Written Question on Family-friendly employment practices

It is learnt that the Labour Department (LD) is dedicated to encouraging employers to implement family-friendly employment practices (FFEPs), with a view to helping employees achieve a balance between work and family life. The relevant practices promoted by LD in recent years include flexitime, five-day work week, work from home, providing the alternative of working on a part-time basis, offering employees family leave benefits that are more favourable than the statutory requirements, and furnishing employees with medical protection, child care services, counselling services on stress or emotional management and other living support. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) in the past five years, whether the authorities (i) formulated specific indicators to evaluate the implementation of FFEPs in various industries, (ii) conducted a territory-wide study on the effectiveness of the various practices, and (iii) assessed the effectiveness of and deficiencies in the relevant publicity and public education efforts; if they did, of the details; if not, whether the authorities will consider conducting such work;

(2) of the details of the various FFEPs implemented by various policy bureaux/government departments (B/Ds) in the past 10 years, including whether such practices were applicable to all B/Ds and whether they covered non-civil service contract staff; the procedures for government employees to apply for such arrangements as work from home or flexitime; whether it has studied how to enhance the various FFEPs, so as to take the lead in promoting them; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) as it has been reported that the Singaporean government has achieved remarkable results in encouraging private sector employers to implement FFEPs for work-life balance by providing them with financial incentives, whether the authorities will consider setting up a task force to study in details and make reference to the experience of Singapore on the provision of financial incentives for local private sector employers, so as to encourage them to implement FFEPs; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

The Government has all along been supportive of family-friendly employment practices (FFEPs) and has been encouraging employers to, having regard to the individual circumstances and affordability of their own enterprises as well as the unique business environment and operations of specific industries, adopt measures of FFEPs that best serve the interests of their enterprises and employees. The Government has also been enhancing publicity and public education efforts in promoting FFEPs on different fronts.

My reply to the questions raised by Hon Chan Kin-por is as follows:

(1) As FFEPs may cover a wide range of possible measures and given the variety of industries and trades in the market and the diversity in scale and modes of operation of different enterprises, it would not be easy to formulate specific indicators for assessing the implementation and effectiveness of FFEPs adopted by the vast variety of industries or enterprises. This notwithstanding, the Government attaches great importance to the implementation of FFEPs and has been reviewing the existing publicity and public education efforts. To take a few practical examples, the Labour Department (LD) staged in August 2015 a thematic seminar for over 200 human resources managers and corporate executives. Academics and representatives of enterprises that had practised FFEPs were invited to share their experience. LD published between June and September 2015 a series of news supplements on the successful experience of enterprises in implementing FFEPs. The supplements have been compiled into a casebook for extensive distribution to relevant persons and organisations since November 2015. In collaboration with employers and employees in the catering industry, LD also introduced in October 2015 a set of “Family-friendly Employment Practices and Good People Management Practical Guidelines for the Catering Industry”.

Looking ahead, LD will continue to pragmatically organise various educational and promotional activities to publicise relevant practices to the community and encourage employers to adopt more FFEPs in the workplace. LD will also keep up its efforts in sharing effective means in implementing various good people management policies with members of the nine industry-based Tripartite Committees and 18 Human Resources Managers’ Clubs with a view to encouraging management executives of various sectors to formulate FFEPs that best suit the needs of their enterprises. The Government will also continue to collect feedback from various stakeholders to help assess the effectiveness of its efforts in promoting and implementing FFEPs, and will fine-tune relevant strategies accordingly. We will also continue to keep track and take account of overseas experience with a view to reviewing and enhancing our strategy in promoting a family-friendly work culture.

(2) The Government strives to provide a family-friendly working environment to enable its employees to cope with both work and family commitments.

The Government has implemented the five-day week initiative since 2006 with the objective of improving the quality of civil servants’ family life without affecting the overall level and efficiency of public services or incurring additional costs to the taxpayer. The Civil Service Bureau (CSB) conducts biennial survey on the implementation of five-day week in departments. As revealed by the results of the last survey, around 112 600 (The figures did not include civil servants working in government schools, the Judiciary, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Hospital Authority, the Vocational Training Council and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, etc.) civil servants (around 72.4 per cent of the then prevailing civil service strength) were working on a five-day week work pattern as at September 30, 2014. CSB has issued guidelines to departments, requiring departments to extend the five-day week initiative to Non-Civil Service Contract (NCSC) staff wherever practicable and appropriate. According to the above-mentioned survey, as at September 30, 2014 about 7 300 full-time NCSC staff (around 67.1 per cent of the total number of full-time NCSC staff at that time) were working on a five-day week work pattern. The Government will continue to actively encourage departments to explore possible ways to migrate more staff to five-day week, subject to the four basic principles (i.e. no additional staffing resources; no reduction in the conditioned hours of work of individual staff; no reduction in emergency services; and continued provision of some essential counter services on Saturdays/ Sundays) and after staff consultation. The Government will also continue to encourage departments to arrange staff to work in five-day week posts by rotation where practicable and appropriate.

Besides, the provision of five working days of paternity leave to eligible government employees (including civil servants and NCSC staff) has been implemented since April 1, 2012. Since the implementation of the measure up to September 30, 2015, a total of 10 048 paternity leave applications from eligible government employees have been approved. Currently, the above-mentioned paternity leave arrangements are applicable to all eligible government employees.

Civil servants work in accordance with the conditioned hours of work of their grades. According to the Civil Service Regulations (CSR), Heads of Department may personally vary the actual hours of attendance of their staff to meet departmental requirements, subject to the conditions stipulated under the CSR being met. Concerning NCSC staff, subject to the relevant terms in the employment contract of the respective staff, the employing department may vary the hours of work of the staff having regard to the operational needs of the department.

The Government will continue to strive to provide a family-friendly working environment to its employees.

(3) Since September 2015, LD has also extended the Employment Programme for the Middle-aged to cover part-time jobs. By offering employers a training allowance of up to $3,000 per month, we wish to encourage employers to provide more part-time jobs for people aged 40 or above. These measures should help facilitate employees in meeting their family commitments.

Furthermore, since 2011, the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) and the Family Council have been organising the “Family-Friendly Employers Award Scheme” (Award Scheme) on a biennial basis to give recognition to companies and organisations that demonstrate a family-friendly spirit and, at the same time, encourage them to implement FFEPs. FFEPs implemented by the awardees include five-day work week, flexi-working place, flexi-working hours, provision of breastfeeding facilities in the workplace, scholarship as well as special leave arrangements such as “parent days leave” and “filial leave”. The 2013/14 Award Scheme received more than 1 800 applications, which represented an increase of over 60 per cent as compared with the first Award Scheme. Through experience sharing by companies and organisations, the Award Scheme has helped raise the awareness of employers in implementing FFEPs. HAB and the Family Council will also launch the third Award Scheme on December 15, 2015 and will continue to promote wider adoption of FFEPs in various trades and industries.

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