Paternity leave a foreign concept for most firms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2012, 12:00am


Most local employers are reluctant to provide paternity leave and would not consider doing so unless it were compulsory.

A private manpower survey found that of 502 employers, 70 per cent did not offer paternity leave and 71 per cent of those firms had no plans to offer it next year, when the government is hoping to introduce statutory paternity leave.

The survey conducted by MRC Human Capital Services last month spoke to companies involved with administration and business support; banking and financial services; logistics, trading and manufacturing; professional services; and wholesale and retail. While 49 per cent of companies within the banking sector offered paternity leave to employees, in the administration sector this plunged to 16 per cent of employers.

Within the professional services sector, the survey found that none of the businesses in the accounting sub-sector offered paternity leave.

'Hong Kong businesses still do not recognise the importance of paternity leave, which may be related to this being a commercially oriented society,' said MRC general manager Kevin Mong Pak-guy.

Commenting on the findings, Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said the 30 per cent of employers providing paternity leave compared poorly with many countries.

'Even in countries where it is not a legal requirement, 50 to 60 per cent of employees are covered through collective bargaining agreements.'

Under collective bargaining, unions and business organisations negotiate and reach industry agreements on welfare issues.

Lee said similar surveys a few years ago showed only 10 per cent of employers provided paternity leave.

'Improvement will be slow if we count on employers to provide leave voluntarily.'

Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said on Sunday that statutory paternity leave of three to five days could be introduced next year.

A government study in April showed that such leave would cost private employers HK$140 million to HK$240 million each year, 0.02 to 0.04 per cent of their total wages bill.

'We have finished a study on paternity leave and the next step is to reach a consensus on the Labour Advisory Board,' Cheung said in a TVB interview. 'The government has made it clear that we hope to solve this by legislation, because giving paternity leave will have a relatively small effect on the business sector.'

Civil servants were awarded five days of paternity leave in April.