After years of public debates and bickering among labour unionists and business owners, Hong Kong's Chief Executive recently announced a framework towards regulating standard working hours.

The proposals, which have been endorsed by the Chief Executive, were put forward by the Standard Working Hours Committee (SHWC) established in 2013 to assess the impact of regulating standard working hours on the city's employment market and economy.

Highlights of the proposals endorsed by the Chief Executive include:

  • requiring employers of employee with a monthly wage of HK$11,000 or below to put in place a written employment contract, which must include the employee's working hours and overtime remuneration arrangements, and
  • mandating the overtime remuneration rate for these employees must not be less than the rate of agreed wages or, as an alternative, an equivalent amount of time off in lieu.

Statistics from SHWC's research reports have estimated that the new measure would cost Hong Kong employers in excess of HK$500 million per year, and is likely to benefit more than half a million workers in Hong Kong.

The full details of introducing a standard working hours regime are yet to be determined. It is unlikely that any change will come into force that would impact employers for at least another three or four years.