Date of sitting: 6 February 2002
Asked by: Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Replied by: SEM
Under the Employment of Young Persons (Industry) Regulations (Cap. 57, sub. leg.), employers shall observe the following stipulations regarding the employment of young persons aged between 15 and 17 in any industrial undertaking: the young persons shall not work for more than eight hours in a day, their work shall not end later than 7 p.m., and they shall be allowed a meal or rest break of not less than half an hour after working continuously for more than five hours. As the definition of industrial undertaking includes "the preparation of food for consumption and sale on the premises where it is prepared", fast food shops are within the ambit of the Regulations. Nevertheless, it is learnt that some multinational fast food corporations have employed young persons below 18 years of age to work on shifts until late at night in fast food shops. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
of the number of inspections carried out by the Labour Department ("LD") at work places last year for enforcing the Regulations, together with a breakdown by the type of such work places;
whether LD discovered in the past two years cases in which employers had contravened the above stipulations; if so, of the number and details of such cases broken down by each stipulation; and
The Employment of Young Persons (Industry) Regulations govern the employment of young persons under 18 years of age in industrial undertakings. However, regulation 3 of the Regulations stipulates that the Regulations shall not apply to premises where food is prepared for consumption and sale. Therefore, young persons working in fast food shops are not covered by the Regulations.
Notwithstanding the above, the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance and the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance provide that it is the general duty of every employer to ensure the health and safety at work of all his employees, including those under 18 years of age. In this regard, Occupational Safety Officers of the Labour Department (the LD) conduct frequent inspections to workplaces including restaurants and fast food shops to ensure that the safety of employees at work is well protected.
In 2001, Labour Inspectors of LD conducted a total of 30 232 inspections to enforce the Employment of Young Persons (Industry) Regulations. These inspections covered 16 528 manufacturing factories (e.g. garment factories and semiconductor factories) and 13 704 workshops of service industries (e.g. motorcar repair shops and photo finishing shops). LD only maintains general statistics of inspections according to the manufacturing and service sectors. A detailed breakdown of inspections by individual trades/industries is not available.
On the other hand, the Employment of Children Regulations prohibit the employment of children under 15 years of age in any industrial undertaking. Children under 13 years of age are not allowed to engage in any employment.
Under the Employment of Children Regulations, children between 13 and under 15 years of age and having completed Form III secondary education may be employed to work in non-industrial undertakings, subject to stringent controls, including production of written parental consent to the employment and evidence of the children's completion of Form III secondary education. The major provisions are that these children can only be employed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and for not more than 8 hours on any day They must be given a meal break or rest break of at least one hour after working continuously for five hours.
Subject to more stringent controls, children aged between 13 and under 15 years of age but have not completed Form III secondary education can also be employed in non-industrial undertakings as part-time workers. In addition to production of written parental consent to the employment and valid school attendance certificates, there are strict requirements governing the work arrangements for these children. These children cannot be allowed to work during school hours and there are restrictions on their daily working hours during the school term and the summer holidays. They are also prohibited from working in occupations specified in the Schedule to the Employment of Children Regulations, including work in the kitchen of any hotel, boarding house, cooked food shop, cafe, restaurant or any establishment of a similar kind.
LD has been rigorously enforcing the Employment of Children Regulations. In 2001, Labour Inspectors carried out 162 153 inspections to enforce the Regulations. No irregularities were detected involving the employment of children in fast food shops outside the hours specified in the Regulations.
In 2002, LD will continue to conduct proactive inspections to ensure that the safety and health at work and the rights and benefits of employed persons under 18 years of age are protected. New leaflets on the Employment of Young Persons (Industry) Regulations and the Employment of Children Regulations will be published to give wide publicity to the statutory rights and benefits of employees under 18 years of age.