The head of the Equal Opportunities Commission has dismissed the idea of offering sabbatical leave to long-serving staff as a fairy tale. He was responding to a media report that the commission was considering allowing employees with 10 years' service to take a year's leave, possibly on full pay. 'I only learned the news when I read the papers today ... it is simply a fairy tale,' its chairman, Raymond Tang Yee-bong, said yesterday at a press conference to release the results of a commission study on perceptions of women. A suggestion of unpaid sabbatical leave was initiated by a representative of the Staff Consultative Group as a step to improve the work-life balance of employees and as a family-friendly initiative. 'I have never attended the group's meetings and I only found out the suggestion when looking up the minutes this morning after reading the newspapers,' Mr Tang said. 'As the suggestion does not conform with the EOC's existing staff policy and resource-utilisation policy, there has never been any plan to put it forward for further discussion. The EOC is a small group with limited funding and manpower. We cannot afford it.' Mr Tang said that since taking up his post in 2005 he had never approved any extended or sabbatical leave. The commission also stressed it would maintain the principle of justifying how it spent the public funding it received. The watchdog and its chairman have been plagued by a number of controversial issues in recent years. In January, Mr Tang was accused by members of wanting to spend too much money on a one-day seminar on disability discrimination, including expenditure for the transport and accommodation of seven mainland guests who did not speak at the event. In the same month, the commission came under fire over a deal it had struck with a fitness club to offer discounted packages to staff members and their families. In 2005 Mr Tang was accused of taking too many overseas trips and lunch meetings with members. He rejected the claims as groundless.