Date
22 November 2017
Chan Yuen-han (left) says employees should not be made to work more than 44 hours a week. Stanley Lau (right) says a "one size fits all" formula won't work. Photo: HKEJ
Chan Yuen-han (left) says employees should not be made to work more than 44 hours a week. Stanley Lau (right) says a "one size fits all" formula won't work. Photo: HKEJ

Panel leaves working hours deal to bosses, workers

A multi-sectoral panel has failed to reach consensus on standard working hours after two years of talks.

Instead, the Standard Working Hours Committee is recommending that the matter be left to individual employers and employees, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Thursday.

Employers should state the number of working hours on contracts, it said.

Chairman Leong Che-hung expects the recommendations to be submitted to the government by the time he retires in April next year.

The committee decided not to adopt a “one size fits all” formula, saying it will not be suitable for different industries, according to the report, which cited Stanley Lau, an employers’ representative.

But labor representatives are not satisfied with the proposals, saying they don’t go far enough to ensure workers are compensated for overtime.

Lawmaker Chan Yuen-han, who represents trade unions, said the decision gives employers further means to cheat their workers.

She said a standard working hour provision in a contract is not the same as a statutory requirement which has the force of law.

In a contractual arrangement, employers can force employees to accept long working hours without paying overtime, she said.

Chan called for a maximum of 44 working hours per week.

Labour Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan accused the committee of ignoring public demands and legitimizing unpaid overtime.

Wholesale and retail sector lawmaker Vincent Fang and Felix Chung of the garments constituency said the proposals are unacceptable.

Terence Chong, an associate professor of economics in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the proposals are intended to help employees who work long hours for low pay, such as those in the restaurant and retail industries, by having their working hours written into the contracts.

A study commissioned by the committee shows Hong Kong employees work 43.5 hours on average in a working week, and up to a median of 44 hours.

The three-month survey polled more than 10,000 workers last year.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 19. 

Translation by Vey Wong

[Chinese version 中文版]

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