The Standard Working Hours Committee (“SWHC”) was set up in April 2013 to advise on standard working hours and related issues. In January 2017, the SWHC submitted a proposal recommending the Hong Kong government focus on affording protection to lower-income employees.
In June 2017, the Executive Council of Hong Kong passed a proposal that requires employers of employees who earn HK$11,000 or less per month to (a) enter into written employment contracts which include terms on working hours and overtime remuneration agreements; and (b) to compensate their employees overtime wages at a rate no less than the regular wages.
The trade unionists criticize the coverage of the proposal as too narrow and that the Government has twisted the concept of standard working hours. The unions have repeatedly demanded a standard working week of 40 to 44 hours with an overtime rate of 1.5 times the regular wages. However, the current proposal is estimated to benefit approximately 550,000 part-time and fulltime workers only (accounting for about 14 per cent of the total workforce in Hong Kong). As low-income workers do not have much bargaining power, the employers may use the employment contract to legitimise the long working hours. All in all, the proposed framework does not appear to have any substantial meaning.
In response to the comments raised by the unions, the Labour Department said that the proposal would be a useful first step for standard working hours and if it is implemented, the framework would be reviewed after two years. It is envisaged that a bill for the standard working hours proposal may be ready in 2018 and if the bill is passed, the expected implementation date would be in 2020 or 2021.