A unionist legislator yesterday accused the Education and Manpower Bureau of 'dereliction of duty' for failing to spot a loophole in a proposed labour regulation that means it now looks certain to be withdrawn. At the centre of the controversy is a clause intended to protect the safety and health of workers in 17 occupations. Although 11 meetings had been held on the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Medical Examinations) Regulation by a Legislative Council subcommittee in the past year, the administration told lawmakers on Monday that it wanted to amend part of the legislation before it was passed. With only three weeks to go before the term of the current legislative session ends, this means the regulation will almost certainly lapse as there will not be enough time for lawmakers to scrutinise the proposed amendment before June 30. The decision to withdraw the regulation came after unionist Lee Cheuk-yan noticed that a provision on work suspension might be in conflict with part of the Employment Ordinance. In terms of Section 31B of the ordinance, an employer has to make severance payment if a laid-off employee has been working under a continuous contract for at least 24 months. The ordinance says an employee shall be regarded as having been laid off 'when the employer does not provide work for him on at least 12 normal working days in any period of four consecutive weeks'. But Mr Lee spotted that under Section 10 of the regulation, employees suspended on medical grounds are not entitled to severance pay even if they meet the requirement stipulated in Section 31B. 'The biggest problem is that during the temporary suspension from work, the employee who was branded as 'unfit to work' would not be regarded as taking sick leave. It's grossly unfair, because employees affected would neither receive any pay nor be entitled to a transfer,' he said. Reacting to the Government's 11th-hour decision to withdraw the regulation, he said: 'I am very dissatisfied. It amounts to a waste of the legislature's time and it reflects the low standard of work of officials in the bureau. None of them managed to spot the big loophole when they gave the drafting instructions to the Department of Justice.' In its response to lawmakers, the Government said: 'The administration holds the view that Section 10 of the regulation does not conflict with Section 31B of the Employment Ordinance, because Section 31B . . . imposes obligations on an employer who fails to provide sufficient work for his employees, whereas Section 10 is concerned with protecting an employee's safety and health.'