Paternity leave can improve employee loyalty while helping to increase birth rate
There have been calls for statutory paternity leave to be introduced in Hong Kong.
This is partly because the birth rate in the city is falling and there are demands to provide more incentives for couples to start a family. One incentive would be statutory leave for new fathers. I would support the enacting of such legislation.
It is essential that fathers be given time off. It is a difficult time for a mother and she needs the help of her partner to be able to cope with the baby. This is especially important for a young mother who is having her first child and lacks experience. She does not know what to expect and so getting help from her husband is crucial.
I also think this legislation would be good for the economy, as it would improve productivity in the workplace.
An employee who is given this period of leave feels valued by his employer.
Being allowed this short break so he can assist his wife at a time when she really needs him would increase his level of job satisfaction and make him more productive when he returned to the office.
Opponents of statutory paternity leave say that once it becomes law it is inflexible, as a set period would be determined under the legislation, but this is not necessarily the case.
It does not have to be a fixed period which is strictly enforced. The regulations agreed upon by the Legislative Council in any bill presented to the chamber could allow for a high level of flexibility while still stipulating that employers must allow this paternity leave if an employee deems it necessary.
In Australia, the government's parental leave scheme allows fathers a period of paid leave (which is negotiable) up to 18 weeks.
I think in Hong Kong, a minimum period of three to five days of paternity leave would suffice.
This is the crucial period after the birth of the child when the father can really help a lot in the home. And this timescale offers a decent compromise, striking the right balance between the needs of the employer to maintain a profitable enterprise, and the need to ensure the mother is not put under unnecessary psychological pressure during what can be a difficult time.
It is obvious that legislation is needed if the government wants to take steps to ensure the welfare of couples wishing to start a family and help, in some small way, to increase the birth rate. The administration should undertake a review of this issue as soon as possible.
Israel Lai, Sha Tin