Employers should set prior work arrangements for rainstorms, typhoons

The Labour Department urged employers to devise work arrangements for typhoons and rainstorms in concert with their employees as early as practicable.

A spokesman for the department said: "To avoid unnecessary disputes, employers should work out, in consultation with employees wherever possible, prior work arrangements and contingency measures during typhoons and rainstorms.

"Employers should adopt a flexible approach in working out the arrangements. Prime consideration should be given to employees' safety both in the workplace and during their journeys to and from work. "

The work arrangements should cover reporting for duty, release from work, resumption of work, wage calculation and transport arrangements.

"Employers should draw up rules and regulations that specify whether employees are required to report for duty when different types of typhoon signals or rainstorm warnings are issued. Employers should also make realistic assessments of what essential staff are required to return to work when typhoon signals or rainstorm warnings are issued. Employers should only require those staff whose services are absolutely essential to report for duty in adverse weather conditions. A special allowance may be given as an encouragement to staff.

"The arrangement should also include instructions regarding the release of employees when rainstorm warnings or typhoon signals are issued during working hours. It should also list the conditions under which employees who have not reported for duty should return to work when such signals are cancelled during working hours, " he said.

However, employers are urged to give due consideration to employees who have genuine difficulties in returning to work promptly.

"As typhoons and rainstorms are natural calamities that cannot be avoided, employers are strongly advised not to deduct wages of employees who are absent from or late for work because of inclement weather. Neither should employers use these reasons as grounds to dismiss an employee summarily," the spokesman added.

Under the Employment Ordinance, it is 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.

Employers should also note that under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance, they have an obligation to maintain a safe workplace for their employees.

"If employees are required to work in times of typhoons and rainstorms, employers should make sure that the risks at work are properly controlled and reduced, as much as is reasonably practicable," the spokesman said.

Under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance, employers are liable to pay compensation for deaths or injuries incurred when employees are travelling by direct routes between their residences and workplaces within four hours before or after working hours on a day when Typhoon Signal No. 8 or above or a Red or Black Rainstorm Warning is in effect.

To provide practical guidelines and samples of work arrangements for reference, the Labour Department has issued a Code of Practice in times of typhoons and rainstorms. The code can be obtained from branch offices of the Labour Relations Division or downloaded from the department's Internet homepage (http://www.lrpu.labour.gov.hk/publicat/rainstorm/index-e.htm).

Whenever a Black Rainstorm Warning is issued between 6am and 9am, the department will remind employers through the electronic media that for safety's sake they should not require employees to report for work unless a prior agreement to the contrary has been made.

Employers and employees are welcome to call the department's hotline at 2717 1771 in the event of further enquiries.