The head of the Confederation of Trade Unions, Mung Siu-tat, has called on the government to introduce quarantine leave for people put into isolation by health authorities, saying employees are having their pay deducted because they're unable to work.
People face up to 21 days in quarantine if they are considered to have potentially been exposed to Covid-19 and Mung said the confederation had already received about 200 complaints or enquiries on the issue.
He told an RTHK programme that the Labour Department changed guidelines on pay last year, preventing workers from using quarantine certificates to apply for sick leave – a practice that he said was recognised during the Sars epidemic in 2003.
"Many employers are not compassionate. They deduct workers' salary, force them to take unpaid leave or treat them as absent," the unionist said.
"It's been more than a year since the pandemic started, officials are still dragging their feet on introducing quarantine leave to plug the loophole."
An honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association, Danny Lau, said the impact would be quite big for a restaurant, for example, if it needed to keep paying salaries when the eatery was closed and staff had been sent to quarantine.
He suggested that the government and the employer could each pay one third of a quarantined worker's salary, with the employee forgoing the rest of the pay.
Lau called on the Labour Department to discuss the issue with them.
The department told RTHK that the government encourages employers to be flexible, understanding and compassionate on matters related to sick pay.