Local labor laws establish the general principle of fair wages and mandate compliance with wage agreements. There is no mandatory minimum wage except for government-outsourced security guards and cleaners and foreign domestic workers at MOP 26 per hour ($3.26). The law also sets maximum hours, rest days, statutory holidays, and premium pay rules. Local law requires employers provide equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender. The law includes a requirement that employers provide a safe working environment. The Labor Affairs Bureau is responsible for setting and enforcing standards for occupational safety and health.
Labor legislation provides for a 48-hour workweek (many businesses operated on a 40-hour workweek), an eight-hour workday, paid overtime, annual leave, and medical and maternity care. The law provides for a 24-hour rest period each week. All local workers, whether under a term contract or an indefinite contract, are entitled to such benefits as specified working hours, weekly leave, statutory holidays, annual leave, and sick leave.
Local custom favored unwritten labor contracts of indefinite duration, except in the case of migrant workers, who were issued written contracts for specified terms. The law does not define “temporary contract” or “short-term contract.” It states only that a labor contract may be either for a defined term or of indefinite duration. Labor groups reported that employers increasingly used temporary contracts to circumvent obligations to pay for worker benefits such as pensions, sick leave, and paid holidays. The short-term nature of the written contracts made it easier to dismiss workers through nonrenewal. The Labor Relations Law covers short-term contract workers but not part-time or domestic workers.
Under the law migrant workers enjoy treatment equal to that of local workers, including the same rights, obligations, and remuneration. All workers, including migrants, have access to the courts in cases of unlawful dismissal, if an employer fails to pay compensation, or a worker believes that his/her legitimate interests have been violated. Employers can dismiss staff “without just cause” provided that they provide economic compensation, indexed to an employee’s length of service.
The Labor Department provided assistance and legal advice to workers upon request, and cases of labor-related malpractices are referred to the LAB. Data on the number of cases assisted by LAB was not available.
The Labor Department also enforced occupational safety and health regulations, and failure to correct infractions could lead to prosecution. The Health Bureau released guidelines that protect pregnant workers, and those with heart and lung diseases, from exposure to secondhand smoke by exempting them from work in smoking areas. Workers’ associations expressed hope that this would protect workers from dismissal for refusing to work in unhealthy environments.
According to official statistics, at the end of July 2012, there were 122,105 nonresident workers, who accounted for approximately 21 percent of the population. They came mostly from the mainland PRC, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Most of them worked in the restaurant and hotel industry, but others found employment as domestic servants, in the gaming and entertainment sectors, or in construction and retail trade. They often complained of discrimination in the workplace.
Nonresident worker associations and the International Labor Organization expressed concern about the Law on the Employment of Nonresident Workers, which requires foreign workers who left their jobs for any cause not held to be just to depart the SAR for six months before they could start new employment. Labor officials responded that the law, meant to deter “job hopping,” was not implemented if a worker could demonstrate a just cause, such as abuse, nonpayment of wages, or contract violation, for wishing to terminate a contract. The lack of coordination between the LAB, which handled complaints, and the Immigration Department meant that workers filing complaints could be dismissed, deprived of their immigration status, and forced to depart before their complaints could be resolved. Some observers noted that this could deter migrant workers from reporting conditions of labor exploitation or forced labor.
In January an association of casino workers petitioned for healthier working conditions by requesting that limits on smoking at casino tables be better implemented to protect workers’ health and that a timeline be put in place for imposing a complete smoking ban in casinos. The same organization also raised complaints with the LAB regarding employers who failed to provide insurance for casino workers injured while working during a typhoon.