Hong Kong 2003
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Employees' Rights and Benefits

The Employment Ordinance provides for various employment-related benefits and entitlements for employees. On top of the statutory requirements, employers and employees are free to negotiate on the terms and conditions of their employment.

Since December 2000, all relevant employers have to enrol their employees in MPF schemes in accordance with the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Schemes legislation. The participation rate of the relevant employers in MPF schemes, which are regulated by the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, reached 95.4 per cent by year-end.

Labour Conditions

The employment of children under 15 years of age is generally prohibited. Subject to stringent requirements, children aged 13 and 14 may be employed in non-industrial establishments. Young persons aged 15 to 17 may work in industrial establishments, subject to regulations governing their employment conditions. Specific provisions under labour legislation protect their safety, health and welfare.

Labour inspectors conduct rigorous workplace inspections to monitor employers' compliance with the various provisions of labour legislation to safeguard the statutory rights and benefits of local and imported workers, and to ensure that employers possess valid insurance policies covering their liabilities for work injuries of their employees. Labour inspectors also check employees' proof of identity to help combat illegal employment.

Employees' Compensation

In Hong Kong, the employees' compensation system adopts the no-fault principle whereby compensation is payable irrespective of whether the injury, the occupational disease or death was caused by the employee's fault. The Employees' Compensation Ordinance covers injuries or death caused by accidents arising out of and in the course of employment or by specified occupational diseases. An employer must be in possession of a valid insurance policy to cover his liabilities under the ordinance and at common law.

The Employees' Compensation Division of the Labour Department, which administers the Employees' Compensation Ordinance, assists injured employees and family members of deceased employees to obtain compensation from their employers. It also administers a scheme to provide interest-free loans to those injured employees and family members of deceased employees who need financial assistance as a result of a work-related accident.

Payment of compensation under the Pneumoconiosis (Compensation) Ordinance is administered by the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board. Pneumoconiosis sufferers who were diagnosed before 1981 are not covered by the ordinance. They receive ex gratia benefits from the Government under the Pneumoconiosis Ex Gratia Scheme.

The Occupational Deafness Compensation Scheme compensates employees suffering from noise-induced deafness due to employment in specified noisy occupations. It is administered by the Occupational Deafness Compensation Board. The Occupational Deafness (Compensation) (Amendment) Ordinance 2003, which came into effect on May 16, 2003, has introduced improvements to the scheme and additional benefits to persons who are entitled to occupational deafness compensation, including the reimbursement of expenses in relation to hearing assistive devices and rehabilitation services.

The Employees Compensation Assistance Scheme provides a safety net for injured employees or family members of deceased employees so that they can receive compensation from the scheme in cases where employers default payment of compensation for work-related injuries or insurers become insolvent. The scheme is financed by a levy imposed on all employees' compensation insurance policies taken out by employers.

Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board

The Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board adjudicates claims under the Employment Ordinance and in accordance with individual employment contracts. The board hears and determines employment claims involving not more than 10 claimants for a sum of money not exceeding $8,000 per claimant. During the year, the board concluded 2 763 cases and made awards amounting to $6.6 million.

Labour Tribunal

The Labour Tribunal is part of the Judiciary and provides a quick, inexpensive and informal method of adjudicating various types of disputes between employees and employers which are not within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board.

In 2003, there were 11 263 cases filed in the tribunal of which 11 232 were initiated by employees and 31 by employers. Of these cases, 91.9 per cent were referred by the Labour Relations Division of the Labour Department after unsuccessful conciliation attempts. During the year, the tribunal dealt with a total of 11 385 cases and made awards amounting to more than $705 million.

Stepping Up Enforcement Against Wage Offences

To expedite investigation and prosecution concerning wage offences, the Labour Department has a dedicated unit to conduct in-depth investigations into suspected breaches of the Employment Ordinance at the earliest instance. In 2003, the department secured convictions for 445 summonses on wage offences, representing a significant increase of 220 per cent compared with 139 summonses in 2002. The department has taken swift action to detect wage offences through inspections of targeted workplaces. It has also strengthened its educational and promotional efforts to remind employers of their statutory obligation to pay wages on time and to educate employees on the right to lodge claims and the importance of serving as prosecution witnesses.

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