With Typhoon Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 8 now in force, for typhoon Kompasu until at least 4pm today (October 13 2021) the labour department (LD) urged employers to make alternative work arrangements for staff during extreme weather conditions. But what laws should you be aware of?
The LD has a handy, "Code of Practice in Times of Typhoons and Rainstorms", which outlines the major principles, the framework, the reference guidelines and information on relevant legislation for reference in drawing up the work arrangements under adverse weather conditions for employers and employees.
Here are the statutory guidelines to be aware of when drawing up best practices for employees during a typhoon.
Annual leave, statutory holidays and rest days
- An employer cannot reduce employees’ entitlements to annual leave, statutory holidays or rest days under the Employment Ordinance to compensate for the loss of working hours resulting from the issuance of T8 or higher, the Black Rainstorm Warning Signal, other adverse weather warnings or the “extreme conditions” announcement.
- There are clear provisions in the Employment Ordinance on granting of annual leave, statutory holidays or rest days by employers. Employers must abide by the relevant provisions on granting the above leave and holidays; It is unlawful for an employer to fail, without reasonable excuse, to comply with the relevant provisions.
Situations in which employees cannot report for duty or arrive at work on time
- If an employee fails to report for duty or arrive at work on time due to adverse weather conditions or after “extreme conditions” cease to exist, the employer should enquire into the reasons, give due consideration to the exceptional circumstances in each case and should not penalise or dismiss the concerned employee rashly.
- Summary dismissal is a serious disciplinary action. It normally applies to cases where an employee has committed very serious misconduct or has failed to improve himself after the employer’s repeated warnings.
The Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance and the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance
- Under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance and the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance, employers/proprietors have an obligation to ensure the safety and health at work of all their employees, including the provision and maintenance of a working environment for employees that is, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.
- Employers should, wherever possible, avoid assigning workers to work in times of adverse weather conditions or “extreme conditions”. Where employers require their employees to work under adverse weather conditions, they should assess the associated risks before work to ensure that the risks at work have been reduced as far as reasonably practicable.
- Their obligations include the provision and maintenance of a plant and system of work that is, so far a reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. For example, employees should be instructed to keep themselves away from potential dangerous places as far as possible and be provided with suitable personal protective equipment such as safety helmets with chin straps, raincoats and waterproof safety boots, etc.
- Employees at the workplaces where there is a risk of persons falling from height should be provided with suitable safety measures such as proper working platforms or, if this is not practicable, suitable fall arresting systems like safety nets, safety belts and independent lifeline or other secure points for anchoring the safety belt
The Employees’ Compensation Ordinance
- According to the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance, if an employee sustains an injury or dies as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, his employer is in general liable to pay compensation under this Ordinance even if the employees might have committed acts of faults or negligence when the accident occurred.
- An accident to an employee resulting in injury or death is deemed to arise out of and in the course of employment if it happens to the employee when he is travelling from his place of residence to his place of work by a direct route within a period of four hours before the time of commencement of his working hours for that day, or from his place of work to his place of residence within a period of four hours after the time of cessation of his working hours for that day, when T8 or higher or a Red or Black Rainstorm Warning Signal is in force, or within the period during which “extreme conditions” announcement exist.
- Under these circumstances, the employer is liable to pay compensation under the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance. Take an employee whose working hours ended at 5:30 p.m. as an example. He met with an accident and sustained bodily injury at 7:00 p.m. when he was travelling back home from his workplace. T8 was in force at the time of the accident. Under the circumstances, the employer will be liable to pay compensation under the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance.
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