B. Introduction to the Labour Department of the HKSAR Government
In general, the Labour Department aims:
- to improve the utilisation of human resources by providing a range of employment services to meet changes and needs in the labour market;
- to ensure that risks to people's safety and health at work are properly managed by legislation, education and promotion;
- to foster harmonious labour relations through the promotion of good employment practices and the resolution of labour disputes; and
- to improve and safeguard employees' rights and benefits in an equitable manner.
The main divisions in the Labour Department in relation to employment legal matters are highlighted as follows:
1) MINOR EMPLOYMENT CLAIMS ADJUDICATION BOARD
- The Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board (MECAB), which was set up under the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board Ordinance (Cap. 453 of the Laws of Hong Kong), adjudicates minor employment claims in a quick, simple and inexpensive manner. A claim that cannot be resolved amicably through conciliation can be referred to the MECAB for adjudication.
- The MECAB is empowered to adjudicate employment claims involving not more than 10 claimants for a sum of money not exceeding $8,000 per claimant. Employment claims falling outside the jurisdiction of the MECAB are heard by the Labour Tribunal within the Judiciary.
- Hearings of minor employment claims are conducted in public, and no legal representation is allowed. An award or order made by an Adjudication Officer of the Board is legally binding. Parties who are dissatisfied with the judgement of an Adjudication Officer can apply for a review. They can also apply to the Court of First Instance for an appeal against the Adjudication Officer's decision on point of law or question of jurisdiction.
2) LABOUR RELATIONS DIVISION
The Labour Relations Division is responsible for the maintenance of harmonious labour relations in the non-government sector. Its main activities include:
- Providing an in-person consultation service to employers and employees on matters that relate to conditions of employment and their rights and obligations under the Employment Ordinance; and
- Providing a voluntary conciliation service to employers and employees to help them settle their disputes and claims before going to court.
3) EMPLOYMNET CLAIMS INVESTIGATION DIVISION
The Employment Claims Investigation Division investigates complicated cases that involve suspected offences under the Employment Ordinance, and pursues prosecution action against offenders.
4) EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION DIVISION
The Employees' Compensation Division:
- assists employees who suffer from work injuries or occupational diseases, or family members of employees who are killed in work accidents, to obtain compensation under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance;
- assists persons who suffer from pneumoconiosis or their family members to obtain compensation under the Pneumoconiosis and Mesothelioma (Compensation) Ordinance (Cap. 360 of the Laws of Hong Kong) or to obtain ex gratia payments under the Pneumoconiosis Ex Gratia Scheme; and
- promotes, reviews and enforces provisions under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance and the Pneumoconiosis and Mesothelioma (Compensation) Ordinance.
5) WAGE SECURITY DIVISION
The Wage Security Division:
- assists employees who are owed wages by insolvent employers to apply for ex-gratia payments from the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund; and
- processes and verifies applications to the Fund.
The Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund covers wages owed for services that were rendered to an employer during the four months before the last day of service, wages in lieu of notice and severance payments payable to employees under the Employment Ordinance. For further information about this fund, please go to the Labour Department's website.
6) LABOUR INSPECTION DIVISION
The Labour Inspection Division:
- carries out inspections to enforce the following legislation:
- Employment of Children Regulations under the Employment Ordinance which govern the employment of children in all economic sectors;
- Employment of Young Persons (Industry) Regulations under the Employment Ordinance which govern the employment of young persons in the industrial sector;
- Part IV of the Employees' Compensation Ordinance which provides for compulsory insurance in relation to compensation for work injuries; and
- Part IVB of the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115 of the Laws of Hong Kong) which prohibits the employment of illegal immigrants in Hong Kong;
- carries out inspections on industrial and non-industrial establishments to check employees' statutory rights and benefits including maternity leave, rest days, sickness allowance, statutory holidays and annual leave provided under the Employment Ordinance and the keeping and maintenance of records as required by the Ordinance, and to enforce the wage provisions; and
- carries out inspections on the workplaces and accommodation of imported workers to ensure that workers who enter Hong Kong for employment under the Supplementary Labour Scheme receive their statutory and contractual benefits.
7) REGISTRY OF TRADE UNIONS
The Registry of Trade Unions administers the Trade Unions Ordinance (Cap. 332 of the Laws of Hong Kong) and the Trade Union Registration Regulation, which make provisions for the registration and regulation of trade unions. The Registry's principal objectives are to bring about sound trade union administration, encourage responsible trade unionism and protect the interests of trade union members. Its major responsibilities include registering trade unions and their rules, and examining their annual statements of account.
8) OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY SERVICE
Occupational Safety Service is provided by Occupational Safety Officers. The key duties of this service include :
- enforcing the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance, the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance and their subsidiary Regulations through inspections of workplaces to ensure that the requirements for safety, health and welfare are complied with; and
- carrying out accident investigations and giving advice to employers and employees on how to reduce existing workplace hazards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Branch of the Labour Department has prepared a list of publication under Occupational Safety, including:
- Guides to Legislation;
- Codes of Practice;
- Guidance Notes;
- Other Guidebooks;
- Posters; and
For more details on the functions of each division of the Labour Department, please visit the official website.