional Office and Correctional Services Department Headquarters Building in Chai Wan, Tseung Kwan O Government Offices and Kwun Tong Composite Development Project, etc. in the next few years. In order to further increase service capacity to meet the service demand, dental clinics have increased their service hours through different methods, including increasing the number of dental clinics providing Extended Operating Hours (EOH) arrangement and extending the EOH arrangement to Saturdays, as well as operating evening dental clinics, with a view to providing the necessary dental treatments for CSEPs as soon as possible. In addition, the Government will launch a pilot scheme in mid-2023 to allow some CSEPs to receive dental scaling services from private dental clinics, so as to prevent the further lengthening of waiting time for the services concerned.
The arrangement of allowing CSEPs to receive medical services from private medical organisations on their own accord and apply for reimbursement of the medical expenses incurred would deviate from the existing policy and involve substantial financial implications. The Government will not consider such arrangement at the moment.
(6) The new appointment system was introduced by the Government in response to the civil service reform in 1999 after extensive discussion and consultation, and the main considerations included the need for the fringe benefits system of civil servants to be on par with that of the private market. The policy were formulated after careful consideration. Any change in the fringe benefits package would involve significant policy changes and financial resources, with very far-reaching implications. The Government currently has no plan to change the relevant arrangement.
(7) Civil service Chinese medicine (CM) services has been well-received by CSEPs since service launch in March 2020. The Government notes the persistent demand of CSEPs for CM services. Regarding service capacity, we have increased the service quotas of two Civil Service Chinese Medicine Clinics (CSCMCs) since July 2022. With the commencement of service of the third CSCMC in March 2023, the annual service quotas of CM services for CSEPs has been increased from around 63 000 initially to around 100 000 at present, representing an increase of over 50 per cent. We will continue to strive for further enhancement of the service capacity, including the setting up of more CSCMCs. Besides, we have introduced a mobile application in December 2022 to provide a more convenient way for CSEPs to book the services of CSCMCs. Regarding the scope of services, with a view to offering a wider range of CM services, we see the introduction of bone-setting/tui-na services as our medium/long-term goal. We shall also start a discussion with the Health Bureau on the provision of CM services for CSEPs at the Chinese Medicine Hospital in future. We will continue to strengthen CM services on all fronts to provide more comprehensive CM services to serving civil servants (including civilian and disciplined services staff) and other eligible persons.
Ends/Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:50
Issued at HKT 15:50