Provisional Legislative Council

Panel on Home Affairs
Meeting on 23 March 1998

Progress on the implementation of the
Family Status Discrimination Ordinance

The Legislation

The family Status Discrimination Ordinance ("FSDO") was enacted on 26 June 1997 by the then Legislative Council and came into operation on 21 November 1997. Under the FSDO, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of his / her family status. Family status means the status of having the responsibility for the care of an immediate family member. Immediate family member, in relation to a person, means someone who is related to that person by blood, marriage, affinity or adoption. The areas to which the FSDO applies include employment, provision of goods and services, education, disposal or management of permises, clubs, activities of the government, etc. The Equal Opportunities Commission ("EOC") is empowered to enforce it.

Code of Practice on Employment

Under s47 of the FSDO, the EOC may issue codes of practice for the purposes of the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity between persons irrrespective of family status. A Code of Practice on Employment (CoP) was issued for public comments during an 8-week consultation period from 22 October 1997 to 16 December 1997. The CoP aims to provide guidance to employers and employees on relevant provisions of the FSDO, recommend procedures and practices to them in order to prevent and eliminate discrimination and advocate the principles of equal opportunities in the workplace.

About 24,000 copies of the CoP were distributed to the public. They were available from District Offices, the Labour Department, the EOC office and its web site. A total of 35 consultation meetings were held with organisations including Provisional District Boards, employers associations, trade unions, human resources and professional bodies, social service agencies and concern groups. A presentation was made to the Home Affairs Panel at its meeting on 17 November 1997.

During the public consulation, a total of 35 written submissions from organisations and individuals were received. Their views had been carefully studied and incorporated into the CoP where appropriate. The CoP was gazetted on 13 February 1998 and tabled before the Provisional Legislative Council on 18 February 1998 for negative vetting by Members. If approved, it is expected to come into effect by the end of March 1998.

Enquiries and complaints

As at 6 March 1998, 104 enquiries on the provisions of the FSDO were received. Majority of these enquiries were related to the responsibilities of employers, and the rights and duties of employees thereunder, while some were related to the definition of 'family status', the respective effective dates of the FSDO and CoP. Since the commencement of the ordinance in November 1997, one complaint under the FSDO was received.

Public education and promotion

Talks and workshop

The FSDO has been incorporated as one of the subjects of the talks given by officers of the EOC to a wide spectrum of audience from various organisations including private and public bodies, educational institutions and social service agencies. A workshop held on 16 January 1998 also made the FSDO one of its themes. Some 3,000 participants have attended such talks.

Publication of newsletters

The EOC publishes a quarterly newsletter to promote the concept of equal opportunities, explain the three anti-discrimination ordinances including the FSDO and introduce the work of the EOC. Articles on the FSDO in recent issues served to keep members of the public informed.

Publicity and promotion

The enactment of the FSDO was widely announced in the media by advertisements and press release. A docu-drama series recently shown on television had featured family status in one of its episodes. Also, in a TV variety show called "Equal Opportunities for All" broadcast on 1 March, the idea of equal opportunities irrespective of family status was promoted.

The EOC believes that, through public education and promotional activities, it will be able to enhance the public's understanding of the legislation and promote equality of treatment between persons irrespective of family status.

Equal Opportunities Commission
March 1998