Survey on SARS Related Difficulties in Work and Social Lives in Hong Kong
In July 2003, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) collaborated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to conduct an opinion survey about the impact of SARS on our community, in an effort to analyse attitudes and behaviour for future development of a methodology for the Commission to deal with in similar crises, and to establish a strategy for public education.
Since the end of March this year, the Commission has received more than 520 enquiries and complaints from the public as a result of possible discrimination related to SARS. As it is the first time that Hong Kong has faced such a public health crisis, and the social stigma attached to it, there is value and benefit for the Commission and the authorities to learn more about public behaviour and attitudes associated with SARS. The findings of the impact study will assist the Commission to refine strategies on information dissemination, public education and promotion of different aspects of communicable diseases control.
The findings of the survey are consistent with our own experience in handling the public's enquiries and complaints on the issue. The majority of respondents stressed the need for more information in understanding the disease, and advisory guidelines in the work environment. Sufficient information, better knowledge and good practices adopted by employers are necessary steps for the public to come to informed decisions, and therefore more rational behaviour in conducting their daily lives.
The survey also revealed that unnecessary fears and concerns could be eased as more factual and reasonable information became available, improving discriminatory attitudes as a result. In handling enquiries and complaints, the Commission was able to assist in a majority of cases by way of early response and quick settlement, offering practical advice and flexible solutions .As parties were willing to resolve the problems at hand, this minimized the negative effects on individual employees, and further economic losses for many businesses were avoided.
The EOC has embarked on the initial steps to disseminate information about dealing with different scenarios related to SARS. In our monthly training programmes for HR managers, NGO staff and training materials for civil servants, we are adopting several themes incorporating problems arising from SARS which many have faced in recent months. The implications of having an infected staff member, those with family members who have become patients, pregnant employees, colleagues living in an infected housing block and staff members exhibiting SARS like symptoms; all these will be considered and discussed.
During the SARS crisis, many employers adopted good management practices, facilitating and providing solutions for their companies and staff. The provisions not only gained staff loyalty but at the same time cut economic losses for their businesses. The EOC is interested to find out more about the successful measures, and urge these employers to contact the Commission, as many more can share and benefit from their experiences. They can contact us at :
Equal Opportunities Commission
Room 2002, 20/F., Office Tower
Convention Plaza, 1 Harbour Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong
or visit our website at : http://www.eoc.org.hk.
Enquiry: Mr. Sam HO 21062187