LegCo Panel on Manpower
(Meeting on 20.9.99)
Work Arrangement in Times of the Black Rainstorm Warning and Typhoon
In Hong Kong, typhoons and rainstorms normally occur during the summer months. Strong winds and heavy rains can cause serious damage to life and personal property. They may also lead to severe traffic disruption, major floods and landslips, resulting in difficulties for employees to report for duty or arrive at work in time.
Why statutory regulation not practicable
2. Given the diversity in nature and requirements of different jobs in various trades and industries, and the need for some essential services, like public transport, public utilities, medical services and hotels etc., to maintain normal operation under inclement weather conditions, it would not be practicable to introduce legislation governing work arrangements for employees during typhoons and rainstorms. It is also difficult to determine which industries or trades should be covered by legislation and which should not.
Labour legislation in overseas countries
3. As far as we can ascertain, there is no specific legislation regulating work and pay for employees in adverse weather conditions in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
Agreement on work arrangements between employers and employees
4. To avoid unnecessary disputes, the Labour Department encourages employers to work out in consultation with employees prior work arrangements and contingency measures during rainstorms and typhoons. In drawing up the work arrangements, employers are advised to adopt a flexible approach and give prime consideration to employees' safety both in the workplace and during their journeys to and from work. Employers are strongly advised not to deduct wages and good attendance bonus of employees who are absent or late for work because of inclement weather conditions. They are advised to ensure that all employees are aware of such arrangements.
Code of Practice
5. The Labour Department has published a "Code of Practice in Times of Typhoons and Rainstorms" (the Code) to provide advice and guidelines to employers and employees on work arrangements regarding report for duty, release from work, resumption of work and wage calculation. The Code also provides a sample of work arrangements for reference by employers in preparing their arrangements.
6. The Code is available free of charge at all major offices of the Labour Department and Public Enquiry Service Centres of the Home Affairs Department. Copies have been sent to Members of the Legislative Council, employers associations, trade unions, resource centres for small and medium sized enterprises, and around 100,000 establishments employing five or more employees. It is also uploaded to the Department's Homepage on the Internet for public access.
Promotional activities by the Labour Department
7. Since April this year, the Labour Department has stepped up its publicity to promote the importance of making prior work arrangements in times of typhoon and rainstorm warnings. These activities include :
Mass media publicity
8. Television and radio announcements of public interest are broadcast on a current basis and a press release is issued every month. To avoid ambiguity, the Labour Department has, with effect from 24 August 1999, issued the following announcement through the electronic media whenever Black Rainstorm Warning is issued between 6 am and 9 am.
"The Labour Department reminds employers that as the black rainstorm warning is in force, they should not require their employees to report for work for the sake of safety, unless prior agreement on work arrangements has been made. For those employees who are already at work, they should stay where they are unless it is dangerous to do so."
9. In the publication on Sample Employment contract, the Department also advises employers to include work arrangements and wages calculation in times of typhoons and rainstorms in written contracts. Posters on the importance of prior work arrangements have been printed and displayed at the outposts of various Government departments throughout the territory.
Exhibitions and briefings
10. Special exhibition panels have been produced and displayed in three exhibitions staged at major shopping arcades. Briefings have also been organised for employers and human resource practitioners.
Tripartite dialogue at the industry level
11. The Code has been introduced to members of the four tripartite committees comprising the Labour Department as Convenor, the trade associations and the unions on catering, construction, theatre and warehouse and cargo transport trades. If individual trades have the need, the Labour Department will also assist the employers and employees to work out their work arrangements.
Samples of work arrangements
12. A number of employers have put in place work arrangements for employees during typhoons and rainstorms. A few samples of such arrangements are provided in Annexes 1 to 4.
Number of dispute cases
13. The Labour Department received five claims, each involving an individual employee, in relation to the issuance of a black rainstorm warning on 9 June 1998 and one claim from an employee in relation to the hoisting of typhoon signal No. 8 on 7 June 1999. Of the six claims, three were settled through conciliation by the Labour Department. The remaining three claims were referred either to the Labour Tribunal or the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board for adjudication.
14. Arising from the black rainstorm warnings issued on 23 and 24 of August 1999, as at 1 September, the Labour Department has received one claim from an employee for dismissal due to absence from duty.