LCQ15: Protection of reproductive right of working women
Some working women have relayed to me that they have encountered reproductive discrimination. For instance, they could not return to their original positions and were even dismissed when they resumed duty after maternity leave. On the other hand, in its Discrimination Law Review - Submissions to the Government submitted in March last year, the Equal Opportunities Commission put forward 73 recommendations, including enacting legislation to provide for the right of women who resume duty after maternity leave to return to their original positions. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the authorities indicated in March this year that priority would be given to nine recommendations, which were relatively less complex and controversial, in the aforesaid Submissions, and those recommendations did not include the recommendation for protecting the right of women to return to their original positions when they resumed duty after maternity leave, of the justifications for the authorities not giving priority to the latter;
(2) whether the authorities know the respective numbers of women who were dismissed, in the past three years, in less than (i) one month, (ii) three months and (iii) half a year upon resumption of duty after maternity leave; of the number and details of related requests for assistance received in the past three years by the authorities;
(3) whether the authorities know the countries or regions which have formulated policies in respect of "protection period of postnatal employment" or other similar protections; if so, of the details; whether the authorities will make reference to the relevant practices and enact legislation to strengthen the protection of the reproductive right of working women; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) whether the authorities have any plan to implement targeted measures in the remaining term of the current-term Government to strengthen the protection of the reproductive right of working women; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Having consulted the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, I set out below my consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Alice Mak:
(1) Regarding the various recommendations in the submissions on the Discrimination Law Review by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), the Government will accord priority to those that are relatively less complex or controversial. As regards women returning to their original position to work after maternity leave, the existing legislation has provided them with protection. Under the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful for an employer of a Hong Kong establishment to subject a woman to a disadvantage or dismiss her on the ground of her pregnancy. All types of employment (including contract work) are covered under the law. In addition to this, the Employment Ordinance provides maternity protection for female employees. It stipulates that an employer shall not dismiss an employee during her pregnancy or maternity leave, except for summary dismissal due to the employee's serious misconduct.
In assessing the employment protection for pregnant employees, we have to carefully take into consideration Hong Kong's socio-economic situation and whether there is a broad consensus in the community.
(2) The Labour Department does not keep statistics on female employees being dismissed after resuming duty from maternity leave. The EOC also does not maintain statistics on complaint cases in relation to female employees who were dismissed after resuming duty from maternity leave.
(3) According to a research report published in 2014 by the International Labour Organization, the information of female employees' right to return to work after maternity leave in some economies are provided as follows:
|Stipulations on returning to work after maternity leave|
|Australia||Same position or equivalent (Note)|
|China, Mainland||Not guaranteed|
|Korea||Same position or equivalent|
|United Kingdom||Same position (Note)|
|United States||Same position or equivalent|
Note: "Same position" means the employee is entitled to return to the same position after maternity leave. "Same position or equivalent" means the employee is entitled to return to the same or an equivalent position after maternity leave.
As each place has its own unique circumstances and regime, and the provision of maternity protection for female employees also varies from one place to another, the above may not be directly comparable with that of Hong Kong.
(4) The Government would continue to, through existing legislations and various promotional measures including disseminating such information through publications and the internet, etc., endeavour to protect the rights of female employees during pregnancy, maternity leave, and after resuming duty from maternity leave.
Ends/Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:40
Issued at HKT 11:40