I write in response to Israel Lai's letter in which he calls on the administration to undertake a review on legislating for paternity leave ('Paternity leave can improve employee loyalty while helping to increase birth rate', August 3).
Let me first point out that the government has all along been promoting family-friendly employment practices.
Indeed, an increasing number of employers in the private sector are providing paternity leave to their employees.
According to surveys conducted by the Labour Department via its network of 18 human resources managers' clubs, that has combined a membership of more than 1,000 companies in different trades and industries, the percentage of employers offering paternity leave of their own volition rose from 16 per cent in 2006 to 32.5 per cent in 2010.
The Labour Department earlier completed a study on paternity leave which, among others, looks into the provision of statutory paternity leave in other economies.
As 98 per cent of enterprises in Hong Kong are of a small to medium size, the study also examines the legal, moral, social and implementation issues that have to be tackled if paternity leave is made a statutory benefit.
Given the low birth rate of Hong Kong residents, the study found that the overall staff cost for our employers to provide three to five days' paternity leave is estimated to range from HK$140 million to HK$240 million per year, representing around 0.02 per cent to 0.04 per cent of Hong Kong's total wage bill.
Having regard to the increasing public awareness of the need to provide more support to families, our changing societal attitudes towards a father's responsibilities in the family, plus the government's policy to progressively improve employees' rights and benefits in a way commensurate with Hong Kong's socio-economic development and needs, we see the merit in legislating for paternity leave.
We will continue to actively pursue the matter in the Labour Advisory Board with a view to building consensus before we embark on legislation.
In the process, we will, as always, strike a reasonable balance between the interests of employees and the affordability of employers.
Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, secretary for labour and welfare