I move the resumption of the Second Reading debate of the Employment (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2000. Let me, first of all, thank the Chairman, the Hon. Cheng Kar-foo, and other Members of the Bills Committee for the constructive suggestions they have given in the course of deliberation of the Bill. Many of their suggestions have been incorporated in the Committee Stage Amendments which I shall move later on.
2. The principal amendments of the Bill aim to give full effect to the employment protection for pregnant employees and employees on paid sick leave who are wrongfully dismissed by their employers under Section 9 of the Ordinance which provides for summary dismissal only if an employee has committed serious misconduct. The Bill also provides for the prosecution of employers whom we reasonably believe have knowingly breached the law.
3. However, some Members of the Bills Committee were concerned that the way the relevant clauses, including the presumption and the defence to employers, were written, would open the way to frivolous prosecutions. To address Members' concern, I shall move amendments to the Bill which I shall explain later on.
4. As regards the exclusion of acts of discrimination which are covered by the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance from the application of Part VIA (Employment Protection provisions) of the Ordinance, some Members of the Bills Committee have expressed a concern that the proposed exclusion might narrow the protection for employees against unlawful discrimination on the ground of family status. I can reassure Members that this is not the intention, nor will it be the effect of the proposed amendment. The objective of the proposed amendment is to avoid duplicity of civil claims and remedies in respect of a single act, and to make clear in the legislation the delineation of authority to hear claims arising from discriminatory acts. On this latter point, the proper jurisdiction to hear allegations of discriminatory acts including those in the employment field should be the District Court. This is laid down in respective discrimination legislation. The present amendment is consistent with the established practice. I note the Hon CHAN Yuen-han's concern but I do not see any ground for making any exception in respect of the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance.
5. The Employment (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2000 aims to clarify the policy intent on a number of issues concerning employment protection and benefits. The proposed amendments are essentially technical in nature, have been carefully examined by the Bills Committee and has the Committee's support. I have taken note of the Hon CHAN Yuen-han's comment about implementation of the Ordinance and will pass on to my colleagues in Labour Department.
6. Madam President, I commend this Bill to Honourable Members of this Council. Thank you.