Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau Wai-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (November 9):
A women affairs concern group recently conducted a study on sexual harassment in the workplace of the service industries which engage large numbers of young women, through interviewing women taking up various jobs (e.g. nurse, flight attendant, restaurant waitress or receptionist, customer service representative, beautician, salesperson and beer promoter, etc.) in such industries, and among the interviewees, 72.6 per cent and 32.3 per cent of them respectively indicated that there might be chances that they could be subject to sexual harassment by customers at work or they had been sexually harassed by customers, and the sexual harassment problem was most serious among women working as beer promoters, nurses, salespersons or flight attendants. In addition, nearly 60 per cent of the interviewees said that they did not know the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). In this connection, will the executive authorities inform this Council:
(a) given that EOC has proposed to the authorities to amend the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (Cap 480) (SDO) since 1999 to protect providers of goods, services and facilities against sexual harassment by customers, of the reasons why the authorities still have not introduced the amendment bill into this Council despite having indicated their agreement in principle on the relevant proposal in 2000; whether the authorities will introduce a bill as soon as possible to amend the relevant provisions; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(b) whether they know if EOC has performed its statutory function to "work towards the elimination of discrimination" , and has provided relevant information to the employers in the aforesaid industries in which sexual harassment of employees by customers is particularly serious so that such employers can properly manage the situation of their employees being sexually harassed, as well as enhancing publicity and education for employees in these industries so as to increase their awareness of SDO and the work of EOC?
(a) In respect of the proposals submitted by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in 1999 to amend the anti-discrimination ordinances, the Administration has indicated its agreement to some of the proposals in principle after studying them in detail. Some of the proposals concerning the extension of the scope of application for the provisions on sexual harassment have already been implemented as a result of their incorporation into the relevant anti-discrimination legislation during the exercise to enact the Race Discrimination Ordinance in 2008. These include the extension of sexual harassment arising from the creation of a hostile or intimidating environment from the field of work to all the fields covered by the Sex Discrimination Ordinance.
For the remaining proposals raised by the EOC, some of them are technical amendments, and the others may have implications for other provisions under the anti-discrimination ordinances. The Administration needs to further study these proposals, taking into consideration recent developments in relevant areas, as well as the refined and new proposals made by the EOC in recent years. Once we have completed our examination, we will consult the Legislative Council and relevant parties at an appropriate time to take forward the legislative work.
(b) The EOC has been performing its functions under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance. It endeavours to work towards the elimination and prevention of sexual harassment through complaints handling, policy advocacy and public education, and, by means of conciliation and legal actions, assist aggrieved persons to obtain apologies, damages or other remedies.
Regarding the public awareness of the EOC, in 2007, the EOC commissioned Policy 21 of The University of Hong Kong to conduct a survey with 1 502 respondents. The survey showed that 95 per cent of the respondents had heard of the EOC when prompted. 72 per cent of the respondents understood that the EOC was involved in promoting equal opportunities or eliminating discrimination in respect of sex.
Regarding publicity against sexual harassment, the EOC undertakes a range of promotional efforts in accordance with the scope as stipulated under the law. In respect of the workplace, the EOC has designed booklets, posters and educational kits in various forms, which are available for use by all parties to disseminate the message of eliminating and preventing sexual harassment. The EOC also organises training sessions on "Preventing and Managing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" for employers, employees and participants from various sectors regularly. Furthermore, the EOC provides self-learning courses on its website for employers and employees to understand how to prevent and manage sexual harassment in the workplace.
The EOC will continue to take forward public education and publicity work to strengthen public awareness on the prevention and management of sexual harassment.
Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2011