The Standard Working Hours Committee (SWHC) said it would add one more combination that covers twice as many employees, including those earning less than $25,000 a month and working more than 44 hours a week, to evaluate the feasibility of standard working hours.
After meeting on Wednesday, the committee announced that it would add the new combination that sets the salary level to $25,000 to the 27 existing combinations. Six employees representatives threatened to quit the committee last month if a legislative proposal was not made.
“The SWHC agreed that detailed data analysis in respect of employees with monthly wages not exceeding $25,000, weekly working hours exceeding 44 hours and overtime pay rate at 1:1.5 would be carried out.” said Dr Edward Leong Che-hung, SWHC’s chairman, according to a government press release.
The latest combination would cover half of Hong Kong’s 2.97 million employees, compared with a quarter of the employees in the other combinations, according to Mr Leong and data from a 2014 Report on Annual Earnings and Hours Survey by the Census and Statistics Department.
Professor Randy Chiu, Director of Hong Kong Baptist University’s Centre for Human Resources Strategy and Development, said the new combination, if chosen, would benefit “a lot more people” but he was unsure of how the government could properly implement standard working hours.
“A proposed legislation of standard working hours would be very difficult,” he said. “There are no one-size-fits-all solutions for the vastly different industries in Hong Kong.”
Professor Chiu added that its implementation would increase financial pressure for small and medium enterprises.
He suggested that the government should provide more education and incentives to encourage employers to adopt family-friendly policies, though he admitted that the society may need more than a decade to cultivate a caring culture.
However, Lee Cheuk-yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, slammed the committee’s decision.
“The whole thing is a collusion between the government and the business sector,” he said. “They are just making a show.”
He said that the purpose of standard working hours is to enable employees to strike a balance between work and private lives, but now he is “hopeless” towards its legislation.
“The government dare not offend the business sector … Therefore, they adopt a delay tactic for anything related to the labour force that may affect the costs of running a business,” Mr Lee said.
“It’s not that employees in Hong Kong have no work-life balance, it’s that they have no lives,” he said.
Reporting by Joanna Wong;
Writing by Jackson Ho;
Video and Photo by Crystal Tse