A Guide to Work Hours in Hong Kong (With Types of Schedules)
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Working hours refer to the amount of time an individual is at their job. These hours may vary by employer, profession and industry, and longer working hours may affect work-life balance. However, some countries monitor and regulate employees' hours. In this article, we discuss the average work hours in Hong Kong, normal office hours, the 7.5-hour workday, overtime requirements, why work hours matter and different types of work schedules.
What are work hours in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong doesn't have a statutory standard working hour system or a statutory maximum number of hours. However, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong reported that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and related governments determined that the average work hours were 42 hours per week in 2018. This differs from the ILO's recommended 40 working hours per week but is less than the 48 working hours per week that the ILO considers excessive. While long working hours and six-day workweeks are still common, statistics from the ILO show this is slowly decreasing.
While, in general, there are no regulations on or standard working hours, the Labour Department's Employment Ordinance provides provisions regarding related matters like rest days, statutory paid holidays, annual leave and sick leave. For example, employers must provide employees with at least one 24 hour rest period within a consecutive seven-day period. Similarly, the Employment Ordinance defines 12 statutory holidays for employees, which are:
The first day of January
Lunar New Year's Day
The second day of Lunar New Year
The third day of Lunar New Year
Ching Ming Festival
Tuen Ng Festival
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day
The day following the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival
Chung Yeung Festival
Chinese Winter Solstice Festival or Christmas Day
Special work arrangements in Hong Kong
The Employment Ordinance does provide some guidance for working hours. There are regulations for people working in certain professions or under certain ages related to how many hours they may work. Here are some of the profession- and age-related working hours restrictions:
Working hours for children
Working hours for children are an exception to the relaxed mindset towards regulating working hours in Hong Kong. There are different rules for various age groups and employers who violate these laws may face significant fines. Some of the age groups and restrictions include:
Ages 15 to 18
Individuals between the ages of 15 and 18 can't work over eight hours in a day excluding breaks or 10 hours per day, including breaks. They may not work over five hours continuously without at least a half an hour break. They may not work over 48 hours per week and they can't work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
Ages 13 to 15
Individuals between the ages of 13 and 15 can't work more than eight hours per day including times for breaks. They can't work for more than five hours continuously without an hour-long break. They may not work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
Ages under 13
Individuals under the age of 13 can't work during school hours. During the school term, these individuals can't work over four hours on non-school days or over two hours on a school day. However, outside of the school term, these individuals may not work over eight hours including breaks, and they may not work over five hours continuously without a break of at least one hour.
Working hours for specific jobs
Here are some careers with restrictions on how many hours someone may work:
Bus drivers may not have more than 14 hours of total duty including rest time in a working day, and they may not have more than 11 hours of total duty excluding rest time in a working day. After six hours of work, a bus driver must take a 30-minute break. However, if the bus driver has only a six-hour shift, they must take a total of 20 minutes of a break and at least 12 minutes of this time must occur within the first four hours of their shift. Also, bus drivers must have at least a 10-hour gap between successive working days.
Hong Kong also has restrictions on the working hours of security personnel. They can't work more than 372 hours per month. However, security personnel may not work more than 12 hours per day.
Related: Preparing for the Future of Work
What are normal office hours?
Hong Kong doesn't have established working hours. However, typical business hours are often 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The hours of government offices are typically 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and banks hours are typically 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours for retail shops may vary, especially opening times, but those within business districts typically close at 6:30 p.m. and those within commercial areas typically close at 9 p.m.
What is a 7.5-hour workday?
A 7.5-hour workday includes seven hours of work and 30 minutes of breaks that are often split into two 15-minute breaks. Assuming a workweek of Monday to Friday, opting for the 7.5-hour workday results in a 37.5-hour workweek, differing from an eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek.
How do working hours affect overtime?
Hong Kong doesn't offer specific requirements for overtime work, which includes requiring employers to pay employees for working overtime hours. However, an employer may define overtime hours and wage policies. If a contract establishes an overtime policy, the employer has a legal obligation to provide overtime wages as defined. If an employer fails to pay employees properly for overtime worked, they may be subject to fines for withholding wages.
Why are working hours important?
Working hours are essential in competitive markets to attract good workers. Strong candidates often look for fair working terms, which may include well-balanced work hours and the ability to earn overtime. However, providing better working hours may also benefit employers. Hiring stronger candidates and having overtime policies in place may help organisations better adapt to changes in production needs.
Types of work schedules
While exact work schedules may vary by industry, profession and employer, here are some examples of types of work schedules:
Full-time work schedule
A full-time work schedule often requires working approximately 40 hours per week. Employees who work full-time may receive more benefits than other types of employees, but, depending on their employer and pay structure, may be less likely to earn overtime. Depending on the industry, full-time employees may have established that do not change, such as people who work in offices. However, it's possible to work other jobs, such as those who work in retail shops, to work full-time but have a schedule that varies each week.
Part-time work schedule
A part-time work schedule refers to an employee who works less than the defined amount for a full-time employee. These employees may have more flexibility with their work schedules, but they may receive fewer benefits than full-time employees. Part-time employees may have more varied schedules, such as shorter shifts at different times of the day each week. However, depending on their specific job and employer, part-time employees may be eligible to receive overtime.
Fixed work schedule
A fixed work schedule refers to a schedule where the employee works the same number of hours and days every week. This requires an agreement between the employer and employee, and it provides a consistent work schedule. For example, an example of a fixed work schedule would be a maintenance worker who works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Monday through Friday.
Flexible work schedule
A flexible work schedule involves an employer and employee working together to determine how much the employee will work. Hours required may vary based on the employer's policy and the employee's contract. Some organisations with flexible schedules also allow employees to swap shifts with other employees so long as they do not affect their overall work totals. An example of a flexible work schedule may be for a nurse who works from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays but 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Rotating shift work schedule
A rotating work schedule changes the different types of shifts employees work. Employees may work day, mid or night shifts, distributing preferred and undesirable shifts evenly among employees. However, this type of schedule may require careful planning as to not disrupt the lives of employees too greatly. An example of a rotating shift work schedule would be a restaurant that rotates which shifts a waiter works each week, such as alternating having all lunch shifts one week and all dinner shifts the next.
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