|In this second issue, the Civil Service Bureau
(CSB) has picked a hot topic of the town -- the employment of non-civil
service contract (NCSC) staff. CSB explains below the flexibility in employing
NCSC staff, shares with us the experience of some departments in the use
of this flexible tool and highlights the need for staff consultation and
training in human resources practices.
In response to the call for further human resource flexibility,
CSB promulgated Circular No. 2/99 in January 1999 that sets out the framework
for Heads of Department/Grade to employ NCSC staff. Under the framework,
Departments/Grades have utmost flexibility in terms of -
||Pay package: decide on the level of pay and offer end-of-contract
gratuity at rates of up to 10% or 15% of basic salary (depending on types
of work) provided that the pay (excluding gratuity, if any) is no more
than the minimum salary of comparable civil service rank.
||Contract duration: offer contracts up to 3 years.
||Hire and fire: free to design their own recruitment procedures
and adjust staff numbers in view of changes in levels and modes of service
For other employment terms and benefits, Departments/
Grades are required to follow the provisions of the Employment Ordinance,
the Employees' Compensation Ordinance and the Mandatory Provident Fund
Schemes Ordinance (when the relevant provisions commence operation by 2000).
How Some Departments Make Use of This Tool
Implementation of the NCSC staff scheme is still at its
early stage. We would like to share with you some initial experience in
departments in the use of this flexible tool.
Types of Suitable Work
Some departments have started examining their operations
comprehensively with a view to identifying areas of their services that
could be undertaken by NCSC staff. These could be -
|| seasonal or fluctuating workload
|| fixed-term projects
||nature of services or mode of delivery that may change
in the future, e.g. supporting functions in departments, especially those
where information technology and other innovations will certainly evolutionise
the way the functions are being carried out.
As a result of the announced freeze on civil service recruitment
from 1 April 1999, if bureaux and departments need additional staff to
cover short term service or operational needs, they should only recruit
non-civil servants on NCSC terms, except for those civil service posts
or grades with exemption approval. These non-civil servants should not
fill an established office in the Civil Service, but should provide support
to bureaux and departments in their operation. This is meant to be a temporary
measure pending the Civil Service Reform.
(a) Absence of benchmark
Some departments have expressed concerns that in the
absence of benchmarks, they feel uneasy to recruit NCSC staff. However,
we are aware that some departments are actively addressing this concern
(a) gauging the market salary rates by checking with employment
(b) looking for pay surveys conducted by third parties
for relevant information.
Departments may need time to accumulate experience in
finding the "right" market level of pay that could help them attract and
recruit sufficient qualified candidates, especially for jobs where direct
comparability in the private sector is not readily available.
(b) Different pay level by different departments
Another concern is different departments offer different
employment packages for similar jobs. This is inevitable if flexibility
in pay is allowed. We do not think that setting benchmark is a good solution
because while setting benchmark might remove inconsistencies, it would
also remove flexibility. If departments feel that some common understanding
on the pay range is necessary, they are encouraged to exchange views among
themselves. This perhaps could more easily be done between departments
through either formal or informal channels. CSB is ready to assist in establishing
the communication channel if necessary.
Departments are free to design their own recruitment
procedures for NCSC staff provided that they satisfy themselves on the
principle of fairness and openness. Of utmost importance is that there
should be proper checks and balances in the process to minimise the risk
of corruption. With that in mind, quite a few departments are exploring
different means of recruitment - Local Employment Services of Labour Department,
recruitment agencies, walk-in interviews, etc. Needless to say, the recruitment
criteria should be relevant to the job requirements and objective tests
should be set as far as possible.
Management of Mixed Staff
An issue that is often raised is the management of mixed
staff and especially on the division of work between civil servants and
NCSC staff. There is no across-the-board solution. Some practices/considerations
adopted by a few departments are :
|(a) deploying civil servants who are more experienced
on supervisory duties,
especially in supervising NCSC
staff and training them;
|(b) deploying NCSC staff to specific areas of work as
distinct from civil servants,
especially areas where the service
needs could be fluctuating; and
|(c) forming multi-functional teams comprising both civil
servants and NCSC staff
for deploying on specific tasks
The actual arrangement, of course, will have to be decided
by individual departments having regard to their own circumstances.
We would like to stress the need for consultation with
staff -- an important area that is sometimes easily overlooked. It is only
natural that serving staff might be worried about changes and impact on
their job. To enhance understanding, departmental management should as
far as possible make known their strategies and plans to staff and
address any staff concerns and worries at an early stage. Productivity
enhancement will necessarily be the joint efforts of management and staff.
Training Practices in Human Resources (HR)
Under the NCSC scheme, departments are expected to act
like individual HR units of subsidiaries in a group company. While general
policy and framework are set by the group HR unit, individual HR units
are required to fill in the gaps (in pay and other details of recruitment)
within the framework to suit their own operational needs and circumstances.
To enhance understanding of the employment-related legislation,
the Civil Service Training and Development Institute (CSTDI) organised
two seminars in January and February 1999 for departmental secretaries
and their deputies. The response was overwhelming. CSTDI will continue
to monitor and respond to the training needs of departments and conduct
more intensive workshops for human resource managers. Departments which
have specific suggestions or needs are encouraged to approach CSTDI for
advice on how to obtain the necessary training for their personnel staff.