Hong Kong has been deeply distressed by the spread of Wuhan Pneumonia (COVID-19). The government’s not closing its borders and failing to source face masks have compelled citizens to save themselves. Other than bustling through online queues for purchase quota of face masks, what have the senior executives of different industries done for their employees’ most basic protection?
Hong Kong Information Technology Workers’ Union (HKITWU, henceforth “The Union”), together with other trade unions, cares about the safety of Hong Kong citizens. We jointly invite members of all industries to reply to us the current disease prevention measures adopted by their respective employers, which would serve as a reference for companies without such measures, government departments, foreign countries/companies, any statistics departments, etc.
The Union distributed a survey on disease prevention measures adopted by companies from February 25 to March 13, 2020 to its members and other employees of the IT sector. A total of 183 responses were received.
Among the companies of all respondents, 56% belong to the IT industry, while the rest of them are scattered evenly in various local industries, including retail, logistics, government, transport, insurance, education, etc.
The survey found that: 75% of the companies allowed their employees to work from home; 54% of the companies took initiative to quarantine high-risk employees (including those who have visited mainland China, or lived in buildings that had suspicious or confirmed cases of infection); 45% suspended or reduced face-to-face meetings; merely 40% of the companies offered sufficient face mask supply; 40% suspended assignments to high-risk locations (e.g., mainland China, districts with signs of community outbreak or confirmed cases of infection); 31% offered flexible working hours; 15% shortened working hours; yet a 6% of the companies enforced no disease prevention measures.
In response to the delayed resumption of primary and secondary schools announced by the government, 33% did not provide any babysitting assistance to their employees; only 27% allowed employees to work from home to take care of their children.
As with work-from-home arrangement, 42% of the companies allowed working from home for the full week (5 days); 29% allowed working from home for 2–3 days per week; 23% of the companies did not implement any related arrangements.
8% of the companies of the respondents required employees to take no-pay leave or annual leave.
The overall level of satisfaction of respondents with the current measures taken by their respective companies dealing with Wuhan Pneumonia is 3.18 (out of a maximum of 5).
Many respondents reported that the face masks provided by their companies were of doubtful quality (e.g., too thin, single-layered). There are also reports from employees quoting unsuccessful sourcing of face masks by the company.
As Wuhan Pneumonia has now been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Union hereby urges that the employers fulfil their responsibility in providing a safe and hygienic working environment for its employees, and follow the latest guidelines from the Centre for Health Protection, Department of Health (www.chp.gov.hk) in providing basic protective equipment to its employees.
The Union emphatically recommends the continuation of home office policy for companies unable to provide sufficient protective equipment and facility.
The Union has received several complaints involving no-pay leave and salary deduction, and has provided assistance to the involved members to defend their labor rights. Once again, the Union is firmly opposed to employers forcing employees to take no-pay leave or accept salary deduction. Such policy may be in breach of the Employment Ordinance.
Should you have any enquiries about the aforementioned survey, you are welcome to get in touch with the Union ([email protected]).
Should our members have any doubts and questions, please contact the Union’s Rights Department (email: [email protected]), quoting your Member ID in the email. We will offer assistance based on experience and individual circumstances.
Hong Kong Information Technology Workers’ Union
March 14, 2020