New dads at HSBC get 5 leave days

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2008, 12:00am

Some 7,000 male employees may benefit from policy of fully paid paternity benefit

HSBC is giving its male employees five days of fully paid paternity leave and about 7,000 workers may benefit from the new policy.

The bank announced the staff benefit in an internal circular yesterday. All permanent and contract full-time employees whose spouse or partner gives birth fall under the scheme, as do those who newly adopt a child below 19.

The initiative was mainly to provide staff with a good working environment, Dora Cheung Mee-kwan, HSBC's manager of external relations, said. 'We are a responsible employer and always try to position ourselves as the best place to work.'

The bank said the leave must be taken within three months of the child's date of birth or adoption and may be taken either on separate days or consecutively.

The improved benefit for families followed announcements last year by Standard Chartered Bank and CLP Power giving male staff five and three days of paternity leave respectively.

HSBC's move was widely welcomed by legislators.

Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung, of the Neighbourhood and Workers Service Centre, said: 'It is a good starting point. But I hope they will extend the leave to one week.'

Mr Leung said their centre introduced seven days of paternity leave a few years ago.

Civic Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, of the social welfare sector, said Hongkongers tended to put in long working hours and deserved more family time.

Lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said the government should legislate for the provision of paternity leave to boost the city's low birth rate.

Legislator Wong Kwok-hing, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said: 'It will boost employees' morale and their sense of belonging to the company.' He urged the government to introduce more family-friendly measures, including paternity leave, as it was likely to raise productivity.

A government spokesman said there were no plans to provide paid paternity leave for civil servants and non-civil-service contract staff. 'We consider that fully paid annual leave generally provided to civil servants are adequate for meeting personal needs that may arise during the year, including taking care of family members,' he said.

'Earlier on, we have encouraged departmental management to, where operational needs permit, favourably consider applications from expecting fathers to take their earned paid leave to take care of their spouse and newborn baby.'

Lai Kam-tong, president of the Institute of Human Resource Management, said: 'There are higher costs associated with employees going on leave. But I believe the company wins in the end if staff feel better cared for.'

Men in Europe and Scandinavia get some of the best paternity leave benefits in the world. In Sweden, parents share 18 months of paid leave, with the father entitled to 10 days off and at least three of the 18 months. Similarly, parents in Norway share either 45 weeks with 80 per cent pay or 35 weeks with full pay. The father must take at least six weeks. Canada gives 35 weeks of leave, divided between the two parents, on top of 15 weeks of maternity leave. Italy provides fathers 13 weeks of leave at 80 per cent of their salaries, while the Philippines offers married employees seven days of paid paternity leave. Fathers in the United Nations get four weeks with full pay. Staff working in locations where they are not allowed to live with their families get eight weeks.

Hang Seng Bank and Bank of China said no paternity leave was offered, but they would review their staff benefits from time to time.