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Following reports that employees in Hong Kong were unhappy with their work-life balance, the city’s working hours panel has recommended bosses should regulate work hours through legislation, but avoid standardisation across sectors.
The city’s Standard Working Hours Committee (SWHC) found the average and median total working hours during the past seven days for employees in Hong Kong were 43.5 and 44 respectively – higher than the international standard.
After polling 10,275 professionals, the committee highlighted 18.4% of all employees had engaged in overtime work without pay or time-off in the past seven days, clocking in a median of five additional hours.
This might be because 61% of employees did not have an overtime compensation clause specified in their contracts.
The report found that employees were keen on regulation of working hours, considering it was “the only effective means” to protect their rights, in view of the unequal status between employers and employees.
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The labour organisations suggested setting weekly working hours at a norm of 44 hours. They also recommended that employees be given the right to choose if they want to work overtime, and if so, overtime compensation be pegged at 1.5 times of the basic pay rate.
However, in a separate opinion survey of labour unions and trade associations, employers strongly objected to legislating uniform working hours in Hong Kong. This was because bosses of different sectors, occupations and skill levels could not agree on a single model owing to their widely varying working situations.
For instance, some organisations expressed that maximum working hours should be set at 50 to 72 hours per week.
But when it came to how the policy should be changed, a majority of employees polled were on par with the panel’s recommendation – with 93.7% saying the best course of action would be to state hours of work, overtime arrangements and overtime compensation in employment contracts.
This was also agreed upon by more than half of the labour union members surveyed.
In view of these findings, SWHC chairperson, Dr. Leong Che-hung announced the formation of a new task force to explore the direction a working hours policy could take, and how the SWHC can build consensus around it.