Hong Kong employers open to flexible work arrangements but fear system abuse: study

Local think tank says effective employment practices can only be adopted if workers and bosses see each other as ‘partners instead of enemies’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 4:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 10:23pm

Employers are supportive of flexible work arrangements but fear staff may abuse the system, a think tank has found.

The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre recently conducted interviews with more than 20 bosses and about 30 employees to look into issues such as flexible working hours and working from home.

The centre found that all of the interviewees were supportive of flexible work arrangements.

“Employers don’t think the arrangements will lead to an increase in business costs, but they fear staff members will abuse the system,” deputy director of research Agnes Ching Yin-fong said.

Bosses also feared that it would be difficult to monitor whether employees allowed to work from home were actually doing so.

All employers interviewed offered a five-day work week, but only about a third of them allowed employees to work flexible hours – including the freedom to choose when to come into the office.

All employees polled, from teachers and designers to information technology professionals, supported flexible work arrangements, but only a few of them were allowed flexible work conditions.

“The employees interviewed very much welcome the suggestions of flexible work arrangements. Some of them receive calls from their employers after office hours,” Ching said.

Previously the government estimated the city would face a shortage of nearly 118,000 workers by 2022. However, if the economy grows faster than expected, the shortage could reach about 178,000.

The centre believed workforce numbers could be boosted if mothers who stay at home took up jobs allowing them to work there.

“Employees and employers are partners, not enemies. To promote flexible employment practices effectively, mutual trust is the key,” centre director Lawrence Lee Kam-hung said.

Such arrangements could lower turnover rates as well, Lee said, as employees looking to further their studies could still retain their jobs if flexible work arrangements allowed them to juggle both.

But Lee did not support new legislation to make flexible working hours or conditions mandatory because there were “different natures to different jobs”.

The centre suggested establishing a special committee – comprising both employers and employees – under the Labour and Welfare Bureau to draft policy directions.