HR lunch on new working hour regulations
On 3 June 2015, the Ministry of Labour announced amendments, effective from 1 January 2016, that will restrict employees to work for a maximum of eight hours per day or 40 hours per week. Working hours do not include break times but, for dangerous jobs, break time should be included as part of working hours. Employers must also give employees flexibility regarding the time that they start or finish work to allow them to deal with personal or family matters.Employers cannot reduce employees' salary or wages on the grounds of adjusting working hours from current levels to meet the new requirements. Deputy Director-General Huang reported that in 2016, there will only be 11 public holidays compared to 17 in 2015.
In addition, employers will be required to keep and maintain attendance records, accurate to the minute, for five years. Employers must provide copies of attendance records if they are requested by employees. While exceptions will be allowed to provide some flexibility (with the consent of a labour union or, in the absence of a union, a labour-management conference) an employee's total working time may not exceed 48 hours in any given week.Employers which violate the new law will have their names revealed. If they do not take remedial action within a certain time, they will be subject to fines.
In the Q&A session many members raised concerns about possible problems that may arise for companies trying to comply with the law. For example, it is difficult to define overtime work and pay in some cases. Just being in the office does not mean one is working. For example, members made the point that if an employee comes to the office early to eat breakfast or read the newspaper or if they stay late at the office waiting to be picked up, they are clearly not working and should not be allowed to claim overtime. Also, some members argued that volunteer work or training should not be classified as part of working time. There is also the problem of employees doing contract or project work, which may require several days of overtime at a time, which would exceed the legal threshold.
Deputy Director-General Huang responded that companies would be advised to keep honest and accurate records of employees' working hours as evidence and to have clear agreements with employees in advance about overtime work.
Time ran out before Deputy Director-General Huang could answer all of the questions posed by members. He agreed to review, together with colleagues at the MoL, the range of concerns raised by ECCT members at the lunch as well as additional concerns submitted by members and compiled by the HR committee after the event.