Workers fear rise in false self-employment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am


More cases of false self-employment might emerge following the implementation of the minimum wage law, the Labour Advisory Board warns.

At the first board meeting since the law went into force on May 1, employee representative Leung Chau-ting said the government should step up inspections to catch employers who forced workers to sign self-employment contracts.

'I am worried that more employers might force their workers to become falsely self-employed in a bid to evade their responsibilities relating to workers' rights and benefits,' he said after the meeting.

His comment came amid trade unions' complaints that some low-paid workers were forced to become self-employed so that employers would not have to pay them the minimum wage of HK$28 an hour.

The practice was also used by employers trying to evade annual and statutory holiday payments, the Mandatory Provident Fund, work insurance or compensation for injuries.

Employers and employee representatives agreed that the problem of false self-employment was not severe at the moment but was worthy of concern.

Another employee representative, Lee Tak-ming, urged the government to remain alert.

'Workers might not testify [against] their bosses, fearing that they will lose their jobs. The government should enhance inspections to protect labour rights,' he said.

Employers' representative Irons Sze said it was not necessary to legislate against false self-employment as there were other employment laws protecting workers.

The Labour Department could not provide figures for false self- employment since enforcement of the minimum wage law, but said that between October 2009 and last December, the department received 317 complaints of false self-employment.

Nine employers were prosecuted and the department is following up the remaining cases. The department said the status of a worker was not determined solely on the kind of employment contract signed and job title.

'If the relationship between the parties is in essence one of employer-employee, the employer still has to fulfil his obligations under labour legislation such as the Employment Ordinance and the Employees' Compensation Ordinance,' a department spokesman said.

Workers who suspect they are being deprived of their labour rights by signing self-employment contracts can call the department on 2815 2200.

I am worried that more employers might force their workers to become falsely self-employed Leung Chau-ting, a member of the Labour Advisory Board