Enhancing benefits for new fathers in Hong Kong
The birth of a child is one of the most important moments in a parent’s life. Some say that time spent preparing for the birth and/or with the new born child is never enough. Though the statutory leave days will definitely be a finite number, there may be some good news to share in this regard. On 11 October 2017, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor delivered her maiden policy address at the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Among the various topics she discussed, she highlighted the potential extension of paternity leave (and maternity leave) as part of her “People-oriented” initiatives.
Under the current Employment Ordinance paternity leave regime, an eligible father, or father-to-be, of a new born child is entitled to three days statutory paternity leave with pay at 80% of his average daily wages.
On 24 May 2017, the Research Office of the Legislative Council Secretariat issued a Fact Sheet on Parental Leave and Family-Friendly Employment Policies In Selected Places and considered and compared the paid maternity and paternity leave entitlements of various jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, Singapore. South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. From the Office’s findings on paternity leave, it appears on a broad-brush basis that Hong Kong is at the lower end of the entitlement scale for the number of leave days and for leave pay among Asian jurisdictions that allow paternity leave.
Between July and December 2016, the Labour Department also conducted surveys and discussions to gather information from various stakeholders on this issue, which found that male employees tended to take additional leave on top of the limited 3 day statutory leave. Pursuant to those findings and reviews, in its December 2017 paper report to the Legislative Council Panel on Manpower Review of Statutory Paternity Leave, the Department recommended that statutory paternity leave be increased from 3 days to 5 days. Those recommendations were also supported by the Labour Advisory Board’s employer and employee representatives.
It is envisaged that the Labour Advisory Board and lawmakers will be consulted in relation to the paternity leave proposal this early this year.
If the 5 day statutory leave entitlement amendment is passed, eligible fathers and fathers-to-be will be able to enjoy 2 more days of statutory leave with the new born children, similar to current entitlements in the other Asian jurisdictions considered by the Legislative Council Secretariat. Then we shall see if new fathers stick to that limit or again choose to supplement it by taking additional leave to enjoy that “most important moment”!