V. Apprenticeship

A. Definitions

According to section 2 of the Apprenticeship Ordinance ( Cap. 47 ), “Apprentice” means the party to a contract of apprenticeship who agrees to learn a trade or occupation. An apprenticeship is an exception to some rules for an employment contract: Section 2 , Apprenticeship Ordinance ( Cap. 47 ). Apprentices have special work hours, special contract terms, and a Director of Apprenticeship can be appointed to investigate claims and any infringement of the ordinancearising from the employment. Currently, there are 45 recognized apprenticeship trades. For the purpose of the Apprenticeship Regulations ( Cap. 47A ), “period of employment” means the period an apprentice spends on the job, including intervals allowed for meals or rest ( regulation 2 ). “Hours worked” means time in which the apprentice is employed, exclusive of the intervals allowed for meals and rest ( regulation 2 , Apprenticeship Regulations ( Cap. 47A )).

According to section 7(1) of the Apprenticeships Ordinance ( Cap. 47 ), it is young persons who are in employment as an apprentice under a contract of apprenticeship. A “young person”, according to section 2 of the Apprenticeship Ordinance , means a person of or over the age of 14 years and under the age of 19 years; however, under section 44 of the Ordinance, the Chief Executive may extend the upper age limit for a young person from 18 years to an age not exceeding 21 years.

B. Examples of apprenticeship

There are 45 recognized Apprenticeship trades. Below are some examples of such trades.

  1. Electricity technicians (CLP)
  2. Foreign trade and logistics management
  3. Electrical, mechanical and quantity surveying

C. Medical examinations required for apprenticeship

Many apprenticeships are physically demanding. To better protect apprentices and their employers, apprentices are required by law to be medically examined with respect to his/her fitness to be employed in the trade. The employer should arrange and pay for the medical examination of the apprentice before the registration of the contract of apprenticeship.

D. Limitations on work conditions

Limitations are imposed on the working conditions of apprentices, in order to better protect them. Apprentices can not be employed under the following conditions ( Regulation 8 , Apprenticeship Regulations ( Cap. 47A )):

Total work hours

Exceeding 8 hours in any day or 48 hours in any week

Total period of employment in any day

Exceeding 9 hours of employment, beginning earlier than 7 am or ending later than 7pm

Work without rest (those under 16 years of age)

Working continuously for a period of more than 5 hours without a minimum interval of 1 hour (interval = meal or rest after working continuously for 5 hours)

Work without rest (those above 16 years of age)

Working continuously for a period of more than 5 hours without a minimum interval of 30 minutes (interval= meal or rest after working continuously for 5 hours)

Work during interval/meal

Not permitted

Total days employed during a week

Employed for more than 6 days in any one  week

E. Overtime employment and related limitations

Apprenticeships might be required to work overtime. The law permits apprentices to work overtime, but subject to certain limitations. Apprentices above the age of 16 may work overtime. However, the employer shall not require or permit an apprentice to work overtime if such overtime work would prevent the apprentice from attending a course of instruction which he is required to attend.

If the Commissioner for Labour finds that overtime employment adversely affects the health of an apprentice, the Commissioner may prohibit the overtime employment.

Extra limitations are imposed on the total hours of overtime. For apprentices under regulation 9 , Apprenticeship Regulations ( Cap. 47A ), the total hours of overtime shall not:

Apprentice under the age of 18

Exceed 150 hours in any year or 2 hours in any one day

Apprentice under the age of 18 but will become 18 during the year

Exceed 200 hours in that year or 2 hours in any day

Apprentice 18 years old or above

Exceed 250 hours in any year or 2 hours in any day

On any day (hour of work)

Exceed 10 hours of work in total (so that means no more than 2 hours of overtime)

On any day (period of employment), age under 18

Exceed 12 hours (between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. only)

On any day (period of employment), age above 18

Exceed 12 hours (between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. only)


F. Apprenticeship contracts

Apprenticeship contracts are a special kind of employment contract because certain sections of the Employment Ordinance are excluded. However, the law requires every contract of apprenticeship to be in writing, and contain the prescribed terms and conditions. Provisions that should be included in apprenticeship contracts are listed in the Apprenticeship Regulations . They include measures protecting the apprentice, such as:

    • The wages to be paid to the apprentice, and the frequency and manner of payment of wages;
    • the normal hours the apprentice is required to attend his place of employment; and
    • the payment of sickness allowance or the entitlement to sick leave during any illness of the apprentice.

Regulation 4 , Apprenticeship Regulations ( Cap. 47A )).

G. Termination of contract

To protect the apprentices, the Director of Apprenticeship can terminate a contract of apprenticeshipunder certain conditions. For example, if the Director is satisfied that the employer is unable to, or does not give the apprentice adequate training as stated in the contract of apprenticeship, the Director could terminate the contract. Another consideration is that if it is for the benefit of the apprentice, the Director could also terminate the contract.

H. Government powers of entry, inspection and prosecution of offenders

The Director of Apprenticeship and inspectors may be given powers under the ordinance to investigate claims of infringement of the rights of apprentices. The Director may enter and inspect any premises at which an apprentice or young person is believed or known to be employed. He could require the submission of any record or documents relating to the employment of the young person, and may take copies of these documents. The Director could further make an examination and inquiry to ascertain whether or not the Apprentice Ordinance is being complied with, and seize any things that appear to be evidence. Finally, the Director is given the power to examine persons who are found in those premises, and require them to answer questions that have legal effects.

According to section 4(1)(d) of the Apprenticeship Ordinance ( Cap. 47 ), the Director “shall inquire into the progress and welfare of apprentices.” Furthermore, according to section 35(a) of the Apprenticeship Ordinance ( Cap. 47 ), the Director and an inspector may “enter, inspect and examine, by day or night, any premises or place in which he knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that an apprentice or a young person is employed”.  The Director of Apprenticeship may appoint inspectors to advise and assist employers on the training and employment of apprenticeships.  They may make regular visits to the workplaces of the apprentices to ensure the apprenticeship schemes are properly implemented.

Under section 39 of the Apprenticeship Ordinance ( Cap. 47 ), an apprentice who has a complaint may refer it to the Director who shall “endeavour to settle it by conciliation.”  The inspectors appointed by the Director of Apprenticeship may also handle any disputes arising out of a registered contract.

Furthermore, the investigation process also protects the privacy of persons involved. The Apprenticeship Ordinance stipulates that anyone who has made a complaint about a registered contract of apprenticeship will have his or her identity hidden. Officers appointed under the Apprenticeship Ordinance may not disclose the name of an apprentice unless there is a court trial.

After an investigation is made, the Director may prosecute any offenders.

An employer who breaches the above regulations will be guilty of an offense; and be liable to a conviction and a fine of $5,000. ( Regulation 12 , Apprenticeship Regulations ( Cap. 47A ))