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LCQ16: Statutory Paternity Leave

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung, in the Legislative Council today (April 21):


     The Government stresses that importance should be attached to family values, and it has undertaken to deepen various family-friendly measures and is committed to including family as a factor to consider in its policy-making process. For years, the Democratic Party and various women's groups have been asking the Government to legislate on the provision of paid paternity leave by employers to male employees, and have pointed out that the provision of paternity leave not only helps relieve the stress of the women who have given birth and their family, facilitates men to assume the role of family carer and shoulder their responsibilities, but also helps promote gender equality and family harmony. Yet, the Government has to date not provided a direct response. It has been reported that the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission has also pointed out earlier that Hong Kong lags behind other places in terms of paternity/maternity leave benefits, and he considers that it would be more advantageous to the overall economy of Hong Kong if men are entitled to paternity leave. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) given that as early as 2006, the authorities advised that they had been conducting a study on whether or not legislation should be enacted for providing paternity leave to male employees, of the latest progress and outcome of the study; the anticipated time to announce such outcome and draft the relevant bill;

(b) which countries have paternity leave at present; of the details concerned; and those arrangements of these countries to which Hong Kong may make reference; and

(c) whether they will consult community groups, the Women's Commission and the public on legislation for the provision of paternity leave; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply :


(a) The Government constantly reviews our labour legislation in the light of Hong Kong's changing social circumstances and economic development in order to keep our legislative provisions abreast of times. In doing so, we strike a reasonable balance between employees' interest and employers' affordability.  On the proposal for paternity leave to be provided to male employees, we have been conducting a study on the specific arrangements in other economies on the provision of paternity leave and carrying out relevant questionnaire surveys with member organisations of the Human Resources Managers Clubs formed by the Labour Department.  

     As the implementation of statutory paternity leave will, to varying degrees, affect the operation of enterprises and increase the business costs of employers (particularly small-and-medium-sized enterprises which comprise 98% of all enterprises in Hong Kong), we must carefully assess the possible impact of legislating for paternity leave on local employers and the economy as a whole and examine the eligibility criteria for paternity leave (e.g. should a male employee be entitled to paternity leave in cases of childbirth outside marriage, childbirth not given by his legal spouse and childbirth outside Hong Kong, the conditions to be met for entitlement to paid paternity leave etc.) as well as other issues related to enforcement (e.g. what kind of certification documents are required to support the taking of paternity leave ).  In view of the complexity of the issues involved and the need for us to concentrate our efforts on  preparing for the implementation of the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2009 and the legislative exercise on putting in place a statutory minimum wage,  we expect to complete the study in the first half of next year.

     Meanwhile, we are committed to promoting "employee-oriented" good people management measures by encouraging employers to adopt "family-friendly employment practices" appropriate to their own operations, including the provision of paternity leave, to enable their employees to discharge both their work and family responsibilities. The existing promotional measures are beginning to yield positive results as witnessed by the continual upward trend in recent years in the number of local enterprises providing paternity leave to their employees. We will continue to actively encourage employers to adopt "family-friendly employment practices", including the provision of paternity leave, through promotion and publicity activities.

(b) Based on the information collected so far, paternity leave usually refers to a period of leave taken around the time of birth of a child, and its duration is relatively short. The purpose of such leave is to allow a father-to-be or father to assist in taking care of his partner before or after confinement, and of the newborn. Although the number of days of paternity leave varies significantly among different places, it usually lasts from two days to two weeks. In some economies (e.g. the United Kingdom, Sweden), the responsibilities to pay remuneration in the form of an allowance to eligible employees during paternity leave rests with the social insurance schemes to which employees, employers and the state jointly contribute, and the rate of the allowance is usually set against the wages of the concerned employee, subject to an upper limit. For example, in the United Kingdom, the allowance for one week's paternity leave is 90% of the employee's weekly earnings, subject to a maximum of ?124.88 (about HK$1,474) ( The upper limit has come into effect in April 2010. The Pound Sterling amounts are converted into HK dollars using the exchange rate of ?1 = HK$11.80). Some economies provide unpaid paternity leave to employees (e.g. Australia, New Zealand). There are also some developed economies (e.g. the United States, Japan) with no dedicated legislation specifically for paternity leave.

     Our observations reveal that the practices of different places vary according to the unique circumstances of individual places in terms of their economic development, social security and social welfare systems etc. As the majority of companies in Hong Kong are small-and-medium-sized enterprises with less flexibility in manpower deployment, and employees are already entitled to different types of leave under the Employment Ordinance, we have to consider first the actual circumstances in Hong Kong in formulating our policy.

(c) We will continue to act as a facilitator, partnering with the business community and non-governmental organisations in promoting "family-friendly employment practices", including the provision of paternity leave. We will also consult stakeholders with a view to gathering more examples on good people management measures for the reference of enterprises so as to encourage them to adopt a more flexible and open-minded approach to facilitate their male employees in shouldering the responsibilities of family carers.

Ends/Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Issued at HKT 14:39


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