Gender equality

Empower Hong Kong women to fight workplace bias, with maternity leave subsidies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 12:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 12:16am

I am writing in response to the article, “Half of Hong Kong employers do not want to hire women with children, study finds” (August 23).

The reluctance to hiring new mothers is probably not related to the competence, commitment or the potential of these women but their family status. This is discrimination. Also, some women employees are discriminated against because of pregnancy. Such discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender and family status is not only unfair to women, it also harms the workforce quality as it might cause some women to quit their jobs.

Discrimination related to sex and family status, however, is not unique to Hong Kong. Recent studies in the UK have found that a third of employers discriminate against women of childbearing age. A survey of 501 managers of small and medium-sized British businesses also discovered that 28 per cent would turn away a woman if she was recently engaged or married, or had small children, and 37 per cent would advertise men-only jobs if the law permitted it.

Weighing up maternity leave: Hong Kong lags behind international standards

Therefore, I welcome the suggestion that the government give subsidies to the business sector for paying the wages of workers on maternity leave. Some employers tend to fire pregnant women because they see these wages as a loss to the company. If those costs are offset by the government, employers’ burden would be reduced and they would be less likely to discriminate against women job applicants. This will help reduce sex and family status discrimination in Hong Kong.

Besides, there should be higher penalties imposed for workplace discrimination, to enhance the deterrent effect on employers.

Alan Wong, Hang Hau