Hong Kong government plans to increase number of statutory holidays

Labour minister Law Chi-Kwong said the proposal to gradually increase the number of statutory holidays from 12 to 17 by 2030 is “most acceptable”.
By: | January 22, 2021

He said this in the context of what constitutes the “most acceptable proposal” from both the employers’ and workers’ standpoints. 

The government’s plan is to first add Buddha’s Birthday as a statutory holiday in 2022, and then include each of the remaining four days – Boxing Day and three days of the Easter holiday – every two years. 

“Although the proposal cannot satisfy everyone, it is a fair one,” Law said. “The differences in demands of employers and workers are huge … If we still spend time in discussion among the Labour Advisory Board, my judgement is, we don’t know when the consensus would be reached.” 

However, employee representatives of the Labour Advisory Board argued that the timeline should be shortened to three years instead of 10 when the proposal was first mooted last October. 

Lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said the proposal discriminates against blue-collared workers. Hong Kong has 17 public holidays, but only 12 are statutory, meaning employers have the discretion whether to grant their staff a day off on the other five, a situation which tends to benefit only white-collar workers. 

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Speaking from the employers’ perspective, lawmaker Siu Ka-fai of the wholesale and retail functional constituency said the additional statutory holidays would add to the burdens of businesses that had been severely hit by the social unrest in 2019 and the pandemic since last year. “You might as well add five statutory holidays in three days. It would just force many dying companies to shut down. Everyone would become jobless … Do you think it is easy to find a job nowadays?” Siu said. 

The minister said the topic has been debated for more than 10 years with some employers only barely agreeing with the latest proposal. He emphasised that the government needs to balance the interests of both employers and employees, according to the South China Morning Post.