Hours after Super Typhoon Mangkhut wreaked havoc on Hong Kong on Sept. 16, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor urged employers to show understanding and adopt a flexible approach to staff who might have to struggle to get back to work the following day.
But a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) found that many companies did not heed her call.
According to the survey results unveiled on Thursday, 19 percent, or nearly one in five, of the respondents saw deductions from their wage, good attendance bonus or annual leave for being absent on Sept. 17, when Lam allowed the suspension of classes in all schools, but not work in offices, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Public transportation was severely impaired as Mangkhut had damaged a lot of buildings while many areas remained flooded and roads were blocked by fallen trees and other debris.
Lam’s decision not to declare a general holiday a day after the typhoon drew strong criticism from the public as thousands of people were stranded in the absence of normal transport services.
The survey also found that 7 percent of the respondents suffered wage or good attendance bonus deductions for arriving for work late on Sept. 17.
Among civil servants, 13 percent said their annual leave credits suffered deductions for being absent on the day, while nearly 30 percent said they had no idea what the government had decided to deal with late or absent employees.
Only 29 percent said their employers took the initiative to notify them in advance that they were allowed to work from home or arrive late for work on Sept. 17.
Asked what the government should do if the situation happened again, nearly nine in ten respondents said they hope a legislation will be passed enabling the government to suspend work in such situations.
As many as 86 percent said all workers, except those involved in emergency or rescue operations, should be allowed not to work the after a No. 8 or higher typhoon signal or a black rainstorm warning is in effect.
The HKFTU said it has requested the government to give the Secretary for Labour and Welfare the power to announce a day off under inclement weather conditions.
Meanwhile, lawmakers from the Civic Party tabled a private members’ bill at a special meeting of the Legislative Council’s House Committee with the aim to give the chief executive the authority to exempt people from going to work in cases of natural or man-made disasters.
Under the proposed bill, people employed by private institutions can enjoy the right to be absent from work in case of a disaster while employers who punish workers who fail to report for work after a natural calamity should be fined HK$50,000.
An employee who suffers from an accident on his or her way to work and after work should be entitled to a compensation from her employer.
For the survey, the HKFTU Rights and Benefits Committee interviewed 690 workers belonging to its member unions via an online questionnaire between Sept. 21 and 27.
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