What have you got planned this weekend? Perhaps you are going for a staycation, planning for a hike, or simply spending some quality time at home, but the common expectation is that we should be able to freely decide how to spend our weekends and not be expected to work. In the recent case of Breton Jean v. H-K Bellawings Jet Limited, the employee was a pilot with no fixed work days, and he was required to be contactable by his work phone at all times except for when he was on annual leave. The question was whether the employee, on days when he didn’t have to fly, should be regarded as being placed on standby duty given he had to be contactable on his work phone, and had to report to work within a specified timeframe after being contacted. The Employment Ordinance defines a “rest day” to mean a continuous period of 24 hours during which an employee is entitled to abstain from working for his employer. Given the employee was required to be on call on days when he didn’t have to fly, so that he wasn’t able to abstain from work if his employer called him, the court ruled that those days could not qualify as rest days under the Employment Ordinance. The takeaways of the case are therefore as follows:
1. If your company doesn’t appoint rest days on a fixed and regular basis, you should make sure each employee is clearly informed of his rest days before the beginning of each month. Remember, employees must get at least one rest day every 7 days! That is 24 hours that they can abstain from work!
2. If your company currently grants both Saturdays and Sundays off, you should make it clear to your employees (such as in their employment contracts) which day is the statutory day off, and which is the “contractual” day off, or else there may be an argument that both days off are statutory rest days on which you cannot compel the employee to work. Further, if a statutory holiday falls on a statutory rest day, the employer will have to grant an alternative holiday to the employee.
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