Hong Kong librarian files judicial review claiming she worked 30 straight days with no leave

Central Library employee seeks compensation, argues civil service regulations violate worker rights and benefits

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 12:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 November, 2016, 12:13pm

A Hong Kong librarian has lodged a judicial review to challenge her boss at the Leisure and Cultural Services Department for not granting her days off and allegedly making her work at one stretch for 30 straight days without a break.

Hong Kong Public Libraries assistant librarian Sandy Mok Hoi-shan, who works at the Central Library in Causeway Bay, said “summer reading month activities” there resulted in her having to work non-stop throughout the week, including public holidays and “non-leave days” she should have had off.

But since the overtime she put in for the deprived holidays fell short of the standard shift of 8.8 hours, she was not entitled to full-day holidays under a civil servant scheme that compensates workers on an hour-for-hour basis, according to a writ she filed at the High Court on Monday.

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“I did not have any [holiday] in a week during such a working period,” she wrote, recounting her frustration with the department’s director.

She argued she had a legitimate expectation that civil servants would be given at least one holiday per week under the Civil Service Regulations, which she said only the Secretary for the Civil Service – and not the department – had the power to amend.

By not granting her at least one day off after working all week, the department exceeded its authority and “substantially varied the employment condition” under the regulations, the writ stated.

The librarian also complained there was a restriction on the days off she could claim. She citied paragraph 547 of the regulations, which states “no officer is entitled to claim a general holiday as a matter of right”.

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Mok said the clause was unlawful and stopped her taking time off during general holidays, contrary to worker protection provisions in the General Holidays Ordinance and the Basic Law.

She said the department was duty-bound by the regulations to consider whether granting the time off was “appropriate and practicable” in light of operational needs. In this matter, she claimed, the department had failed.

Citing the Civil Service Bureau, she said only when it was not operationally feasible could a government department reject an application for a day off on a general holiday.

Mok asked the court to quash the department’s decision that there was no need to further review her compensation request regarding her working more than 30 straight days over unspecified dates.

She demanded the paragraph in question in the regulations be declared illegal and sought compensation for her loss of holidays spanning a period between November 2011 and this month.