Hong Kong (RAE - China) - Exclusions and loopholes in the new minimum wage law (2012)

Hong Kong’s minimum wage bill, which was passed by the legislature in 2010, came into effect on 1 May 2011. The setting of the minimum wage rate at HKD28 per hour was an administration-dominated exercise as no amendment was allowed when the Minimum Wage Ordinance went to the Legislative Council for approval - contrary to normal legislative practice in Hong Kong. There is no regulation or guidelines on whether meal breaks and rest days should be paid. The issue is left to consultation between employers and employees. Hence, many employers, in order to reduce labour costs, have amended the employment contract to state the exclusion of paid meal breaks and rest days. Unilateral amendment of employment contracts to offset the salary rise brought by the new law is particularly rampant in the food and catering, cleaning, security guard, tourist and elderly care sector. Many workers were forced to accept the amendment or lose their jobs. Within a week of the new law taking effect, 14 employers faced possible prosecution after labour inspectors found they may have breached the minimum wage law.

The wage level of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong is set by government decree. They have no mechanism to collectively bargain with their employers or the employers’ association. In anticipation of the new minimum wage law, the migrant workers’ unions called on the government to include migrant workers under the new law’s protection. However, they were totally excluded in the minimum wage bill legislation process, in the Labour Advisory Council, and in the Minimum Wage Bill Committee.

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