Post-storm guidelines for Hong Kong’s civil servants will be examined following Typhoon Mangkhut, city leader Carrie Lam says
Notice sent to departments asks for ‘flexibility’ when dealing with staff who cannot make it to work due to adverse weather, after many civil servants complained about the arrangements following the weekend’s record-breaking storm
The Hong Kong government will examine the existing guidelines on post-storm work arrangements for civil servants to ensure cases are handled with flexibility, the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in a letter to government employees on Tuesday.
The South China Morning Post understands that officials from some government departments, including the Trade and Industry Department, only received the notice reminding them to handle colleagues’ attendance after typhoons with flexibility on Tuesday, a day after it was issued by the Civil Service Bureau.
Officers at InvestHK, the government agency tasked with attracting foreign investors, had not yet received the notice.
Leung Chau-ting, chief executive of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, said the delay came as no surprise as the government’s internal notices were usually sent to staff through multiple layers in the chain of command.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s letter to more than 182,000 civil servants was sent a day after some government employees complained about the chaos they faced in their journeys to work on Monday amid large-scale suspensions of rail and bus services caused by Typhoon Mangkhut, the most intense typhoon in the city on record.
Lam expressed gratitude to civil servants for their efforts following the typhoon, saying “we were able to ride out the storm”.
She said the Civil Service Bureau would examine the existing guidelines on work arrangements for civil servants after typhoons, “ensuring that cases are handled with discretion and flexibility”.
The existing guideline states that when the No 8 or higher tropical cyclone warning signal is cancelled, staff should report for duty as soon as possible.
“Where there is road flooding or non-availability of public transport services, affected staff may experience delays in reporting for duty, ” the guideline says. “In such situations, [their] supervisors should give due consideration to the circumstances of affected staff and handle each case with flexibility.”
Around 3pm on Monday, the Civil Service Bureau issued notices to bureau and department chiefs, reminding them to handle their colleagues’ attendance on Monday with flexibility. No-shows due to public transport issues should not be taken as absences, it said.
A spokesman for the Civil Service Bureau did not comment on the delay in sending out the notice in some departments.
The spokesman said the existing guideline for post-typhoon work arrangement stipulates that supervisors should handle each case with flexibility.
“What we did on Monday was only to remind all heads of departments to exercise due discretion in handling colleagues who experienced difficulty in commuting to work on that day due to the damage caused by the typhoon,” the spokesman said. “Their absence from duty should not be counted for leave deduction.”
Leung Chau-ting, chief executive of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, said most of the government’s internal notices, including those from the Civil Service Bureau, were usually sent to department heads, who subsequently passed them to section heads like departmental secretaries and heads of personnel registry.
“Those section heads will then forward the notice to relevant officers. There is a possibility that those section heads were not in office on Monday or did not forward it to relevant officers shortly,” he said.