Legislators push for law to enforce holiday pay rule

Agnes Lam

Lawmakers agreed yesterday to urge the government to speed up drafting a law amendment to compel employers to include commissions in the calculation of holiday pay.

A motion proposed by legislator Leung Kwok-hung asked the government to submit a draft before the current legislative session ends in July.

But Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Matthew Cheung Kin-chung told the Legco manpower panel the amendment might not be ready until October.

The proposal was made after the Court of Final Appeal dismissed a claim for $200,000 in holiday pay by a Philip Wain fitness centre worker, who said her employer calculated her holiday pay only on her basic salary, excluding commission. The judge decided commissions did not fit the Employers Ordinance definition of a daily wage.

On Monday, labour representatives stormed out of a special meeting of the Labour Advisory Board on the proposed amendment after employer representatives asked for more time to study the proposal affecting 600,000 employees, mostly in the services sector.

Despite this setback, Mr Cheung defended the advisory board as an effective mechanism that provided a platform for employers and workers to discuss their problems.

'The meeting on Monday was an isolated case. The board has always allowed both parties to discuss labour issues and resolve their differences,' he said.

Mr Cheung said more time was needed so that the government could continue talks with the business community and clear up misunderstandings about the issue.

'We need time to allay their fears and understand their concern so that a consensus can be reached. I will bring the proposal to the Legislative Council panel as soon as possible,' Mr Cheung said.

'I do not want to give lawmakers a blank cheque. I can say only that I will try to do it as quickly as possible and hopefully can take the proposal to the Legco in October.'

But legislators were dissatisfied with his reply. Unionist lawmaker Chan Yuen-han accused the government of wavering on the issue.

'It seems the government backed down right away after the employer representatives scared it. The government should act like a fair and just referee who should not soften his stand.'

Legislators Li Fung-ying and Wong Kwok-hing, who represent the labour sector, also called on the government to take the proposal to Legco this legislative year.

Mr Cheung said the government had not changed its position, and said it was the Labour Department that initiated the legislative exercise. 'We know there is a need to amend the law and the employer representatives agree with that too. They just need more time to gain a better understanding and a more comprehensive review of the proposed law amendment.'