Raising statutory holidays from 12 to 17 by 2030 the ‘most acceptable’ deal for HK employees, employers: labour minister

21-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Raising Hong Kong statutory holidays gradually from 12 to 17 by 2030 is the “most acceptable proposal” for employers and workers, the city’s labour minister has said, adding that further debate on the issue will yield no consensus.

Secretary of Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong was responding to lawmakers’ questions on the government’s plan to first add Buddha’s Birthday as a statutory holiday in 2022, and then include each of the remaining four days Boxing Day and three days of the Easter holiday every two years.

Employee representatives of the Labour Advisory Board were upset with the proposed timeline when it was first revealed last October, saying the plan should be achieved in three years instead of a decade.

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In a panel in the Legislative Council, lawmakers representing the labour sector questioned Law on whether he could speed up the plan.

“The difference of five days in the statutory holidays is a discrimination to blue-collar workers stemming from the colonial era… Why take so long [eight years]? Why don’t you give us a more aggressive proposal?” asked lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions.

The minister said the city had debated the issue for more than a decade, while some employers only barely agreed with the latest proposal. He said the government needed to strike a balance between the recommendations by employers and employees.

“Although the proposal cannot satisfy everyone, it is a fair one,” Law said. “The differences in demands of employers and workers are huge… If we still spend time in discussion among the Labour Advisory Board, my judgement is, we don’t know when the consensus would be reached.”

He said it would be difficult to get an approval in the Legislative Council if he tabled a bill that was unacceptable to all employers.

Lawmaker Siu Ka-fai of the wholesale and retail functional constituency said the additional statutory holidays would add to the burdens of businesses that had been severely hit by the social unrest in 2019 and the pandemic since last year.

“You could as well add five statutory holidays in three days. It would just force many dying companies to shut down. Everyone would become jobless… Do you think it is easy to find a job nowadays?” Siu said.

Hong Kong has 17 public holidays, but only 12 are statutory, meaning employers can choose whether to give their staff a day off on the other five, a situation which tends to benefit only white-collar workers.

The employee representatives of the Labour Advisory Board said in a separate presser on Friday morning that the group was upset with how the government “overlooked” their opinion. “We will… have no actual functions if the government bypasses us again. I hope the government will respect and recognise us,” said Leung Chau-ting, one of the employee representatives.

The idea to increase the number of statutory holidays was first touted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last January, one of 10 measures she introduced to improve livelihood issues.

The government estimated that about 1.2 million, or close to 40 per cent of all Hong Kong employees (excluding public-sector workers and live-in domestic helpers), would benefit from the move.

Assuming all affected businesses would hire substitute workers to fully make up for the manpower loss owing to additional statutory holidays entitlement, authorities said the annual potential additional cost on businesses for each extra statutory holiday would be around 0.07 per cent of the total wage bill of all industries, or HK$0.63 billion.

“The estimated increase in annual potential additional cost to low-paying sectors would amount to 0.17 per cent of the total wage bill of these sectors for each additional day of statutory holiday,” the government said.

Currently, all employees covered by the Employment Ordinance in Hong Kong, irrespective of their length of service and hours of work, are entitled to 12 days of statutory holidays.

On the other hand, the general Holidays Ordinance specifies 17 days of general holidays, in addition to Sundays, in each year, on which banks, educational establishments, public offices and government departments need not open.

Employers are not obliged to grant their employees day offs or offer pay during general holidays, and they are matters agreed between an employer and an employee concerned that form parts of the terms of employment.



Category: Hong Kong

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