The No 9 storm signal was lowered to No 8 at 7:40am today as Typhoon Higos was leaving Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Observatory downgraded the No 8 storm signal to No 3 at 11am.
For employees in Hong Kong, when a No 8 typhoon signal is issued between 6am and 9am, they can usually stay home and are not required to work. However, since many companies are carrying out the working from home arrangement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce is wondering whether they have a half/full day off or not.
However, there has not been an official guideline from the government. Yesterday, the Labour Department issued a statement urging employers to devise prior work arrangements for typhoons and rainstorms with employees as early as possible but it didn't touch on remote working.
"Employers should conduct timely and realistic assessment of whether there is any need for requiring essential staff to report for duty when a typhoon or rainstorm warning is in force. In assessing the need for essential staff, employers should take into account the safety of employees, including the feasibility for employees to travel to and from their workplaces in adverse weather," a spokesperson for the department said.
"Employers should also consider the business nature, operational needs and urgency of service, with due regard to the manpower requirements, staffing establishment and individual needs of employees. Employers should require only absolutely essential staff to report for duty in adverse weather or when the post-super typhoon 'extreme conditions' announcement is in force and the number of essential staff should be kept to the minimum as far as possible. When weather conditions continue to worsen and public transport services are to be suspended shortly, employers should release their staff as soon as practicable," they added.
The work arrangements should cover reporting for duty, release from work, resumption of work, wage calculation and transport arrangements.
"As typhoons and rainstorms are natural occurrences that cannot be avoided, for employees who are not able to report for duty or resume work on time due to adverse weather conditions, employers should not withhold their wages, good attendance bonus or allowances without reasons. Employers should enquire into the reasons and give due consideration to the exceptional circumstances in each case and should not penalise or dismiss the employee concerned rashly."
Under the Employment Ordinance, it is also unlawful for an employer to reduce employee entitlements to annual leave, statutory holidays or rest days to compensate for the loss of working hours resulting from the issue of Typhoon Signal No. 8 or the announcement of a Black Rainstorm Warning.