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Is there scope under Hong Kong employment law for you to take additional leave?

Published on Saturday, 19 Dec 2015

The Background

As we are getting close to the end of the calendar year, many of us are looking at what holiday entitlement we have left and considering how we can make the best use of those remaining and much-cherished last few days of leave.

In fact, there are many articles and blogs out there which offer insight on how best to structure holidays and how best to maximise your leave. 
However, no plan is perfect. What if unforeseen circumstances mean you’ve already used all your holiday entitlement and you suddenly find out at the end of the year that you don’t have enough leave for that amazing vacation you have booked and paid for? Is there scope under Hong Kong employment law for you to take additional leave? 

The Options

There are two types of annual leave in Hong Kong: statutory annual leave and contractual annual leave. 

Statutory annual leave is what you are entitled to under the Employment Ordinance and is calculated based on your length of service. Employees are generally entitled to seven days of paid annual leave after completing 12 months of continuous service. This increases progressively to a maximum of 14 days per year after nine years of continuous service.

Contractual leave, on the other hand, is any additional leave which you are entitled to under your terms of employment. 
Unfortunately with both types of leave, once they are used up then they are used up. 

Some employers, like financial institutions, may have flexible benefits policies whereby you can “purchase” additional leave. However, in the absence of a flexible policy, you are likely to need your employer’s permission for additional leave and the leave is likely to be unpaid. And if you decide to go ahead and just take additional holiday anyway, you could find yourself subject to disciplinary action by your employer for unauthorised absence – far from festive!

How your employer responds to a request from you will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your employer, any policies your employer may have on unpaid leave and how you communicate the request to your employer. 

Obviously, if you work in a small business or if your role is very specialised, then your employer may have difficulty meeting your request. 
Your employer may also have strict policies on granting additional unpaid leave and may not want to do so for fear of “opening the floodgates” and having to deal with similar requests from other employees. As such, if there is a good reason or exceptional circumstances why you are requesting additional leave, you should let your employer know. Transparency is important on both sides of these sort of discussions.

It is also important to communicate your request to your employer as early as possible so that they have plenty of time to consider your request and to make necessary arrangements if required. In particular, if your employer has any policies on applying for unpaid leave, or if there is a minimum notice period required, you should follow the relevant procedures. 

The Conclusion

Try to be proactive and see how you can mitigate the impact of your absence and minimise any disruption to work. This may mean completing any scheduled tasks prior to your leave or speaking to your colleagues to see if they will be available to cover for you. 

At the end of the day, any requests for leave above your statutory and contractual entitlements is granted at the discretion of your employer. As such, the more considerate you are when making your request, the more likely you are to be successful. 

This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Add breaks to add oil.