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Employers clock in for SWH debate

They may not all agree to it, but most employers and HR professionals believe that a legislated standard working hours (SWH) regime is inevitable.

Restaurant-chain human resources manager Danny Chan and his team were among the more than 100 entrepreneurs, business leaders and HR professionals who attended the Standard Working Hours Forum.

The half-day conference, organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM), was held at the Hong Kong Productivity Council Building in Kowloon Tong on 24 June.

"We don't know the impact [of SWH] at this moment, but we want to hear the perspectives of the different speakers," Chan said.

He believes that the issue of work-life balance is closely connected with SWH. He compared apprehensions over SWH to those experienced by employers prior to the enactment of the minimum wage law.

"The law itself was good and the intent was good, but once it was implemented, that was when we experienced different kinds of difficulties, especially in some industries," Chan said.

KK Cheung, HR manager at Hong Kong LP Gas (Holdings), thinks SWH legislation is not suitable for the city. He said he came to the forum hoping to know more about global work-regime trends.

"I want to understand the proposal and hear what the speakers have to say. I still have to follow it when it becomes a law, so I have to know how to prepare before that happens," said Cheung, whose company employs about 200 staff doing electrical and mechanical services, as well as wholesale and retail work.

Government statistics show that in Hong Kong, the median working hours per week is 45 hours, but it differs from industry to industry, said HKIHRM president Francis Mok.

"Most HR professionals believe that standard working hours would have a greater impact than the minimum wage legislation because it will cover a larger population of employees," Mok added.

A 2011 survey by the HR industry organisation found that 51 out of 95 responding companies - or 54 per cent - said that they were against introducing SWH in Hong Kong.