After three years of working from home due to the pandemic, many employees in Hong Kong have become accustomed to a flexible work mode and have not been able to readjust to the system of clocking in at work, resulting in numerous late arrivals. The more severe the lateness problem, the more likely it is to affect work efficiency and even cause financial losses for the company, which can be a major headache for employers. In such situations, employers may wonder if they can deduct money from an employee's wages due to their tardiness. However, what is the standard for deducting wages? In the following sections, we will explore the relationship between absenteeism and wage deductions under labour laws and provide an overview of the Hong Kong standard for deducting wages for tardiness.
Is it legal to deduct wages for being late?
According to Article 32 of the Labour Department's Employment Ordinance, if an hourly-paid employee is absent, employers can only deduct wages based on the actual absence time of the employee. For example, if an employee is absent for 10 minutes, the employer can only deduct the corresponding salary. In this scenario, the employer can deduct the salary for those 10 minutes of absence only.
However, for salaried employees, deducting money for being late does not comply with labour laws. According to Employment Ordinance Chapter 57, Article 32(2), situations that allow for the deduction of an employee's salary do not include employee tardiness (refer to the actual case: HCLA42/2000). Therefore, the practice of deducting wages for lateness is not valid, and companies do not have the right to deduct the salaries of late employees. If an employer unlawfully deducts wages, upon conviction, they can be fined up to HKD $100,000 and imprisoned for up to 1 year.
If the deduction of wages for absenteeism isn't feasible, how can employers respond?
Although employers cannot deduct wages for being late, if an employee is habitually late and, after multiple warnings, does not improve, it constitutes the employee is “habitually neglectful in their duties" and “failure to improve themselves after the employer's repeated warnings” under Chapter 9 of the Employment Ordinance. Employers can immediately terminate the employee without prior notice or payment in lieu of notice. Therefore, understanding an employee's attendance is crucial to help employers manage the situation. However, there are instances where employers have to work outside the office and may not always be present to monitor their employees. In such cases, how can employers stay informed about their employees' work situation and prevent them from being frequently late?
With HR-on-the-Go (HROTG) app’s mobile clocking feature, employers can check employee attendance statuses anytime and anywhere, accurately monitoring the number of employees on duty and avoiding having too many or too few staff at work. In addition, HROTG also supports scheduling, leave, and overtime planning for multiple workplaces, allowing employers to arrange different employees' schedules easily. Furthermore, HROTG can also automatically schedule shifts and calculate shift allowances with one click, saving employers' costs in human resources. For more details about the HROTG, you can learn more here. If you are interested in HR-on-the-Go, you are welcome to visit the Merit Entrepreneur website to understand the related solutions and prices or contact us here for enquiries.