The Native English-Speaking Teachers Association (NESTA) this week called for an increase in the number of paid compassionate leave days for teachers with close relatives living overseas. At a meeting with the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) on Thursday, the group explained that native English teachers (NETs) did not have enough time to fly home in the event of a family bereavement. Like local teachers, they are entitled to only two days - less than the time it takes them to travel to and from destinations such as South Africa or the UK. 'Two days is not enough when you consider our families live overseas,' said NESTA chairman Adam Rekrut. 'We want to see this raised before the next set of contracts is drafted.' One proposal was five days compassionate leave, but, although the EMB empathised with the NETs, it said that the decision to adopt a more flexible approach to leave, compassionate or otherwise, lay with the school. 'Both sides understood each other but it's a very complicated issue,' said Mr Rekrut. 'We expressed our displeasure at the meeting. We gave the EMB examples of the problems teachers are facing so they get a better idea of what is going on.' The issue was raised after several NETs complained to NESTA and discussed their circumstances on their e-group. It is understood that schools adopt varying degrees of flexibility with regard to leave, a problem that affects morale. According to the EMB regulations, all those working in a school are entitled to two days paid compassionate leave a year. 'The EMB expected me to deal with my father's death in two days flat and fly 13 hours each way in that time,' said a Sai Kung-based secondary school NET from South Africa. A Canadian NET told the South China Morning Post that his principal insisted he could only take one day off should his father, now terminally ill, die. 'The current policy is far from compassionate,' said the teacher. Another NET was told that he was assigned school duties during Easter when he had planned to visit a terminally ill parent. The employment terms of foreign teachers in the government scheme contrasts markedly with those in international schools. 'I'm entitled to up to 10 working days of paid compassionate leave,' said Pauline Bunce, a former NET and now a humanities teacher at the Hong Kong International School.