Gender equality

Don’t delay increase in paternity leave, Hong Kong’s acting leader Matthew Cheung urges lawmakers

Acting chief executive makes appeal as some legislators say government’s proposed change from three days to five doesn’t go far enough

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2018, 2:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2018, 11:20pm

Hong Kong’s acting leader urged legislators on Tuesday not to delay the extension of paternity leave from three days to five by asking for amendments.

Acting chief executive Matthew Cheung Kin-chung made the appeal after the pro-government Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) said it would seek to further extend the leave to seven days.

The bill to raise the number of leave days to five will be tabled at the Legislative Council on Wednesday. Speaking before the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Cheung described the increase as “delightful” and asked lawmakers for a smooth passage.

“I call for the political parties and lawmakers in Legco to not – of course they have the right to file amendments – but not to do so, as far as possible,” he said.

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Cheung said the Labour Advisory Board – a body comprising labour and business representatives – had already reached a consensus on the matter, and that further changes or the creation of a committee to scrutinise the bill at Legco could delay the start of the amended law.

He also said officials hoped the new regulations could take effect before the end of the year, so as to benefit more workers.

Lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung, from the FTU, said on Tuesday that the group would not move any amendments to directly change the number of paternity leave days, although it had organised a protest on Saturday calling for a further increase.

“The Labour Advisory Board has already reached a consensus … It’s not our style to [table an amendment] for the sake of merely making a gesture,” Kwok said.

He added that the federation would instead raise an amendment asking the government to review the length of paternity leave in one year’s time and pushing for an increase to seven days.

Society demands a longer paternity leave, and citizens want to know more about our discussion
Ted Hui, lawmaker

On whether a bill committee should be set up, Kwok agreed that the government’s proposal was a simple one, and lawmakers could discuss it in the full council instead.

However, Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung said he believed a bill committee discussion was a better way to address public concerns on the issue.

“Society demands a longer paternity leave, and citizens want to know more about our discussion. A bill committee is a good venue to discuss it,” he said, adding that this would not delay the start date much as “no one wants to filibuster on this issue”.

Hui also made clear his intention to raise an amendment to further increase the number of leave days to seven.

“Lawmakers have the right to raise amendments to reflect our opinion. This is not the first time the government has used that excuse to ask us not to do so,” he said.

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The government proposal would be the first major change to statutory paternity leave in the city since it was introduced to the Employment Ordinance and came into effect on February 25, 2015.

Under the current rules, an eligible male employee is entitled to no more than three days of paternity leave for each confinement of his spouse or partner. While on leave, he will be paid 20 per cent less than for normal working days.

To be eligible, the father must have been employed for more than 40 weeks on a continuous contract, working at least 18 hours a week and four weeks a month.