Similar Number of Survey Respondents Pro or Against Standard Work Hours Legislation

(Tuesday, November 08, 2011)


Similar Number of Survey Respondents Pro or Against

Standard Work Hours Legislation

Government urged to give more guidelines on unresolved minimum wage issues



[8 Nov 2011 - Hong Kong]  The percentage of respondents saying “yes” or “no” to standard work hours is close, indicating mixed views on this new labour issue at this point, according to the findings of the Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO) Survey by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM).

Conducted in October 2011 and covering 95 companies (24% small companies, 38% medium-sized companies and 38% large companies) from 15 business sectors with a total of some 148,000 employees, the survey solicited views on the introduction of standard work hours, and issues surrounding the impact of the MWO in the long-run. Key findings of the survey are as follows:


Introduction of Standard Work Hours

51 out of 95 responding companies (54%) did not think standard work hours should be introduced in Hong Kong, while 44 companies (46%) supported. The major reasons for not preferring standard work hours being legislated include: affecting corporate flexibility and productivity, and overall competitiveness of Hong Kong; putting pressure on businesses already facing labour shortage; and impacting employee relations if the legislation is difficult to comprehend and implement.

In terms of business sector, all responding companies from the businessservices/professional services sector expressed that no standard work hours should be introduced, followed by restaurant/catering/tourism related (89%) and property development/management (80%). On the contrary, all responding companies from the media/entertainment sector agreed that standard work hours should be introduced, followed by hi tech/telecommunications (88%) and shipping/ terminals/logistics (75%). (Chart 1)


Number and Limit of Standard Work Hours

Whether there is a need to set a preferred number of standard work hours for different positions, 47 out of 95 responding companies (49%) agreed and proposed the average number of work hours for different positions to be ranging from 42.7 hours to 54 hours per week (Chart 2). 40 out of 94 responding companies (43%) thought that there should be a standard work hours limit per week for office staff.

“The concept of standard work hours is still remote for employers and employees as its impact is yet unknown. The diligent and responsive workforce in Hong Kong has always been regarded as one of the key factors to our economic success in the past few decades. However, employees have greater concern about the influence of long work hours on work-life balance. This is particularly true amongst the Gen Y,” said Ms Julita Leung, Chairperson of Minimum Wage and Standard Work Hours Taskforce of the HKIHRM.


Maximum Overtime Hours

46 out of 94 responding companies (48%) agreed a monthly limit should be set on the maximum overtime hours allowed for office staff if standard work hours are in place. Regarding this arrangement for jobs with irregular work hours, 46 out of 93 responding companies (49%) agreed.

Overtime rate was studied in the survey. 50 out of 94 responding companies (53%) expressed that overtime rates should be agreed upon between the employer and the employee rather than being stipulated by law. (Chart 3)


Exemption from Legislation

58 out of 95 responding companies (61%) thought that one or more positions should be exempted from legislation. In terms of business sector, all companies from the public utilities and shipping/terminals/logistics sectors agreed on such exemption. (Chart 4)

Among these 58 companies, the top three positions they selected for exemption are: tour escorts (83%), managers/executives/professionals who are free to organise their own work (81%) and outside sales persons (78%).

Regarding overtime, 47 out of 94 responding companies (50%) thought that employees should not be allowed to opt out of overtime protection, receive less than the statutory overtime rate or work more overtime hours than what is mandated. (Chart 5)

“The survey findings about exemption show mixed feelings among the respondents. While many of them realised the need for controlling employees’ work hours, they had to admit that this labour issue might affect corporate flexibility and thus exemption is preferred to tie in with operational needs. In countries and regions where standard work hours are already in place, we see exemption being applied to certain positions with irregular work hours or where the job incumbents are free to organise their own work,” remarked Ms Leung.


Minimum Wage Issues

Base pay adjustment

An 8.5% overall base pay adjustment(weighted average) made by 47 companies (covering 27,776 employees who did not meet the minimum hourly wage before MWO implementation) was recorded.


Appeals to government on minimum wage review

The top two concerns rated by the respondents are:

-      provide clear guidelines to establish what counts as worked hours for special circumstances such as business trips and standby/on-call duty

-       provide clear guidelines to establish whether rest day and meal break should be paid



“While the test on minimum wage is yet to be ascertained, standard work hours will certainly pose another challenge to employee relations. The HKIHRM survey is certainly a starting point to give some thoughts to this issue. When the government releases its standard work hours study results, we may expect more hot discussion among different stakeholders,” concluded Ms Leung.


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As the most representative professional human resource institute in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM), a non-profit making organisation, has over 4,900 individual and corporate members. Founded in February 1977, the Institute aims at developing, maintaining and enhancing professional standards in HR management, and increasing the perceived value and influence of the HR profession. The Institute organises a wide range of professional activities such as multi-level training programmes and conferences, and provides services such as conducting surveys and publishing a professional journal. The HKIHRM is a member of the Asia Pacific Federation of Human Resource Management which is one of the continental federations under the World Federation of People Management Associations. For more information, please visit our website at




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