The EOC Reports on Work Plans and Progress
Speaking at a press conference after the 87th EOC Meeting today (16 September 2010), Mr. LAM Woon-kwong, Chairperson of the EOC, reviewed the EOC's performance in the fiscal year of 2009/10.
“Last year has been a productive year for the EOC. There has been an increase of 41% in legal assistance applications and a slight increase of 2.7% in complaints caseload. Together with those carried forward from previous years, we investigated a total of 1,114 complaints as compared to 1,085 in the previous year. Besides, we handled 69 applications for legal assistance and granted assistance in 30 cases." Mr. LAM said.
In reviewing the trends of discrimination complaints, he pointed out that complaints handled under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) increased to 613 in 2009/10, compared to 590 in the previous year, i.e. an increase of 4%. Complaints handled under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) decreased to 433 in 2009/10, compared to 456, which is a decrease of 5%.
“The pattern of complaints handled under the SDO was rather stable over the years. Pregnancy discrimination continued to be a major cause for complaint. During 2009/10, we handled 227 cases (57%) of pregnancy discrimination, followed by 113 sexual harassment cases (28%). For cases handled under the DDO, 76% were employment-related (463 cases) whereby a majority of these complaints were in relation to sick leave and work injuries. From 10 July 2009 (when the Race Discrimination Ordinance (RDO) came into effect) to 31 March 2010, a total of 13 employment-related cases were investigated. The remaining 26 non-employment racial discrimination cases were related to service provision and education,” Mr. LAM elaborated.
In summing up the profile of discrimination complaints, Mr. LAM pointed out that the majority of complaints were related to employment issues (896 cases), which accounted for 80% of complaints handled. He said, “One of the important aspects reflected by these complaints is the employers' lack of awareness of their vicarious liabilities in taking reasonable and practical steps to provide their employees with a working environment free of discrimination.”
During 2009/10, the EOC handled fifteen court proceedings, seven of which had commenced before 2009/2010, while the EOC commenced legal proceedings in 2009/10 for the remaining eight cases. With assistance from our lawyers, six of these cases were successfully settled without proceeding to trial. Nine remaining cases were still under handling as at the end of 2009/10.
“We have secured over HK$800,000 of compensation for the complainants in the settlement achieved through legal assistance, together with other remedies including apologies and improvement in access facilities. For those successfully conciliated cases, the settlement terms included monetary compensation, apology, reference letter, donation to charity, change in policy/practice/work arrangement, provision of rights/benefits, etc. The total monetary compensation amounts to approximately HK$11,120,000,” elaborated Mr. LAM.
For the year 2009/10, the work of the EOC in statistical terms is represented by the Fact Sheet. Mr. LAM explained, “The figures show the growing importance of training, advocacy, research and public education in the work of the EOC. We have provided training courses to about 32,000 employers, employees and interested parties last year. Our website which will continue to be a resource center in both Chinese and English now receives an average of 75,000 visitors per month.”
At the press conference, Mr. LAM also highlighted the EOC's initiatives to improve public understanding of and support for accessibility issues and universal design. A promotional campaign on accessibility is being carried out which includes the development of the “Barrier-free Life Webpage” on the EOC website. The webpage featured accessibility guidelines, articles, interviews and reports on accessibility issues. Other initiatives to promote equal opportunities included the broadcast of a new TV API on racial harmony and the launching of the Career Challenge and FaceBook Youth Programme. A series of educational TV docu-drama on promotion of equal opportunities among the general public will be launched in partnership with Radio Television Hong Kong from March to May 2011.
Mr. LAM expected 2010/11 to be another busy and fruitful year. He pledged that the EOC would strive harder to advance equal opportunities at all levels through working closely with all our partners and stakeholders.
Equal Opportunities Commission
16 September 2010