LCQ3: Granting authorised absence to part-time athletes for participating as a representative of Hong Kong in sporting events


Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Following is a question by the Hon Poon Siu-ping and a reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (January 10):

Question:
 
     Recently, a part-time athlete sought myassistance, saying that he had been selected earlier on by a national sports association (NSA) under the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China to participate as a representative of Hong Kong in a sporting event held on the Mainland, but his employer, which was a subvented organisation, had refused to grant him authorised absence.  As a result, he had to take annual leave in order to participate in the event.  Regarding the granting of authorised absence to part-time athletes for participating as a representative of Hong Kong in sporting events, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the respective numbers of national and international sporting events in the past three years in which various NSAs had selected Hong Kong athletes to participate, and the number of part-time athletes selected to participate in such events;

(2) as Regulation 1111 of the Civil Service Regulations stipulates that a civil servant who has been selected by an organisation officially recognised by the Government to participate as a representative of Hong Kong in a national or international sporting event may be granted authorised absence not counting as leave, of the respective numbers of applications for authorised absence made and approved under such Regulation in the past three years, together with a breakdown of such numbers by the ranks (i.e.

senior, middle and lower) to which the civil servants belonged and their relevant percentages; if there were applications rejected, of the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it will enact legislation to stipulate that where an employee has been selected by an organisation officially recognised by the Government to participate as a representative of Hong Kong in a national or international sporting event, his or her employer must grant him or her authorised absence, so as to give recognition to athletes for their efforts in winning glory for Hong Kong and to promote sports development; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:
 
President,
 
     The Government has been proactively promoting sports development, including formulating and implementing relevant policies, providing resources, venues and facilities to encourage public participation in sports activities, as well as supporting the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC), the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee and Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (HKPC&SAPD), national sports associations (NSAs) and the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) in training athletes and sending teams to participate in competitions at different levels.

     Having consulted the Civil Service Bureau and the Labour and Welfare Bureau, my reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(1) The SF&OC is a member of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia.  In addition to developing local sport, promoting Olympism and providing training programmes to administrative executives, coaches and technicians in the sports sector, the SF&OC is responsible for selecting Hong Kong athletes to compete in major international multi-sport events, such as the Olympic Games and the Asian Games.

     There are 79 NSAs under the SF&OC.  Most of them are affiliated to their respective International Federation and Asian Federation.  The NSAs officially represent Hong Kong in national and international sports competitions, and are responsible for managing local activities relating to their respective sports, including the selection of athletes to participate in competitions such as World Championship and Asian Championship.  The HKPC&SAPD is responsible for selecting disabled athletes to participate in competitions such as the Paralympic Games and the Asian Para Games.

     Hong Kong athletes take part in more than 500 Mainland and overseas competitions of various sports and scales each year.  Thousands of athletes are involved.  The numbers of athletes participating in major national and international multi-sport events in the past three years are listed below for reference:
 
  Name of sporting event Number of full-time athletes* Number of non-full-time athletes
1. 2016 Olympic Games 37 1
2. 2016 Paralympic Games 0 24
3. 2017 Asian Winter Games 2 48
4. 2017 National Games 114 140
5. 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games 39 31
 
 * According to the HKSI's requirement, full-time athletes must receive a minimum of 25 hours of training per week on average.

(2) Under section 1111 of the Civil Service Regulation (CSR), a Head of Department or Head of Grade may, at his or her discretion, authorise absence up to a maximum of 14 days in any period of 12 months, when an officer is selected as a member or an official (e.g. manager or coach) of a team representing Hong Kong in a national or international sporting event, or to participate for training purposes beforehand, provided that the selection is made or confirmed by an officially recognised organisation which is sponsoring the team (e.g. the SF&OC); and absence authorised in this connection will not count as leave.  The Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) has drawn up the relevant guideline as reference for departments and grades.  They may seek HAB's advice should they have any questions in processing applications for such authorised absence.

     Officers selected as a member or an official of a team representing Hong Kong in a national or international sporting event may apply to their individual departments or grades for such authorised absence; and a Head of Department or Head of Grade may process these cases by himself or herself under section 1111 of the CSR.

 The Government does not collate statistics on these cases.  The numbers of applications for such authorised absence on which HAB's advice were sought by individual departments or grades in the past three years are tabulated below for reference:
 
Year Number of cases with HAB's advice being sought by individual departments of grades Number of cases where HAB recommended authorisation
(percentage)
Number of cases where HAB did not recommend authorisation*
(percentage)
2015 43 34 (79%) 9 (21%)
2016 45 35 (78%) 10 (22%)
2017 78 69 (88%) 9 (12%)
 
* The main reasons for HAB not to recommend authorisation of applications were that the related sporting events were not national or international sporting events, or the applicants were not members of the teams representing Hong Kong.

(3) The Employment Ordinance has prescribed the basic employment benefits to be provided by employers to their employees, including various types of leave and holiday, such as rest day, statutory holiday and annual leave.  Employees absent from work under mutual agreement with their employers would not have the continuity of their employment contracts affected by the absence.

     Any proposal to enhance employees' benefits through legislative means must take into account the socio-economic situation of Hong Kong and requires a consensus in the community to ensure that the proposal has suitably taken care of the interests of the employees and the capability of the employers. The Government will continue to encourage, through promotion and publicity, employers to adopt employee-oriented good personnel management practices, introduce employee-caring employment measures, and to provide employees with benefits above the statutory requirements, such as provision of authorised absence based on individual employees' needs, according to their establishments' capabilities so as to attract and retain talents.



Published on: 2018-01-10

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