More family time for new parents at HSBC in Hong Kong

Bank extends maternity leave from 12 weeks to 14 and paternity leave from one week to two, with benefits also applying to adoptive parents

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 11:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 11:19am

Mums and dads working at HSBC are to receive extended maternity and paternity leave, including adoptive parents.

From May 1, female staff at the banking giant will be entitled to an increase in maternity leave from the current 12 weeks to 14 weeks. Male staff will have their paternity leave extended from the current one week to two weeks.

Such benefits will also apply to adoptive parents. Primary adopters, regardless of gender, will be given 14 weeks of leave, up from the current 12 weeks.

Family-friendly policies are still rare in corporate Hong Kong, new survey finds

The benefits offered by the bank are more generous than the statutory requirement. The Labour Department mandates that employers provide at least 10 weeks of maternity leave and three days of paternity leave.

“Welcoming a new family member is an exciting but often overwhelming experience. By enhancing our leave entitlements, we hope to lend as much support as we can to colleagues who are becoming parents,” said Diana Cesar, the bank’s chief executive in Hong Kong.

In addition parents returning from leave can make use of a two-week flexible return policy, meaning they can work shorter hours while handling family matters before returning to their full responsibilities.

Professor Daniel Shek Tan-lei, chairman of the Family Council, welcomed the move and said there were myths hindering employers from providing parents with more generous leave.

“Most employers in Hong Kong are small and medium-sized enterprises. They usually believe that one person short means less manpower,” he said.

Breastfeeding mum pumped milk in ‘filthy toilet cubicle’ before Hong Kong company converted an interview room

However, Shek said, international studies have shown that a company’s productivity could be enhanced after implementing family-friendly policies.

“If staff ... feel they are treated well by the company, they will also do their best at work,” he said.

But whether firms should extend maternity leave beyond the 10-week statutory requirement depends on the capacity of individual companies.

“If there is a good example, other companies might follow suit,” Shek said, adding that the council has not set a target for how the leave should be further enhanced.

Lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen, from the Federation of Trade Unions, said it would be difficult to increase the city’s birth rate if employers did not provide better family-friendly measures.

She said local employers should also give mothers 14 weeks of maternity leave, as is the case in countries such as Japan and New Zealand.