Holiday & Leave

Work arrangements in times of typhoons and rainstorms

Article exclusively contributed by the
Labour Relations Promotion Unit
of the Labour Department

The Black Rainstorm Warning was issued on a certain Monday morning at 10:30. Consequently Jenny, who was a saleslady working in Mr. Chan's fashion boutique, did not go to work that day. When she went to work on the following day, Mr. Chan was very angry with her. He asked Jenny, why she was absent the day before. Jenny explained that she did not know she had to go to work after Black Rainstorm Warning was issued.

"Under the existing economic conditions," Mr. Chan remarked bitterly, "we are, of course, open for business even during Black Rainstorm Warnings." Moreover, Mr. Chan wondered why Jenny did not contact him or her supervisor if she was not sure whether she was required to go to work under the circumstances. Jenny and Mr. Chan had a heated argument and they were unhappy with each other.

How can this unhappy episode be avoided?

To prevent unnecessary disputes and confusion, and help maintain good labour-management relations and a smooth operation of the organization, employers and employees should work out their own work arrangements during typhoons and rainstorms as early as possible.

The employer should state clearly his/her requirements in the work arrangements, wherever possible, before the employment commences. He/she should also ensure that all employees are advised of such work arrangements.

Depending on the job nature and operational requirements of the individual employer, work arrangements should cover the following aspects:

1. Rules regarding reporting for duty;
2. Rules regarding release from work;
3. Rules regarding resumption of work;
4. Calculation of wages;
5. Transport arrangements.

To avoid misunderstandings, Mr. Chan should have discussed this with Jenny and involved her in working out the arrangements immediately. Both of them should then follow the agreed-on arrangements. If Mr. Chan wishes to change the arrangements, he should discuss it with Jenny, before doing so.
If Mr. Chan has any difficulties in preparing the work arrangements, he can refer to the "Code of Practice in times of Typhoons and Rainstorms" published by the Labour Department.

The code can be downloaded from the following website:

The above case only serves as an illustration of the provisions of the Employment Ordinance on work arrangements in times of typhoons and rainstorms. The Employment Ordinance, however, remains the sole authority for the provisions explained above and in case of dispute, the final decision rests with the court.

Q & A about the Employment Ordinance
Q1 Due to the Black Rainstorm Warning, an employee on the next shift could not report for duty on time. The employer therefore required the employee on the current shift to continue working after his shift ended. Under such circumstances, how should the wages be calculated?
A1 If an employee has to work continuously after his shift as staff on the next shift cannot report for duty on time due to Black Rainstorm Warning, it is reasonable for the employer to give rainstorm allowance to that employee on top of the amount of wages he has earned by working extra hours.

Q2 The prior work arrangement is, that the employees have to report for duty in times of Black Rainstorm Warning. If the employee fails to report for duty (even after the lowering of the warning), can the employer deduct his whole day's wages?
A2 Under section 32(2)(a) of the Employment Ordinance, an employer can make a wage deduction, the amount of which should be proportionate to the period of absence. However, before making such deductions, the employer should ascertain from the employee his reason for the absence. If the employee can provide reasonable justification for his absence, it would be reasonable for the employer not to deduct his wages.

Q3 Could employers unilaterally and frequently change the work arrangements?
A3 Unless it is absolutely necessary, we do not encourage employers to change the work arrangements in times of Black Rainstorm Warning frequently as it would only cause confusion to the employees. If the employer wants to change the work arrangements, he should consult with his employees and ensure that all employees understand the changes.

Q4 There is no prior work arrangement in times of Black Rainstorm Warning between the employer and employee. If an employee had approval to take annual leave or sick leave before the issuance of a Black Rainstorm Warning, could the period of the Black Rainstorm Warning not be counted as annual leave or sick leave?
A4 The entire period of annual leave granted under the Employment Ordinance should be counted as annual leave. The number of sickness days in respect of which the employee has been paid sickness allowance according to the Employment Ordinance could be deducted from his accumulated balance of paid sickness days. The above provisions would not be changed by the issuance of the Black Rainstorm Warning.

Source : Labour Department

Taken from Career Times 03 May 2002

(Last review date: 23 August 2013)

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