Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Public Service
Meeting on 27 October 1997
Civil Service Fringe Benefits
Members have asked to be informed of recent changes to and any review of civil service fringe benefits now in progress.
2.Civil service conditions of service/fringe benefits can be broadly divided into three categories :
- those which apply as conditions of service (i.e. as a right) for the categories of staff eligible e.g. pension, medical benefits, dental benefits, education allowance, leave, and housing benefits for senior staff;
- grade specific fringe benefits approved on a case by case basis e.g. the provision of departmental or operational quarters to certain staff of the disciplined services and the Housing Department; and
- those which are discretionary benefits (i.e. if resources are available, the benefits will be granted) e.g. housing allowance for junior staff.
The detailed conditions of service/fringe benefits for individual officers are dependent on their rank, seniority, length of service, terms of appointment (permanent or agreement, overseas or local) and other rules.
3.Civil service fringe benefits are reviewed as and when necessary to take into account changing circumstances. Recent changes made are outlined in paragraphs 4 to 6 below.
Overseas Education Allowance
4.Having regard to the improved education opportunities locally, we have ceased to provide Overseas Education Allowance and school passages to all new recruits who are offered appointment on or after 1 August 1996.
5.To tie in with the enactment of the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance on 27 June 1997, we have recently removed the restriction under which no more than six weeks of maternity leave may be given following confinement - this allows all eligible officers to take the full 10 weeks of maternity leave. We have also lifted the restriction of granting full-pay maternity leave only to those female officers with no more than three surviving children.
6.In December 1996 we introduced various changes to the provisions on salary advance to update them in line with present day circumstances. We abolished certain anachronic provisions, for example an advance to cover the cost of air passage for an officer's fiancee and an advance to cover passages for an officer's child to attend an interview at a university abroad. At the same time, we revised the ceiling for some other provisions, for example the amount of advance to officers faced with unforeseen domestic calamity or serious illness or death of an officer's family members was increased to take into account inflation over the years.
Reviews now in progress
7.We shall continue to keep in view the current provision of fringe benefits. Reviews now in progress are outlined in paragraphs 8 to 12 below.
8.Under current policy, retired civil servants re-employed by the Government or appointed by certain publicly-funded organisations will have their monthly pension suspended for the duration of their re-employment. In response to a report issued by the Public Accounts Committee, we are reviewing this policy. We will examine the rationale of the policy and see if the policy has placed these publicly-funded organisations in a disadvantageous position in the recruitment of staff.
Leave and school passages
9.At present, overseas officers and local directorate officers are eligible for leave passages. The rates of the leave passage allowance (LPA) is currently pegged to the relevant approved air fares. To reflect more appropriately the use of the LPA under present day circumstances where a majority of the recipients use package tours, we propose to delink the rates from air fares and revise them according to changes in the Package Tour Prices under the Consumer Price Index.
10.Officers who were offered appointment before 1 August 1996 may claim school passages in the form of air tickets for their eligible children who are in full time education overseas. To reduce public expenditure, we propose to provide a school passage allowance for eligible officers to buy tickets directly from the market.
11.We will submit details of both proposals to this Panel shortly.
12.The mechanisms used to revise the rates of allowance for the various housing benefits have been in use for some years. We will review them in particular to see whether the review periods should be brought in line. As part of this exercise we will also review the need to retain some of the minor housing-related benefits such as the furniture allowance.
13.We have undertaken in our policy programme to take forward and implement a set of Common Terms of appointment and conditions of service for new appointments. The Common Terms are intended to replace and standardise the different sets of terms and conditions which, for historical reasons, have been offered to local and overseas officers. The intention is that all officers on joining Common Terms will be granted the same fringe benefits appropriate for their pay point. We are now refining the proposals and implementation details.
14.Mrs Philomena Leung, Principal Assistant Secretary for the Civil Service(3) is responsible for the subject matter. She may be contacted on telephone 2810 3100.
Civil Service Bureau
18 October 1997