CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Labour Commission calls for set work week and time-and-a-half for overtime

HONG KONG (SE): The Catholic Commission of Labour Affairs is calling for a 44-hour work week with all overtime put in by employees to be paid at time-and-a-half, as is the custom in many western countries.

As the result of a survey on the retail sector conducted by the commission among 208 employees in shopping malls around the city in June and July, it is suggesting that the standard should be a 44-hour week with an outside cap of 54 hours including overtime.

It says that overtime rates should be introduced as a sign of respect for employees on the part of employers and also as an incentive for companies to take human needs into account in their day-to-day affairs.

Of those surveyed, 77.4 per cent said that they support the push for legislated maximum work hours, with 88.8 per cent saying a 48-hour week or less should be set as the absolute maximum, but 60 per cent put the figure at 44.

The commission is calling for a legislated standard work week, suggesting 44 hours is achievable, with a capping on overtime at 10 hours a week.

The survey reveals that long working hours are impacting negatively on family life.

Over 75 per cent of those surveyed said that they are required to work more than 40 hours a week, the standard suggested by the International Labour Organisation, and a shade over half said they worked more than 54 hours a week.

Just over 43 per cent said that they had worked overtime in the seven days preceding being surveyed, with the average number of extra hours spent on the job being 3.5.

Over 70 per cent admitted that their long working hours directly restrict the amount of time they are able to spend with their families, with 61.1 per cent saying that their families complain about the short amount of time they are at home and 68.5 per cent admitting that they feel guilty about it.

A further 73.9 per cent explained that their long working hours cut into their social lives, as there are simply not enough hours in the week to go to social functions or meet with friends, and just over half said that this causes problems for them.

Of the 208 people surveyed, 78 were single and almost 45 per cent of them said that their working hours make meeting people of the opposite sex and forming friendships with them difficult.

Those surveyed also claimed that their work is having a negative effect on their health, with 61.1 per cent saying they feel permanently tired, 53.4 describing their daily schedules as stressful and 51.4 per cent complaining of back pain.

The commission is urging the government not to procrastinate on introducing legislation to standardise work hours.

It notes that the newly-invested chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, promised before his appointment that he would follow up on the research done by the previous administration and set up a task force to look at legislation.

However, the commission specifically called on the chief executive not to fudge on the issue by claiming that more research is necessary, as there is adequate evidence already available to show that long work hours do impact negatively on people’s quality of life.

The commission also points out that because this would have a big impact on the organisational structure of industry and business in the territory, special measures to support the transition would be necessary, such as stage-by-stage introduction or offering some taxation incentives.

It is also calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Council to be more proactive on the issue, as evidence clearly shows that the long working hours in Hong Kong are harming people’s health and the department should work at communicating more effectively with employees in the city.

It is also calling for proper enforcement by the Labour Department of work procedures as laid down by the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance.


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