Determined to push forward the agenda of aligning statutory holidays with bank holidays during his tenure, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong submitted the proposal of increasing statutory holidays from 12 to 17 days to Legco this week, without reaching a consensus with Labour Advisory Board.
The government plans to add one statutory holiday every two years until 2030. The four additional statutory holidays include Buddha's birthday, Boxing Day, and three days of the Easter holiday (Good Friday, the day following Good Friday, Easter Monday). Buddha's birthday will be the first to be added, and authorities are aiming at 2022.
About 40% of the workforce, or 120,000 blue-collar workers will be benefit from the update. For employers, every new statutory holiday will cost an additional 0.07% of the total wage of all industries annually, amounting to about HK$630 million. The government has not planned to provide any subsidy for this measure yet.
In response to the Labour Advisory Board's criticism that the government had bypassed the board, Law said, "When our differences are so huge, apparently we won't reach a consensus in short period of time or even years. We think we should not have wasted this time. When the mainstream opinions indicate that this is the right thing to do, the government has the responsibility to push forward this proposal."
Concerns from the board swirl about the finishing year of implementation and increasing burden for businesses.
There are 17 public holidays in Hong Kong. All employees are entitled to 12 days of statutory holidays under the Employment Ordinance. Employers are not obliged to grant employees a day off on the additional five. Usually only white-collar workers have the privilege of the extra days off.