Motion on “Reviewing the Holiday Policy” (2019.01.09)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, there are two sets of holidays in Hong Kong, namely statutory holidays and public holidays. As there are only 12 statutory holidays, five days fewer than public holidays, this issue has led to endless disputes between employers and employees over the years.

As estimated by the Government, about 980 000 employees are entitled to statutory holidays and over 1 360 000 employees are entitled to 17 public holidays a year at present. The labour sector has been striving hard for standardizing both types of holidays to 17 days. Employers have always opposed this proposal, for fear that it will lead to an increase in operation costs of the small and medium enterprises and the additional costs might be passed on to the public, jeopardizing the business environment. Since both sides insist on their own views, this problem has remained unsolved so far.

I have always believed that both sides live through the good times and bad times together, and any reform needs the consent of both sides. Otherwise, it will only arouse conflicts between employers and employees and do no good to anybody in the end. It is proven that if the Government is willing to mediate, many controversial issues can be resolved and agreements made in the end. As regards the present problem concerning holidays, we cannot disregard the worries of employers as the present predicament first appeared in the 1960s and has remained till today. Even if it can be solved, it should be put forward for discussion by the public, with the Government acting as a mediator. We have always used the negotiation mechanism of the Labour Advisory Board (“LAB”) and I believe that this problem can also be left for LAB to study and come up with a solution that both sides can accept.

While we are seeking a long-term solution, it does not mean we can fold our arms and do nothing now. The Government can adopt short-term measures to ease labourers’ everyday pressure. I have always advocated work-life balance, in the hope that people can enjoy their lives after work and enhance their living quality. Specific measures include staggering working hours, home office and allowing the staff to take special holidays. In 2017, I suggested that the Government set up a “work-life balance fund” which models on the mode of the Community Care Fund, with injections from the Government. The fund will sponsor employees who are only entitled to the statutory holidays to take special holidays to relieve their work pressure. The advantage of this fund is that with funding from the Government, it can be launched immediately.

The Labour and Welfare Bureau conducted a survey in 2015 and found that about 980 000 employees were entitled to statutory holidays in Hong Kong. Basing on that figure, if these 980 000 employees took one more holiday, the total cost incurred would be $370 million, in terms of the wages in 2011. If they took five more holidays, the total cost incurred would be $1.83 billion. If this measure of special holidays was implemented, the Government only needed to spend $370 million and it would allow almost 1 million labourers to take one extra holiday. If they took five extra holidays, the total cost was $1.83 billion, which is roughly $2.5 billion in terms of today’s wages. Imagine that the Government just needs to spend $2.5 billion and it will give 1 million people or a few hundred thousand families a happy holiday and help relieve the grievances of the whole community. I think the money is well spent. If it is considered that it costs too much public money to finance all five holidays, the Government may just finance one or two days. The resources required will be limited. Of course this is only a preliminary suggestion and whether the specific plan will work still needs further studies by the Government.

It takes the sincerity of both sides to find a long-term solution to this problem. The Government also needs to mediate and even finance part of the expenses to help the small and medium enterprises tide over the difficulties smoothly. I believe that the present conflicts can definitely be resolved this way.

These are my remarks.

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