LCQ9: Paternity leave

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (March 2):


     Quite a number of members of the public have reflected to me that although the SAR Government has all along indicated that it attaches importance to family-friendly measures, and in his Policy Address delivered this year, the Chief Executive even stated that relevant schemes would be launched to "recognise family friendly companies, with a view to encouraging the business sector to promote family core values", there is delay in the implementation of paternity leave for male employees by way of legislation, which is closely related to family-friendly measures. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) given that the Government has indicated time and again that it is conducting a study on whether or not legislation should be enacted for providing paternity leave to male employees, of the latest progress and phase-in outcome of the study;

(b) given that the number of days of paternity leave varies among countries which at present have put in place paternity leave, of the countries whose practices the Government has made specific reference to at the present stage, and the details concerned; if it has not made reference to the practice in other countries, of the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the Government will consider consulting the public and community groups on this specific issue before it publicises the final outcome of the study, so that more comprehensive and objective factors will be taken into consideration in arriving at the outcome of the study; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The Government reviews the labour legislation from time to time to ensure that the statutory protection accorded to employees keeps abreast of Hong Kong's changing social circumstances and economic development whilst being affordable to employers. In recent years, the Labour Department has been partnering with the business community to promote among employers good people management measures, and the adoption of family-friendly employment practices has been one of our focused areas of promotion. We actively encourage employers to adopt family-friendly employment practices appropriate to their own operations, such as implementing flexible work arrangements and providing support to employees' daily lives, including granting paternity leave to employees to enable the latter to fulfil their work and family responsibilities simultaneously.

     Apart from undertaking educational and promotional measures, the Labour Department has embarked on a study on whether paid paternity leave for male employees should be introduced through legislation. The scope of the study covers paternity leave legislation, if any, in other economies on aspects such as the number of days of paternity leave, eligibility criteria for and mode of taking such leave, and amount of remuneration during the employee's leave period. Meanwhile, the Labour Department has also conducted relevant questionnaire surveys with member establishments of its Human Resources Managers Clubs. The survey findings reveal that the existing promotional measures are beginning to yield positive results as the percentage of organisations surveyed that offer paternity leave increased from 16% to 21% during the two years from 2006 to 2008.  

     Through our contacts with employers and human resources management practitioners, we observe that there is a continual upward trend in the number of local enterprises implementing paternity leave and other family friendly employment practices. To better understand the latest position regarding the provision of paternity leave by private enterprises in Hong Kong, we have recently conducted another round of more in-depth questionnaire survey with the relevant human resources managers. The data collected are now being studied and analysed.

(b) Information collected so far reveals that a variety of practices on paternity leave spanning from no such legislation to the provision of leave lasting one or two weeks are adopted in different places as appropriate to their own social situations, economic development, welfare systems, population policies as well as labour market situations etc. For those places that provide paternity leave, some have stipulated a requirement on the years of service of an employee in the eligibility criteria for taking paternity leave. For example, in the United Kingdom, an employee who has worked continuously for his employer for 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the baby is born may choose to take either one week or two weeks' paternity leave. The remuneration during his leave period is paid by the social insurance scheme and the rate of the allowance is pitched at a certain percentage of his weekly earnings. In Sweden, an employee may take 10 days of paternity leave for each newborn baby and his remuneration in the leave period is also paid by the social insurance scheme. In New Zealand, paternity leave is unpaid. Eligible employees who have worked for the employer for six months before the expected due date of the baby are entitled to up to one week of unpaid paternity leave, and those who have worked for 12 months are entitled to up to two weeks' unpaid leave. In the United States and Japan, there is no dedicated legislation specifically for paternity leave.

(c) In deliberating whether we should impose through legislation a compulsory requirement on employers to provide paternity leave, we have to first and foremost consider the actual circumstances of Hong Kong and carefully assess the possible impact of legislating for paternity leave on employers (especially small-and-medium-sized enterprises which account for 98% of all enterprises in Hong Kong) and the economy as a whole. Besides, we have to examine various issues that may possibly emerge in the process of implementation, such as whether the child is born by marriage, whether the birth takes place in Hong Kong, how to verify the relationship between the employee and the baby etc. We need also to consider whether there is a wide consensus in the community on the matter. Meanwhile, we will continue to place the focus of our promotional efforts on family friendly employment practices, including the provision of paternity leave, and actively listen to different points of view. Upon arriving at a concrete proposal, we will consult the Labour Advisory Board and the Panel on Manpower of the Legislative Council.

Ends/Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:16