Hong Kong is often called the city where “East meets West”. One happy result of this conjunction is that Hong Kong employees become entitled to statutory Chinese and Western holidays.
Under the Employment Ordinance (Chapter 57 of the Laws of Hong Kong) employees in Hong Kong are entitled to 12 statutory holidays per year:
- The first day of January
- Lunar New Year
- Second day of Lunar New Year
- Third day of Lunar New Year
- Ching Ming Festival
- Labour Day
- Tuen Ng Festival
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region establishment day: the first day of July
- The day following Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival
- National day, being the first day of October
- Chung Yeung Festival
- The Chinese Winter Solstice Festival or Christmas Day, at the option of the employer
An employer must not make payment to employees in lieu of a statutory holiday. However, an employer can require an employee to work on a statutory holiday provided that an alternative holiday can be taken by the employee.
The following is required:
- The employer must grant the alternative holiday within a 60-day period, either prior to or following the date of the statutory holiday; and
- The employer must notify the employee of the day on which the alternative holiday is to be taken, either orally or in writing, or by posting a notice in a conspicuous place at the place of employment, no less than 48 hours before the alternative holiday (if the alternative holiday is to be taken before the statutory holiday) or the date of the statutory holiday (if the alternative holiday is to be taken after the statutory holiday).
Alternatively, the employer and employee may agree upon another day — in other words, a substituted holiday — to be taken instead of a statutory holiday or an alternative holiday. The substituted holiday has to fall within the period of 30 days of such statutory holiday or alternative holiday.
Only employees who have been continuously employed for a period of three months immediately preceding the statutory holiday are entitled to holiday pay for the statutory holiday.
An employee is continuously employed if he has been employed for at least 18 hours a week for at least 4 consecutive weeks.
Statutory holidays should be distinguished from general holidays observed by all banks, educational establishments, public offices and government departments pursuant to the General Holidays Ordinance (Chapter 149 of the Laws of Hong Kong).
The General Holidays Ordinance declares every Sunday, the 12 statutory holidays and the following 5 days as general holidays:
- Good Friday
- The day following Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- Buddha’s birthday
- The first weekday after Christmas
The Employment Ordinance only requires employers to observe the minimum 12 statutory holidays, and not the general holidays.
An employer who fails to grant a statutory holiday may commit an offence and will be liable on conviction to pay a fine of HK$50,000. Nevertheless, many employers in Hong Kong also observe general holidays.
In addition, every employee who has been continuously employed by the same employer is entitled to at least 1 rest day in every period of seven days.
Rest days must be granted in addition to statutory holidays, alternative holidays or substituted holidays. Where any statutory holiday falls on a rest day, the employee shall be granted a holiday on the next day thereafter which is not a statutory holiday, alternative holiday, substituted holiday or a rest day.
In Hong Kong, employers are entitled to appoint any day of the week as a rest day. Many employers in Hong Kong will appoint Sunday as a rest day although many employees are not required to work on Saturdays, with Saturdays often being described as a contractual day off (hence the provisions of the Employment Ordinance will not apply).
The Employment Ordinance is silent as to whether rest days are to be paid or unpaid. In the absence of any agreement to the contrary, the general position is that rest days are paid and covered by the monthly wages of employees.
An employer who fails to grant a rest day may commit an offence and will be liable on conviction to pay a fine of HK$50,000.